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The European Roots of Islamist Terror

Paul Berman on the traditions reflected in the Paris kosher supermarket siege

Stephanie Butnick
January 16, 2015
Paul Berman on 'The Cycle.'(MSNBC)
Paul Berman on 'The Cycle.'(MSNBC)

Tablet columnist Paul Berman appeared on MSNBC’s The Cycle yesterday, where he continued his discussion of the significance of the new Charlie Hebdo cover (“I hope you’ve shown it to your audience,” he implored the hosts).

He also explained why it’s so difficult to characterize—and properly name—the brand of Islamist extremism responsible for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the deadly siege of the kosher supermarket in Paris. The latter attack in particular, he pointed out, actually reflects textbook European anti-Semitism than anything from the Muslim world.

“There’s a tremendous debate over the correct word to apply to the movement. The movement is something which obviously draws on Islam, it draws on a version of Islam, and it combines its version of Islam with modern ideas which in many cases have a European provenance, and not from Islam at all, so it’s a novel movement. You can see this in the attacks just now in Paris. The attack on the Jewish grocery store, this is a kind of anti-Semitism of which the real origin is Europe, and not the Muslim world. The Muslim world has its own anti-Semitic traditions, but they haven’t in recent centuries led to this kind of massacre. The idea of just going and randomly murdering Jews has been a European speciality. And so here it is brought back to Europe by people claiming to be acting on the basis of what they regard as Islam.”

You can watch the full segment below.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.