Radical Islam spreads in Europe — so does fresh hatred of Jews…

AMSTERDAM — An anti-Semitic Belgian Muslim organization is spreading its influence in Holland, where it plans to run in local elections.

The Arab European League was established in Belgium in 2000 to "strengthen Arab and Muslim identity" and fight against perceived discrimination against Arabs and Muslims.

Earlier this month, the league opened a branch in Holland. At the end of a week of lectures by the league's extremist leader, the Lebanese-born Dyab Abu Jahja, the league announced it had signed up some 600 members in Holland and plans to run as a political party in local elections scheduled for 2006.

Abu Jahja, 31, aroused the suspicions of Belgium's government last year with his extremist remarks. Apart from advocating Arab rights and demanding that Arabic be recognized as an official Belgian language, the former Hezbollah fighter incited Moroccan immigrants to riot against local Belgians and Jews.

He also calls for the destruction of Israel and the end of what he calls the "Israeli-American imperialist world domination of the last 50 years."

Both Holland and Belgium have large Muslim immigrant populations, predominantly of Berber Moroccan descent. Some 1,000 people in Belgium have joined the league, officials claim.

The establishment of the Dutch wing of the Arab European League attracted broad attention among Holland's Moroccan community, as well as from society at large.

For more than a week, Abu Jahja lectured at universities, community centers and debate halls around the country. His tour aroused heated debate from the beginning.

In an elaborate newspaper interview in the prestigious daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad, one of the league's board members, Naima Elmaslouhi, 23, expressed understanding for slogans like "Hamas, Hamas, put the Jews in the gas."

The slogan has been used regularly in recent years by Moroccan youths during riots and pro-Palestinian or anti-American demonstrations in Holland.

"Such expressions are not effective, but I cannot denounce them," Elmaslouhi said. Other board members expressed their wish that "Americans return in plastic bags from Iraq."

…but Baku is different

BAKU (JTA) — At a time when some Jews despair at the apparent depth of Muslim hatred for Jews around the world, perhaps the warmest Muslim-Jewish relations can be found, surprisingly, in the former Soviet Union.

To illustrate how devoted they are to ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, the country's "Mountain Jews" cite the heroism of Jewish soldier Albert Agarunov — whom they refer to as a shaheed, or martyr — who was killed in 1992 during Azerbaijan's war with Armenia over the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

To underscore how well they are treated by their Muslim neighbors, the Bukharan Jews of Uzbekistan note that President Islam Karimov visited Israel in 1998.

While Azeris on the street warn against drawing too many comparisons between them and the Uzbeks — their poorer Turkic brethren on the other side of the Caspian Sea, whom they view as backward — there are clear parallels from a Jewish perspective between the two largest Jewish communities in the Muslim lands of the ex-USSR.

Both live among moderate Muslim populations that are Turkic, not Arab, and are alarmed by the flourishing of Islamic fundamentalism in neighboring states: for Azerbaijan, it's Iran; for Uzbekistan, it's Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

And at a time when Muslims are raging against "Zionists" for the plight of the Palestinians and for Israel's perceived role in the war on Iraq, the Azeri and Uzbek governments have maintained solid, if low-key, relations with Israel.