Why Most Jews Oppose Islamophobic Smears

Why Most Jews Oppose Islamophobic Smears



Photo Credits: FARS

A poster connecting a Muslim congresswoman to the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to heated emotions, caused the resignation of at least one staff member and left another reportedly injured when things got physical as the altercation spilled into the chamber of the West Virginia House of Delegates. 

The poster featured an image of freshmen Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) underneath one of New York’s burning twin towers. Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswomen ever elected, has been the target of Islamophobic smears since she took office this year.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the poster, but photos of the poster showed it next to a placard promoting ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-Muslim hate group.

Mike Pushkin, a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, told The Washington Post that someone sent him a picture of the poster and he later snapped and tweeted a picture of it after walking over to see it.

“I said, ‘What does she have to do with 9/11?. It was Islamophobic. I thought it was racist (Omar is black) and it was wrong.”

The poster kicked off a heated debate in the hallway outside the West Virginia House of Delegates that eventually spilled into the chamber, Pushkin said.

Pushkin, who is Jewish, said he condemned the poster from the floor of the House of Delegates and asked his colleagues to do the same. “I said, ‘In 1933 in Berlin, they might have had a similar poster about somebody like me,’ ” he said.

But no Republican delegates condemned the poster Pushkin said. “I’m really disappointed that not a single Republican elected official in this building could join me in saying it’s wrong,”

Omar, a refugee from Somalia who immigrated to the USA with her parents as a child, tweeted: “Look no further, the GOP’s anti-Muslim display likens me to a terrorist and no one is condemning them!”

Omar might not have known that Mike Pushkin was actively condemning the anti-Muslim display. 

Omar was rebuked last month by conservatives as well as Democratic Party leaders after a tweet about the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups that many found to be anti-Semitic. But Pushkin said he wasn’t concerned with her politics.

“I don’t agree with a lot of the things that Representative Omar has said — l think we probably have very different views on Israel and the Middle East,” he said. “But I have the utmost respect for somebody who came to the United States of America with absolutely nothing and has earned the right, through winning an election, to serve in our nation’s Capitol in the House of Representatives.”

The rise in Islamophobia is the result of rising anxiety about the socio-economic changes in Western society over the last decade. This anxiety had produced a scapegoat; the religion of Islam, as can been seen in a major rise in Islamophobia in the U. S. Three large groups of Americans had a major increase in Islamophobia; and three smaller groups only had a small rise or no raise at all. 

The three groups of Americans having large numbers of people agreeing with the statement that the values of Islam are at odds with American values are: 

white evangelical Protestants (up 14 points to 73 percent from 59 percent in 2011);

white mainline Protestants (up 16 points to 63 percent from 47 percent);

and Catholics (up 20 points to 61 percent from 41 percent).

The two groups that did not show a significant rise in Islamophobia are both American minorities: only 55 percent of black Protestants said Islamic values were incompatible with American values (up only 4 points from 51 percent); 

and among Jews, there was no rise at all because statistically speaking a one-point difference (to 42 percent from 41 percent) is within the surveys’ margin of error.

Many people are very surprised to learn that Jews are much less Islamophobic than Christians even after eight decades of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. 

Most Rabbis would explain the low rate of Islamophobia among Jews by pointing out that Judaism is more compatible with Islam because both religions reject the concept of Jesus as the Son of God, and the doctrine of original sin. 

Most of the non-Jews who convert to Judaism [about 3-5,000 a year] do so because they reject the doctrine of original sin and while they do believe in God, they cannot believe that God has a son. 

For this the Jewish People suffered for centuries in Europe from religious extremism and intolerance, so Jews tend to be suspicious of all religious bigotry and scapegoating. This may be the best explanation of the Jewish disavowal of Islamophobia in America.     

Also, all rabbis know that during the ten plus centuries of the Medieval Age, Jews were persecuted much less in Muslin countries than they were in Christian countries. Even today, Muslim extremist terrorists have slaughtered many more Muslim victims, than the number of Christian and Jewish victims combined. 

In 2014, one of the worst years according to the Global Terrorism Index; the Islamic State slaughtered 6,073 people, the great majority of them Muslims; and Boko Haram murdered even more victims—6,644. 

Everyone should be constantly reminded that religious extremism is ultimately self-destructive to its self, and its supporters. In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” 

The time has come for all the best of religious conviction, to denounce and denigrate the activities and beliefs of those who are filled with the worst of religious convictions, before they desecrate and diminish all believers in the one God of Abraham.   

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Rabbi Allen Maller
Rabbi Allen S. Maller was the rabbi at Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA for 39 years before retiring in 2006. Rabbi Maller is a graduate of UCLA and the Hebrew Union College. He has taught at Gratz College in Philadelphia, the Hebrew Union College and the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and at the UCLA Extension. His website is: www.rabbimaller.com