Antisemitic bullying of Jewish schoolgirl causes outrage in Germany

News that a Jewish girl in Berlin was bullied by Muslim classmates and subjected to death threats has provoked strong reactions. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has demanded countermeasures, saying Muslim associations must assume responsibility.

Josef Schuster has always shown composure. The 64-year-old president of the Central Council, the country’s EJC affiliate, often appears calm and collected when dealing with the press. Yet, the case at hand has left even him speechless.

The case involves a second-grade girl at a Berlin elementary school who was bullied by Muslim classmates for months about her Jewish heritage. Dr. Schuster squarely placed blame on the adults with whom the children have daily contact.

“We must be clear about one thing. No child, no youth, is born as an antisemite. That means these children must have gotten those ideas somewhere.” As a rule, that would mean at home or in the mosque – where Muslim children are also accompanied by their parents.

Schuster says it is there that children hear imams preaching such ideas. “Apparently those imams do not understand, or intentionally refuse to understand, that which we view as accepted social behavior, as our societal values.”

This isn’t the first case of its kind of late. According to the Anti-Discrimination Agency in Berlin, some 12 cases of antisemitic harassment were registered in the German capital alone in 2017
Although no official statistics have been published about the perpetrators’ religious affiliations, Schuster says Muslim organisations have an obligation “to provide remedies and instill the values that are preached in mosques, values we recognise as the fundamental basis for coexistence here in Germany. Any imam who is not prepared to do that has absolutely forfeited his right to operate in Germany.”

Schuster’s appeal seems to have fallen on fertile ground at some Muslim associations. Aiman Mazyek, the president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, took to Twitter to respond to Schuster’s call. Mazyek vowed immediate action, promising that 10 imams “preferably alongside rabbis, would visit classrooms seeking dialogue, offering information and preaching the virtues of mutual respect as an integral part of their religious self-image. I would be pleased if the Jewish communities would join us.”

Wenzel Michalski was also quick to join Schuster. Michalski is the director of Human Rights Watch in Germany, and his son was the victim of antisemitic bullying last year. Michalski was very critical of government response to the incident. He took to Twitter to complain that authorities were “burying their heads in the sand.”

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed those initial calls. Schuster says time is of the essence: over the last weeks and months, the issue of Islamization and the radicalisation of young people has become ever more urgent across Germany. However, he says Jews are not the only people under threat: “Apparently, Muslim circles have turned their focus on Jews. But non-Jews shouldn’t consider themselves lucky, or lean back and relax. I fear other minorities could soon be targeted as well.”

Above all, Schuster says he hopes the German government will soon install an antisemitism commissioner, specifically referring to the German parliament’s antisemitism report. The report, which was presented by a host of well-known researchers last year, called for various measures to be taken to combat antisemitism, including the creation of just such a post. The commissioner would be part of the Chancellery, “overseeing and coordinating interdepartmental administrative measures to combat as well as prevent antisemitism.”


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