A large number of well-known and less well-known French figures have signed a petition, published in Le Parisien daily, regarding the influence of the Holy Quran on anti-Semitism. It had gone largely unnoticed until somebody discovered the depth of its imbecilic nature. It is a fact that anti-Semitic movements and terrorist attacks have seen an increase in recent years. In less than a year, two elderly women have been assassinated in Paris only because they were Jewish. This is really getting out of hand in a period of uncertainty and increase in fascistic movements and terrorist attacks.
The petitioners thought it would be a good idea to advise "l'Islam de France" (Islam in France) to organize a similar event to that of the Vatican II Council to declare "caduque" the so-called anti-Semitic verses contained in the Quran.
The Vatican II Council took place in 1962, under the papacy of Ioannes XXIII, formerly cardinal Roncalli, whose name has been given to a street in Istanbul because he served as Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey between 1935 and 1944. This Council has been seen as the most important reform in the Catholic Church during the 20th century and opened the way to the reconciliation of Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
It is worth remembering, as a peace and reconciliation period, the wonderful papacy and work of Ioannes XXIII; nevertheless, its influence on containing anti-Semitism remains very debatable. In Carpentras in the south of France in May 1990, a Jewish cemetery was profaned in such a terrible and inhumane way that I do not feel like giving the details here. By pure coincidence, more than 20 years later, the perpetrators have been discovered through the confessions of a lesser participant. This was a small fascistic group. As they were almost all dead, nobody was apprehended.
Almost continuously, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Europe and in France are being profaned. Terror attacks have never ceased, the famous restaurant belonging to Jo Goldenberg in Rue des Rosiers, Paris, was devastated by a terrorist commando back in 1982 where six people lost their lives. It took 30 years and three different terrorist tracks to discover that a dissident branch of PLO under the paramount authority of Hafez al-Assad was the real instigator of the attempt.
None of the people attacking Jewish people or symbols read holy books before perpetrating their evil deeds. Thinking that a revision of holy books could somehow prevent anti-Semitism is very irrational. Asking a non-existing religious Islamic paramount authority to declare "caduque" (invalid, obsolete) certain verses of the Quran is to spread gasoline over a burning fire.
Still, this petition has been signed by a number of French citizens, none of them representing the French Republic. A former president (Nicolas Sarkozy, again) and former premiers (Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Manuel Valls) have added their signature. We talk about former politicians who probably will not have any further essential role to play in French politics. As irrational as it seems, it is only one petition among many others, engaging solely the responsibility of its signatories.Turkish government has given a staunch and blunt answer to the petition. It was largely enough. Muslim clerics in France have also protested against the irrational aspect of the demand. It should have remained what it was, an idiotic step taken by 300 French citizens not representing France.Unfortunately, the Turkish Higher Education Council has decided to "retaliate" by freezing new enrolment by Turkish students in French philology departments in Turkish universities, arguing that it is only a reciprocal act to the absence of Turkish studies in France. Not only is this not accurate, there are two full-fledged Institutes of Turkish studies in Paris and in Strasbourg and a variety of courses on Turkish literature, sociology and geography in numerous French universities, while French academia has nothing to do with this idiotic petition.
Punishing Turkish students for an irrational and strongly imbecilic petition of some French citizens not representing anybody but themselves is almost a profanation of rationality itself. We do not need this. Turkish society, with all its institutions, should remain rational and calm in such a period of uncertainty, full of international crises. Public personalities can make declarations they may regret afterwards; it is their personal decision, they bear the responsibility alone. Institutions representing the whole academia in a country do not have such a margin of maneuver. I hope that such an irrational step will be revised and repelled soonest.