AMSTERDAM - Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who is notorious for attacking Islam, has become the center of Jewish anger over his support for banning ritual slaughter of animals in the Netherlands.
I am shocked and upset to learn that your party once again has adopted a total ban on ritual slaughter in its platform for the September 12 upcoming general elections, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said in a letter to Wilders cited by Reuters.
"This is the classical anti-Semitic way our rites have been targeted and demonized throughout history.
A bill was introduced by a pro-animal party, the Party for Animals (PvdD), to ban ritual slaughter in the Netherland.
Though the bill passed in the lower house of parliament in June 2011, it failed in the Senate, where a compromise was reached allowing the practice to continue.
Wilders, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, is one of the staunchest supporters of the ban.
Ritual slaughter has been the subject of controversy in several European countries, where pro-animal activists say it causes unnecessary pain to the animal.
According to the Islamic and Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.
Of the 500 million animals slaughtered annually for food in the Netherlands, only 1.2 million animals are slaughtered according to Muslim or Jewish traditions, Dutch statistics show.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah's creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands's 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.
Dutch Jews number around 50,000.
The chief Jewish rabbi has warned that Wilders' support for the ritual slaughter ban amounted to anti-Semitism.
"It is obvious that one cannot be at the same time a friend of Israel and the Jewish people and on the other hand support an anti-Jewish law," Metzger wrote.
Wilders calls himself Israel's "greatest friend" and has also proposed creating a national Dutch holiday to commemorate the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
"By denying Jews to live according to the Torah you will eventually force them to leave the Netherlands where they enjoyed religious freedom for centuries."
The Jewish criticism of Wilders comes two weeks before the country's general election, in which the far-right lawmaker is expected to take a sizeable portion of the vote.
Recent polls show Wilders' party winning between 15 and 19 seats in the 150-seat parliament, down from the 24 seats he won in the 2010 election.
Wilders is notorious for his rants against Islam and Muslims.
Since storming onto the political scene in 2004, Wilders has influenced Dutch immigration policy and set the tone of public debate, whether on Muslims and burqas or bailouts and the euro, in what once would have been regarded as politically incorrect language.
He has called for banning the Noble Qur'an, describing the Muslim holy book as fascist.In 2008, Wilders released a 15-minute documentary accusing the Qur'an of inciting violence.