European Jewish leader offers 1 million euro prize to battle extremism


(JTA) — European Jewish leader Moshe Kantor announced a 1 million euro prize, about $1.2 million, for efforts to promote tolerance and combat “isolationism and nationalism.”

The Kantor Prize for Secure Tolerance, launched on Tuesday at the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation in Monaco, will reward those who promote tolerance while addressing what the prize givers consider the legitimate concerns of Europeans who feel immigration and other trends are compromising their security.

Kantor is president of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. The billionaire businessman also serves as president of the European Jewish Congress.

In a news release announcing the prize, former British prime minister and council chairman Tony Blair said it was “essential we don’t sit back and let extremism and intolerance become an accepted part of our public discourse.” He added: “Coexistence is a vital universal value in a world where people of different cultures and religions mix, both on and offline, more than ever before [and] freedom of speech must be protected. But people have a right to feel safe in their homes and communities.”

The announcement about the award follows several years in which Kantor lobbied for the adoption of legislation that he said places limits on tolerance in order to preserve it. Kantor argues that Western governments’ tolerance of customs that are widely resented by local populations is leading to an erosion of tolerance in the relevant societies.

In 2012, Kantor unveiled at the European Parliament a model law that proposed to ban the wearing of face-covering costumes in public and called for deporting immigrants who refuse to learn the language of their adoptive countries, while enshrining other religious freedoms.

But the model law was not widely adopted, leading to the launch of the prize to encourage the search for alternatives for a better definition of what should be tolerated by authorities in European countries.

Kantor said that more and more Europeans are feeling excluded as a result of the rapid technological and societal changes that have swept the continent.

“Many, especially in Europe, feel disenfranchised and unable to have access to the benefits of these changes, so they seek out simplistic solutions which, rather than really address their problems, placate them through nationalism, populism and extremism,” he said. “We can either sit around or wait passively for the next conflagration, economic depression or war, or we can seek to build new models for a tolerant society, benefiting all in full security.”

The Kantor Prize for Secure Tolerance will encourage original, creative thinking and research on how the theory and practice of tolerance can meet the new challenges of a globalized world and its diverse societies.

The conference in Monaco has brought together political, academic and nonprofit leaders from 22 countries to address the threat of radicalization and issues surrounding the challenges to tolerance in European societies. The three key issues discussed are political radicalization, online hate speech and integrating immigrant communities.

Kantor, who was born and educated in Russia and now lives in London, heads the Acron Group, a top producer and distributor of mineral fertilizer.

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