I recently got a message from someone who wrote: “I want to be the kind of person who stands up for Muslims as you say, but, here’s the dilemma. Why is the Muslim community quiet when there is antisemitism, or terrorism by a Muslim Arab against Israel, or a Jewish community in Paris, or anti-Western hate talk? The non-extremist Muslim community is generally quiet.”
Here is my answer:
Salam, Shalom, peace to you!
I have a couple of thoughts on your question, so I’ll try to tease them out here as best I can. I’ve actually seen quite a few instances of Muslim-Jewish solidarity. If you google Muslim Jewish solidarity, you’ll see what I mean. Here are a few examples:
Really very inspiring and not at all rare for people involved in interfaith work. In Philadelphia, where most of my interfaith work has been, there is a long history of solidarity between Jewish and Muslim communities, including joint responses to vandalism or discrimination aimed against either community. I was part of a Muslim group that went to clean up glass from a playground that was left after a Philadelphia synagogue was vandalized several years ago.
So I’m not sure why you think that the Muslim community is quiet in the face of anti-semitism. Perhaps it is actually the silence of the media that you’re hearing? I would suggest connecting to interfaith initiatives near you to find out what people of faith are doing to stand together. As I wrote above, my interfaith community is a stark contrast to your perception.
(As an aside, it occurs to me as that Arab Muslims are semetic people, so I’m not sure anti-semitic is the word you’re looking for.)
Israel is a separate issue entirely. It its not an issue of faith or identity, it is about property and human rights. Many people have said this before me and many people will say this again. What I say is not based solely on the media, but my own experience in Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories. Israel is an apartheid state committing horrific daily human rights abuses and illegal land grabs in the West Bank and Gaza. Whatever violence is committed by Palestinians is mirrored ten-fold in the violence committed by Israelis. There is no question that the military force and power of Israel dramatically outweighs that of the Palestinians. And in recent months, many have commented that the Israeli intent to eliminate the Palestinians has become very clear:
If you use the word terrorism in regard to this conflict but do not apply it to both sides, I’m afraid that hypocrisy prevents us from going much further. The solution to this ongoing conflict does not lie in erasing the Palestinian people or allowing them to be quietly run or killed off. Israel is not entitled to commit genocide, and no one, of any faith, who believes that all human lives have value should stand for it. Muslims are not, in general, quiet about Israel. We generally are quite vocal in our statements that the international community must stop Israeli military occupation and settlement of the occupied territories, stop torture and detention of Palestinians, and that Palestinians must have the rights of free movement, self-governance and return. It turns out that when a state steals a people’s land, livelihood and children, and subjects them to daily harassment, abuse and attack, those people become desperate. We have seen this in the opposition of Black South Africans to apartheid; the events of the Soweto uprising sound remarkably like a story from modern day Israel or the occupied territories, all the way down to persecuted children, who have nothing else, throwing stones. That people resist violence with violence is terrible, but not at all surprising.
I am not sure how you have missed all of the Muslim peace rallies that have taken place around the country and around the world. I doubt any religious group rallies publicly for peace as often as we do. Here are a few recent examples:
And specifically in response to the Paris attack, the response of Muslims was heard around the globe:
But in considering the sentiments of Muslims around the world towards Western governments in general and the United States in particular, we must remember that the United States bombed the sovereign nation of Iraq without any provocation, killing an estimated 500,000 civilians (that is a conservative estimate). The number of lives we destroyed through loss of jobs, families, and education is far greater. Even the justification of potential weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false. We destroyed the infrastructure of an entire nation, dismantled the government and the military, and then we occupied that nation for nearly decade. Any country that does that should expect that it will not win friends by doing so.
Again, anti-Western sentiment based on a history of unprovoked attack and intervention (the history of Western interventionism and colonialism in Muslim majority countries is far too long to go into here) is regrettable, but not at all surprising. After all, Americans had the very same response to 9/11, in which 3,000 civilians were killed. We allow ourselves plenty of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment, I think. And typically, we as a country feel that it’s justified–we don’t feel like we should apologize for it.
The taking of civilian life, any civilian life, is unequivocally wrong. Terrorism is unequivocally wrong. However, it is disingenuous to call the violence that troubles us ‘terrorism,’ and then justify or ignore the violence done by the people with whom we identify. In other words, it is wrong to say: ‘their violence is bad, my violence is good.’ This is not only disingenuous, but it has always been and will always be ineffective at ending the conflict.
The solution to these problems is not to withhold our support from one another in the face of attack. The solution to these problems is to build support–real, human, on-the-ground support for one another. Locally, this means that we stand for and with each other against the persecution of any one of us based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other arbitrary classification. Globally, this means we must be educated on and vocally opposed to any “preemptive” military action by our own government; we have to earnestly support diplomatic responses to international problems. The solution begins with you and I having this exchange. So I thank you for your questions, and I sincerely hope to continue this conversation.
Bless you in your efforts towards solidarity and understanding,