The meeting took place, despite everything. In a small mosque of 12e district of Paris, Sunday November 12, an unusual group made up of Jews, Christians and Muslims huddles in the prayer room to share a moment of contemplation, organized by the Jewish-Muslim Friendship Association of France. In front of this small assembly, joined by teenagers from the mosque’s Arabic class, the general secretary of the place declared: “It is not normal for a Jewish citizen to be afraid, no Jew should be afraid. Know that we are with you. Everyone contributes their part and we believe that God is stronger than that. » “It’s very important to take a step towards each other”, he confides later.
“This absence will leave its mark”
The scene might seem innocuous in the world of interreligious dialogue. But today, almost a month after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, it takes on an exceptional character. At the same time, 105,000 people marched in Paris against anti-Semitism, but without the main leaders of the Muslim faith, who deplored the presence of the extreme right and the absence of a slogan “broader”, particularly against Islamophobia. “This absence will leave traces”, then confided to The cross a leader of French Judaism, who fears the rise of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities. Several leaders of French Islam denounce the rise of a climate of suspicion towards them.
Worried about the importation of religious and community withdrawals from the Middle East onto French soil, which is home to the two largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe, Emmanuel Macron summoned religious representatives on Monday, November 13. During this exchange, the atmosphere became tense between Jewish and Muslim leaders. The next day, it was an imam from the Grand Mosque of Paris who, seeming to minimize the reality of anti-Semitic acts, aroused indignation, before expressing his regrets. Since October 7, institutional relations between Jewish and Muslim leaders have been put to the test.
“October 7 created unease”
The identification that the conflict between Israel and Hamas arouses among members of the French Jewish and Muslim communities arouses heightened emotion, raising fears of tensions. “October 7 created unease, there was great silence, no one dared to contact each other anymore, notes Harold Weill, chief rabbi of Strasbourg. Personally, I don’t see why I would take any action towards the Muslim representatives, when from their part I have not seen any denunciation of the actions of Hamas. »
For a month, several Jewish leaders have confided their disappointment at not having received “show of solidarity” from Muslim representatives with whom they maintained relations. “Not a phone call to get news or to denounce barbarity”, said an Alsatian rabbi, who immediately resigned from the interreligious association of which he was a member.
First, don’t damage relationships
For his part, Saïd Aalla, president of the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg, who took care to send a message of support to the city’s chief rabbi, the day after the Hamas massacre, confides his discomfort at the delicacy of the situation. “We respect everyone’s mourning, and I believe that we each make an effort so that no words can damage our relationships,” he describes, evoking the visceral attachment of many Muslims to the Palestinian cause and aware that differences in position on the war with Jewish communities can hurt both sides. “We are all very affected by this conflict, differently, but we must safeguard our unity to prevent it from leading to intercommunity tensions. »
In fact, words have become flammable. Many Jewish leaders contacted by The cross expressed their annoyance at the refusal of their Muslim counterparts to characterize Hamas as“terrorist organization”. In Lyon, the press release published by religious leaders was, for example, the subject of fierce negotiations, with the city’s chief rabbi not wanting it to allude to the policy of the State of Israel. Finally, a text calling “to peace and the release of the hostages”written under the aegis of the Archbishop of Lyon Olivier de Germay, was still able to succeed.
Intellectual honesty and compassion
For everyone, dialogue thus requires concessions and prerequisites: “ Too many children are dying in Gaza right now. We must first agree to ask for an end to the war, unless we come together to say nothing to each other.” estimates Azzedine Aïnouche, head of the Islah mosque in Marseille.
“Everyone expects the other to have additional empathy, deciphers the Parisian rabbi Émile Ackermann. Jews must prove that they are not insensitive to Palestinian suffering and Muslims to the suffering of Israelis and Jews. However, coming out of oneself is an ordeal that requires a lot of intellectual honesty and compassion. »
Within the Paris branch of the Judeo-Muslim Friendship of France, President Christine Taieb chose to organize fraternity meetings, without taking a political position, to “promote peace”.“I think we especially need to be around each other on a daily basis,” also confides Clément, 38 years old, of Jewish faith, who joined the association after October 7 to “not to endorse the fact that, with Muslims, we are enemies.”
A lack of links
These actions have concrete impacts on the representations of young people. After the weekend meeting, where she entered a synagogue for the first time, Assa, a 21-year-old Muslim, confides ” a discovery ” : “It allows us to get away from images on social networks, where some say that what is happening in Palestine is the fault of the Jews, that incites hatred. Here we see the human. »
This mutual knowledge, increasingly rare, is cultivated by some, like Haïm Bendao, rabbi of a synagogue in the 14th arrondissement of Marseille. In this working-class neighborhood, he has been building ties with Muslims for twenty years. “October 7 has not changed anything in my daily life, I do not feel any hostility in my neighborhood. My ties with imams are strong,” explains the one who travels through schools to promote interreligious friendship. Where relationships are old and deep, “the dikes are holding”says an imam from the Paris region. “The current situation is more indicative of the lack of links between our communities than a problem consubstantial with religions,” Judge Émile Ackermann. Compared to dialogue initiatives between Christians and Jews or Christians and Muslims, Jewish-Muslim dialogue remains timid and still lacks local will.
Anti-Semitic acts in France
Acts recorded since October 7 : according to Gérald Darmanin, 1,518 acts or “anti-Semitic remarks” have been counted since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. “These are mainly tags, insults, but there is also assault and battery”the minister said on Tuesday November 14 on Europe 1. In total, 330 investigations were opened for anti-Semitic acts and advocacy of terrorism according to the Ministry of Justice.
The figures since the start of the year : 1,762 anti-Semitic acts, 564 anti-Christian acts and 131 anti-Muslim acts, were recorded according to Gérald Darmanin who, on X (ex-Twitter), gave details of anti-Semitic acts: 50% of acts “are tags, posters, banners” (sometimes bearing the inscription “Death to the Jews”) or “swastikas” ; 22% of threats and insults, 10% of acts of apology for terrorism, 8% of attacks on property, 6% of suspicious behavior, 2% of assault and battery and 2% of attacks on community places.