In response to my post titled 7 Reasons Why You Should Be Glad You Are Not An American Muslim, many of my friends reminded me that American Muslims are not the only group that are victims of prejudice, hate and bigotry. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism against African Americans and immigrants are everyday occurrences, giving birth to movements such as Black Lives Matter.
One of my facebook friends Judy Git, correctly pointed out the rising anti-Semitism in America and Europe. She came up with her own list of 7 reasons, corresponding to my 7 as to why you should be happy you are not a Jew, which I am reproducing here verbatim with her permission. I would like to emphasize that the purpose of these articles is to raise awareness of the difficulties of the minority groups and this is in no way shape or form an anti- Christian or anti-White rant. As you may be aware, I work hard to build bridges between people of various faiths.
Here is a list of my (original) 7 reasons, followed by hers as to why you should be happy you are not a Jew.
- You don’t have to defend your religion every step of the way. If the priest abuses a child, it is his problem or his church’s problem. The religion itself escapes the ire, by and large, though I understand sometimes all of Christianity or Catholicism gets blamed. If a right wing Christian commits an act of terrorism, it is because he is mentally ill, even if the religion was implicated. While this has diminished in recent years, Judaism, as a religion, has been under fire for centuries, the most obvious and egregious examples being the blood libels and the accusation that “Jews killed Christ.” Today the prime attack on Judaism as a religion comes in the form of fundamentalist Christians who are trying to DEFINE Judaism out of existence by calling themselves and their Christian denomination “Messianic JUDAISM.”
- You can choose to dress however you prefer. You don’t have to explain why you cover your head, and that you are not oppressed if you do choose to wear a headscarf. You don’t have to explain that you do it as a result of exercising your free will to express your religious identity. Yeah, it CAN be dangerous to wear religious attire even in America. There has been an increase of attacks on religious Jews, e.g., in Brooklyn. In Europe it’s FAR worse.
- You don’t have to worry about your children being bullied at school, or called “little terrorists”. You don’t have to explain to your 6-year old son as to what “terrorist” means, let alone why he is being called that. Jewish kids ARE bullied because they’re Jewish, but I’m guessing that in today’s world it’s worse for Muslim kids.
- You don’t have to worry about being stopped at the airport because of your name and looks. You don’t have to worry about going through secondary screenings. You don’t have to worry about how you are going to tell your children as to why dad was held separately for questioning, as they won’t understand, “I was stopped not for what I did, but rather for who I am”. While it’s rare, I do know of Jews who were given a hard time in airport security, including our close friend’s daughter. But I’m sure that this, too, is exponentially worse for Muslims these days.
- When you go the church, synagogue or temple, you don’t have to worry whether your place of worship is being wiretapped or under surveillance. No, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t have to justify building a synagogue nor does the average synagogue need to worry about wire tapping, but what we DO need to fear – both Jews and Muslims – are acts of vandalism and attacks on our houses of worship.
- When you apply for work, you don’t have to worry whether your religious identity, beliefs or “looks” may be barriers to you obtaining the job and/or getting a promotion. Religious discrimination in hiring Jews has greatly diminished over the last several decades, but still does exist to some degree. In the past, whole hospitals were built by Jews just so that Jewish doctors would have some place where they could intern and practice. If you’ve ever been in a hospital with a Jewish sounding name, like Mount Sinai, e.g., chances are much better than even that that’s how it got its start. And my own father, who graduated in architecture cum laude could not practice his profession for 14 years because no firms would apprentice a Jewish architect.
- You don’t have to worry about celebrating your religious holidays ‘quietly’, or have to struggle with the school district as to why your child needs a day off to celebrate a religious holiday and why he/she should not be expected to complete homework even when off for a religious holiday. The parents often end up just calling in sick, or just taking a “personal day off”. As for accommodations for our children for religious holidays, been there/done that – BOY have we been there and done that!
The current environment of hate and bigotry has made all of us realize the importance of fighting for social justice and equal treatment for all. There are positive signs of mutual collaboration where folks from all walks of life join hands to combat hate and bigotry. These include the work of Interfaith councils(including my own- the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County in East Bay, California), Muslim-Jewish councils, LGBT-Muslims collaboration and Muslims for BlackLivesMatter.
If you are an African American, Hispanic, LGBT, or even among the White Christian majority, do you want to raise awareness to he challenges faced by your communities? By raising the awareness, the hope is to build bridges with those who are not like us, or have the same belief system and those who do not have the same worldview. Only then we can expect to bring peace and harmony in our communities.
This is one of the Jewish prayers from Psalms in times of distress. And the entire chapter 25 of Psalms is a prayer of David, asking God’s mercy and to show him the right path and seeks God’s protection in times of distress and affliction.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of destruction. Psalms 107:20
The following verses from the Qur’an (among many other) are the source of my inspiration to build bridges.
….To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtuous deeds, to Allah is your return,; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute. The Qur’an 5:48
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the best in conduct. The Qur’an 49:13