PARIS - Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Europe vowed Wednesday, September 5, zero tolerance to hate speeches and religious bigotry and pledged inter-faith cooperation to defend their religious rights.
"We must institute a 'zero tolerance' policy against religious leaders of any faith who misuse their pulpits to incite religious bigotry," they said in a declaration cited by Reuters.
Following a two-day meeting in Paris, 17 Muslim and Jewish leaders from 18 European countries agreed to fight religious bigotry against Muslims and Jews in Europe.
"We vow to each other to speak out loudly and forcefully against any religious leader who defames those of other faiths, the declaration said.
And, if such bigots emerge from within our own communities, to condemn them loudly and clearly."
The meeting came days after a Jewish rabbi and his daughter were attacked in Berlin last week.
The attack has sparked protests in Germany to denounce anti-Semitism in the European country.
German Muslim leaders were quick to denounce the attack, saying it runs counter against religious tolerance.
Aiman Mazyek, the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, has called on Jews and Muslims to stand together to fight violence of any type and "anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in our society."
Muslims and Jews have complained of rising hostility against their religious communities across Europe.
For example, Muslim and Jewish leaders in France say hostile acts and attitudes have spread in the wake of a deadly shooting in Toulouse by a self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda gunman.
Muslim community leaders have registered a 15 percent rise in anti-Muslim acts in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2011.
Jewish observers say anti-Semitic attacks and acts of intimidation have risen 37 percent over the same period.
Muslim and Jewish leaders have vowed cooperation to defend their religious rights and traditions.
"Real cooperation is when you stand up for others even when it's not in your common interest," Marc Schneier, co-founder of the New York-based Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, told Reuters.
Religious rights of Muslims and Jews in Europe have faced legal challenges seeking to ban them.
In Germany, a regional court in Cologne has ruled that circumcision amounted to physical abuse and thus a crime.
The controversial verdict sparked outrage among Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, who denounced the ruling as a serious intrusion on religious freedom.
Ritual slaughter has also been the subject of controversy in several European countries, where pro-animal activists say it causes unnecessary pain to the animal.
Schneier, whose group has promoted Muslim-Jewish unity projects in the United States, said European Muslims and Jews had come together more this year to defend their common interest in protecting religious traditions from legal challenges, but that was not enough.
Participants in the meeting gave examples in their countries of interfaith harmony.
From Britain, Fiyaz Mughal of the non-profit group Faith Matters and Jewish Volunteering Network official Esmond Rosen presented a booklet on Muslims who saved Jews in the Holocaust.
Mughal accused far-right groups in Britain of trying to provoke anti-Semitism among Muslims, especially on the Internet."A lot of these issues are happening online," he said. "This is where the real battle is."