Both Antisemitism And Islamophobia Are Unacceptable

Both Antisemitism And Islamophobia Are Unacceptable November 8, 2023

Alisdare Hickson: Jews In Solidarity With Muslims From 2017 (Representing The Solidarity Needed To Overcome Antisemitism and Islamophobia) / flickr

Prejudice and bias against people due to their nationality, gender, or religion, have no place in society.  This is a hard-earned truth which humanity has had a difficult time learning, and it is one which many do not want to accept, which is why we find ourselves having to defend it again and again.  Denying people rights, or their livelihood, because of guilt by association, that is, by trying to suggest one or a few people represents the whole, only leads those being persecuted to fight back, creating a never-ending cycle of violence which adversely affects those innocents who get caught in the crossfire. Prejudice begets violence and death; those who suffer from such prejudice, in turn, often create a new prejudice and bias against those who have persecuted them, making it difficult for the root cause of such biases to be found and overturned. We can see this in the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the modern world, where Islamophobia has led many Muslims (and Arabs) to embrace antisemitism, or antisemitism has led others to embrace Islamophobia. Both are wrong..

Antisemitism has been a growing problem for years. Conspiracy theory has given way to hate, violence, and death. Jews around the world are rightfully afraid because they not only have suffered for years from a new rise of antisemitism in the world, they have experienced where it leads when it is not confronted, that is, to pogroms and the Holocaust. They see antisemitic rhetoric being repeated and are rightfully afraid.

Islamophobia follows similar lines of thought to antisemitism. Generalizations are made about all Muslims (indeed, all Arabs, including those who are not Muslims) based upon what a few of them do.  Conspiracy theories develop to suggest that Muslims (and Arabs) are conspiring together to take over the world. Once such generalizations or conspiracy theories are accepted and spread through a large segment of society, Muslims and Arabs (and others) find their rights and privileges are quickly denied to them before they find themselves attacked and killed by those who have grown to hate them. Hate crime after hate crime leads to growing violence, until, at last, innocents are killed, such as when a six year old Muslim boy was stabbed to death in Chicago.

Antisemitism has led various right-wing groups to yell statements like, “The Jews will not replace us.” Islamophobia has led others to suggest Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Both responses justify themselves by similar kind of rhetoric, a combination of conspiracy theory and mischaracterization of those they denigrate. They try to use bad examples of those they want to denounce to represent the whole, using that to justify not only hatred, but removing civil liberties from those groups they want to denounce. It must be clear, while there can be and are Jews and Muslims who do evil, there are Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists who can and do evil as well.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are never justifiable. They should always be called out, but it must be done in the right way. Those who suffer from hate do not get the right to use their experience to justify embracing hate themselves and targeting someone else. Muslims should not stir up hatred against Jews, nor Jews against Muslims or Arabs. Thankfully, there are many who understand this. There are Jews and Muslims working together, and with others, for peace. They realize the evils which both have suffered are wrong, but also that it is wrong to retaliate in kind.

Sadly, Christian history gives us a glimpse of how Christianity, at least its leaders and those in positions of power and authority, have had a history of engaging antisemitism and Islamophobia, and the spirit of both continues to present itself in Christian communities to this day. Vatican II was right to call both out, to point out that such evils are unacceptable. Hostilities must stop. The rhetoric which has been used to justify such hostilities, riddled with falsehoods and general mischaracterization of the other, must be denounced and put to an end. Thus, in regards Muslims, Nostra Aetate said:

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. [1]

Similarly, with regards Christians and Jews:

Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone. [2]

Christians must follow Christ, seeking peace, a peace founded upon love:

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.[3]

When Christians see or hear of any antisemitism, they must denounce it, without hesitation, without any “buts….” When Christians see or hear of any Islamophobia, they must denounce it, without hesitation, without any “buts….”  Christians must see Jews are rightfully afraid of present day antisemitism coming from some within the Christian community, even as they must recognize Muslims are rightfully afraid of Islamophobia promoted by some from within the Christian community. We must recognize the grievances while not using them to justify the creation of new or similar hatred or bias or prejudices. We must listen to the victims. We must mourn for them and try to help them heal. We need to hear what is going on and see the danger signs, such as the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States, as indicated by Perry Stein and Devil Barrett in a Washington Post article (10-30-2023):

Federal officials say they are responding to a rise in threats against Arab, Jewish and Muslim communities as the war in Gaza intensifies, coordinating with thousands of police departments across the country to better understand the threats and deploy resources.

