Swedish Secularism Targets Jewish Homeschoolers

Dec. 26 2017

Alexander and Leah Namdar have lived in the Swedish city of Gothenburg for 26 years, serving as emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Since there are no Jewish schools in Gothenburg, the Namdars have been homeschooling the youngest of their children. As a result, they have been involved in a six-year legal battle with the government in their efforts to be exempted from a 2010 law forbidding homeschooling, which states explicitly that exceptions will not be granted “on account of the religious or philosophical convictions of [a] family.” Sohrab Ahmari comments:

The public schools were religiously inadequate [for the Namdars] and, more importantly, physically unsafe for Jews, [given the pervasiveness of anti-Semitic attacks and harassment]. Private schools were no better. All schools, including “private” and religious schools, are government-funded in Sweden, and therefore required to accept all comers. For the Namdars, then, homeschooling was the only way to ensure their school-age children’s security and the Jewish character of their education. . . .

Throughout the [ensuing] litigation, the education board has never contested the quality of the Namdar children’s education. . . . Nor have municipal authorities been able to allay the family’s security concerns, which the Namdars argue fall under the special-circumstances exception to the anti-homeschooling rule. The city insists, however, that concerns about physical security and anti-Semitic violence don’t trigger the exception. . . . Officials have responded callously to [Rabbi Namdar’s] pleas, with one telling him last year: “Why don’t you leave the country?” . . .

The official zeal for rooting out religious homeschooling isn’t all that surprising when viewed against the backdrop of the country’s failure to integrate newcomers from Muslim lands. Swedes have good reason to worry about Islamist madrassas and other informal settings in which young Muslims are taught to hate the liberal society that has welcomed them. The city is going all out against the Namdars, I suspect, because it wants to make a show of applying the law uniformly and ruthlessly—as if to say: “See, we don’t permit the Jews to homeschool, either!”

But there is more to it than that. Nordic countries maintain narrow “opinion corridors” for acceptable ideas in the public square, and serious believers frequently find themselves locked out. Swedish authorities “don’t respect religion,” the rabbi told me. “They don’t understand that religion is part of your life. They see religion as a sort of hobby. And you either have a hobby, or you don’t.” Biblical religion is at best an amusing curiosity in this view and at worst a grave threat to secular order.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, European Islam, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Secularism, Sweden

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat