BERLIN (JTA) – Muslim leaders in Germany must help fight anti-Semitism within their ranks, representatives of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said this week in a meeting with the country’s top Jewish leaders.
Members of the board of the Central Council of Jews in Germany met with Merkel and several top government representatives on Monday. In a statement about the meeting, the CDU said party leaders made it clear that Muslim associations in Germany bear some responsibility for fighting anti-Semitism within the Muslim population. They also emphasized that “every form of anti-Semitism must be forcefully challenged. Israel’s right to exist is part of German identity.”
The CDU statement also said that Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council, had expressed concern about anti-Semitism among young Muslims and noted that many of the refugees now arriving in Germany come from countries where Israel is considered an enemy.
A spokesperson for Schuster told JTA that it was important not to paint all asylum seekers with one brush. The Central Council this week announced special programs in Cologne, Mannheim, Bielefeld and Berlin to reach out to the refugees as part of a nationwide Mitzvah Day on Nov. 15.
Schuster also met separately on Monday in Berlin with representatives of the center-right Free Democratic Party (FDP) for discussion on the refugee crisis, rising right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and the growth of the virulently anti-immigrant Pegida organization. Following the meeting, FDP National Chair Christian Lindner said Germany’s democracy is “equally endangered” by both anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-Semitism.
“Germany must forcefully counter [both threats] if it is to preserve its democracy,” Lindner said.
Participants in both meetings also discussed developments in Jewish life in Germany, anti-Semitism, the culture of Holocaust remembrance, poor elderly Jewish emigrants to Germany and 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations.