RIAL President Bernard Gottlieb, whose group investigates anti-Semitism in the country, said it had registered 47 anti-Semitic incidents during the year, compared with 26 in 2018 and 17 in 2017. According to RIAL, these incidents were nonviolent, and more than 50 percent related to Israel, but RIAL stated the latter incidents were anti-Semitic, not just anti-Israel. RIAL said it monitored incidents and Facebook postings but not other social media platforms. According to RIAL, 43 out of 47 cases were Facebook posts. The remaining ones were an instance of anti-Semitic graffiti, an anti-Semitic/homophobic sticker, a letter to the editor in the national daily Tageblatt questioning the loyalty of Jews, and harassment, including online, against Gottlieb.
At a press conference at the Chamber of Deputies on July 1, Gottlieb and Francois Moyse, a lawyer and member of the country’s Jewish community, announced they had recorded 30 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of the year. They called on the government to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and for “a new impetus for public action” against anti-Semitism.
On July 21, according to RIAL, a Facebook user accused Gottlieb of “working [for] a foreign power” and of “taking his orders from a killing country.” Gottlieb reported the Facebook post to the prosecutor’s office in a letter in August. The prosecutor assigned the case to the Judicial Police. The case was still with police at year’s end.
On April 9, according to RIAL, a Facebook user posted a message reading, “Zionism is not just Israel … it is above all taking control of finance since 1913 (FED[eral Reserve]), politics, media of all the West, a destructive empire that pushes the world to overconsume and live on credits at the expense of the poor countries and future generations.” The post included a picture of two blood-stained arms, one wearing a U.S. flag and the other an Israeli flag on the sleeve, shaking hands.
In October, according to RIAL, one or more unidentified persons painted a Jewish star and vulgar, anti-Semitic graffiti in the entrance hall of an apartment building in Esch-sur-Alzette, where one resident was Jewish. The Jewish resident filed an official complaint with police. There was no further information on the status of the case.
Radio and television broadcaster RTL reported that in February, during an online discussion on the site of the public Facebook group “Luxembourg 2019 Stop the Migration Pact Petition 1147,” a participant shared the Facebook page of Minister for Family Affairs and Integration and Minister for the Greater Region Corinne Cahen with the caption “Judenpaak” (“pack of Jews”). Cahen, who is Jewish, filed an official complaint with police, and in October the accused went on trial for hate speech. The man said he did not know Cahen was Jewish and the expression was common where he grew up and used to signify that one did not trust someone. The man was sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000 euros ($1,100). He did not appeal the sentence.
In December 2018, OIL released the results of a poll of 340 randomly chosen Muslims – 195 men and 145 women – asking them about anti-Muslim incidents they had experienced or witnessed in 2017 and 2018. Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they believed “Islamophobia” was present in the country, particularly in the workplace (78 percent), media (61 percent), and politics (52 percent). Eighty-two percent opined that the country’s Muslims were well integrated into society. According to the survey, targets of Islamophobia reported only 7 percent of such incidents, either formally or informally. Approximately 21 percent of respondents reported experiencing anti-Muslim incidents in 2018, compared with 25 percent in 2017. The incidents cited were primarily verbal and nonviolent and manifested at work (53 percent), in media (46 percent), on the streets, (31 percent), in politics (31 percent) or in shops (19 percent). Most incidents cited involved another person using derogatory words (60 percent), offensive jokes (54 percent), or insults (42 percent). Many incidents were classified under multiple categories, resulting in percentages adding up to more than 100 percent. In addition, 26 percent of respondents reported witnessing anti-Muslim incidents in 2018, compared with 38 percent in the previous year.
According to the OIL survey results, approximately 38 percent of women who wore a hijab, turban, or niqab reported experiencing discrimination for being Muslim in 2018 (46 percent in 2017), compared with 13 percent of Muslim women in 2018 who did not wear a face or head covering (14 percent in 2017).
According to OIL, certain parliamentary questions tended to stigmatize the Muslim community. OIL described the questions as “very dangerous” as they could generate a “feeling of inequality and exclusion” among some Muslim citizens. For example, according to OIL, on February 26, 2019, Marc Goergen, Member of Parliament for the Pirate Party, asked Minister of Agriculture Romain Schneider how much halal meat has been imported since 2015, if the meat was marked as halal when sold, and if the sale of halal meat conformed with the law. Schneider replied on March 25 that he could not say how much halal meat had been imported, but that it had to be marked as halal, and that importing and selling such meat was legal.
