attended a v disconcerting book discussion last week. the book was Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities but the discussion was broader. the conversation was to be moderated by two interfaith leaders, one muslim, one jewish, but i knew that it would be an uphill battle when the rabbi recommended a book by alan dershowitz in his opening remarks.
he framed the discussion is such a limiting and frankly offensive way that it left v little room for real, meaningful interaction. besides echoing trite stereotypes about muslims (why don’t they condemn terrorism? do they want to integrate or remain isolated?) he threw around the ground zero mosque, fear of shariah law and the hijab and u.s. military classes that justify wiping out mecca and medina, not as manifestations of islamophobia which we must acknowledge and debunk but to ask muslims to explain why people felt that way about them. it’s like asking jews to explain why there’s been so much anti-semitism in the world – why is there such “distrust”. it’s ridiculous. being an interfaith meeting, i thought that we’d start with the assumption that all racism, prejudice, stereotyping and profiling is unacceptable. that’s where i come from anyway.
the other moderator tried to find some common ground by talking about parallels between anti-semitism and islamophobia, but that comparison was cut short. islamophobia is a reaction to the events of 9/11, whereas anti-semitism is baseless the rabbi seemed to imply. also, he said, where both communities stand today in terms of “modernity” is completely different. he went on to comment that this fact was visible in the room. wha? first, i reminded him of something called “orientalism.” the otherness of the muslim is not a post 9/11 phenomenon. and the otherness of the jew is not that antiquated either. remember the protocols of zion? plus bigotry has nothing to do with how “modern” one is or how “integrated.” german jews were pretty well-integrated no?
and let’s not even get into what was said about palestine. oy vey!