Even before the Israel-Gaza war began this month, hate crimes in the country — including crimes against Jews and Muslims — had been on the rise. Federal officials have not released data showing how many threats or incidents have been reported since Hamas first attacked Israeli civilians and military installations on Oct. 7, triggering a massive and ongoing Israeli response. But reporting on specific incidents and early data from nongovernment experts who study hate crimes suggest that the spike is significant.[4]

Jews around the world are afraid, with many having to hide their identity, or the identity of their children, as Nicole Chavez and  Nicquel Terry Ellis reported on CNN (10-13-2013):

Jon Rettinger has not let his children wear their yarmulkes in public this week, afraid they could be targeted for being Jewish.

The father of three in Orange County, California, said he has tried to keep his children, ages 10, seven and four, from watching or reading news, but they are still coming home from school with questions about the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

One of them has asked if they were going to be kidnapped, Rettinger said. [5]

Muslims, similarly, are afraid, because they face similar attacks.  Camila Bernal and Chris Boyette on CNN (11-5-2023) talk about how a Muslim student was hit by car at Standford by a driver who has shown hatred to Muslims:

Abdulwahab Omira, an Arab Muslim student at Stanford University, has released a statement after he was struck by a car Friday afternoon in what authorities are calling a hate crime.

“As I lay in my hospital bed, grappling with a reality I had never imagined, I reflect on the importance of spreading love, kindness, and compassion in a world that seems to be steadily succumbing to hatred and prejudice,” Omira said. “This ordeal has solidified my resolve to advocate for love, understanding, and inclusivity.”

Omira claims the driver, whom he described to authorities after the incident as “a white male in his mid-20s, with short dirty-blond hair and a short beard, wearing a gray shirt and round framed eyeglasses,” had expressed hostility toward Muslims before. [6]

Omira, pointing to the need to deal with the situation with love and compassion, is right, and he said exactly what is needed. Hate is not the solution. Hate only brings about more pain, sorrow, and violence. Hate does not know solutions but only how to make things worse.

Christians should know this as Jesus showed the way to answer hate is with love, and the way to deal with injustice is not more injustice (revenge), but restorative justice, seeking to heal the harm which injustice has caused. Hate, biases, and prejudices, such as antisemitism and Islamophobia, have no place in society, let alone in a Christian’s heart. Christians must work to be peacemakers, helping to heal the wounds which would otherwise cause more, and worse conflicts in the future. They must mourn with those suffering, and care for those being mistreated. Sadly, we see, many of them are the ones who are causing the problem, justifying hate in the name of religion. Thankfully, no one, yet, universalizes what those Christians do and use it to justify hatred against all Christians.

[1] Nostra Aetate. Vatican translation. ¶3.

[2] Nostra Aetate, ¶4.

[3] Nostra Aetate, ¶5.

[4] Perry Stein and Devil Barrett, “Threats To U.S. Senator Amid Spike In Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim Activity” in The Washington Post (10-30-2023).

[5] Camila Bernal and Chris Boyette, “2022 Saw The Highest Rate Of Recorded Antisemitic Incidents In the US. American Jews Fear The Israel-Hamas Conflict Could Make Things Worse,” in CNN (10-13-2023).

[6] Camila Bernal and Chris Boyette, “Muslim Student Struck In Stanford Hit-and-run Calls For Love, Compassion, From Hospital Bed” in CNN (11-5-2023).


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