On March 14, Gilles Roth, Member of Parliament for the Christian Social People’s Party, asked Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, in his capacity as Minister for Religious Affairs, about Bettel’s possible consent to the construction of a mosque with a minaret in the center of Luxembourg City. In his reply, Bettel stated he had met Faruk Licina, President of the Muslim community, to discuss the shortage of prayer space for Muslims in Luxembourg City but that he had not committed to the construction of a mosque.
In January the EC published a Special Eurobarometer survey of perceptions of anti-Semitism based on interviews it conducted in December 2018 in each European Union (EU)-member state. According to the survey, 19 percent of residents believed anti-Semitism was a problem in Luxembourg, and 73 percent did not; 19 percent believed it had increased over the previous five years. The percentage who believed that anti-Semitism was a problem in nine different categories was as follows: Holocaust denial, 18 percent; on the internet, 22 percent; anti-Semitic graffiti or vandalism, 15 percent; expression of hostility or threats against Jews in public places, 14 percent; desecration of Jewish cemeteries, 15 percent; physical attacks against Jews, 14 percent; anti-Semitism in schools and universities, 14 percent; anti-Semitism in political life, 13 percent; and anti-Semitism in media, 17 percent.
In May the EC carried out a study in each EU-member state on perceptions of discrimination and published the results in September. According to the findings, 25 percent of respondents believed discrimination on the basis of religion or belief was widespread in Luxembourg, while 66 percent said it was rare; 85 percent would be comfortable with having a person of a different religion than the majority of the population occupy the highest elected political position in the country. In addition, 91 percent said they would be comfortable working closely with a Christian, 89 percent said they would be with an atheist, 89 percent with a Jew, 88 percent with a Buddhist, and 85 percent with a Muslim. Asked how they would feel if their child were in a “love relationship” with an individual belonging to various groups, 89 percent said they would be comfortable if the partner were Christian, 85 percent if atheist, 85 percent if Jewish, 82 percent if Buddhist, and 75 percent if Muslim.
In August the national tabloid Privat ran a front page story entitled, “In This Manner Islam is Conquering Us.” The article stated, “More and more, Islam is influencing everyday life in Luxembourg.” Among other statements, it said the Muehlenbach Soccer Club, a local soccer club run by Bosnian Muslims, had banned alcohol and pork from the soccer grounds. The article was accompanied by a picture of a stand-alone mosque photo-shopped into the center of Luxembourg City. (There are no mosques in the city center, and all mosques are housed in existing buildings.) A member of the Muslim community said the tabloid was spreading anti-Muslim bias.
OIL reported several instances of anti-Muslim graffiti in close proximity to a refugee center in Kirchberg in Luxembourg City. The graffiti, written on street signs, street curbs, and bus stops, included statements reading “Islam = Terror,” “Islam = Nazi,” “No Migration,” as well as obscenities and insults directed at Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The municipality removed the graffiti.
On September 28, according to RIAL, a man commented on Facebook about an article on a Jewish Holocaust survivor. The man denied the fact, scope, and mechanisms of the Holocaust, accused Israel of inventing the Holocaust for financial reasons, and drew comparisons between Israel and the Nazis. He wrote that “none of these supposed gas chambers existed […] the only real Holocaust that exists are the 60 million victims, including a large part of Germans killed by allied bombs,” and, “one day the machinations of the NAtional ZIonists will be uncovered.” A member of RIAL filed an official complaint to police on September 30. There was no additional information on the case at year’s end.
According to media, unknown individuals placed a sticker reading “Jewish Faggots” on the postal box of the openly homosexual rabbi of Esch-sur-Alzette in September. Police were investigating the incident at year’s end. Esch-sur-Alzette Mayor Georges Mischo condemned the act and anti-Semitism during a September World War II commemoration, donning a kippah and gay pride sash during his speech.
The Council of Religious Groups that Signed an Agreement with the State (CCC) met four times but did not disclose information about its deliberations. Archbishop Hollerich and Grand Rabbi Alain David Nacache continued to serve as president and vice president, respectively. The New Apostolic Church and the Baha’i Faith, which did not have signed conventions with the government, continued to participate in CCC meetings as permanently invited guests without voting rights.
The LSRS hosted several conferences and expositions throughout the year to promote religious freedom and tolerance. On February 28 and March 1, the LSRS hosted an international conference on the Muslim community in the country and Europe. On May 13, the LSRS, in collaboration with the EC representation in the country, the German embassy, and the Anglican Church, hosted a lecture by Professor Grace Davie, a British academic specializing in the sociology of religion, on the coexistence between religion and society.