Tag Archives: Irish

Is it Racist to Attack Islam?

Islamic-Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an important and relevant question.  I could start by saying Islam is a religion and ideology rather than a race, but in discussing this point that’s merely semantics.  To properly discuss this issue its critical to start from an honest premise, which means asking the right question.  In this case the question to ask may not be whether or not attacking Islam is racist as much as whether or not attacking it is actually justified?

Let’s begin by looking at the definition of racism. racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.  This already presents a question.  In a situation where you identify a problem that is prevalent within a group of people, are you saying that all members of that race possess those characteristics or abilities specific to that race.  Comments like Jews are good with money or blacks are better athletes, may not be  bigoted, but in the way they specifically claim these qualities exist in these groups, they might be construed as racist.  This in itself could be a long discussion and quite frankly is mostly irrelevant in this discussion, because the attacks on Islam of which I am referring to are highly indicting and provocative, even if they may be true.

Personally, I find any unwarranted attack on one group of people to be offensive. We’ve all heard these stereotypical attacks. Jews are cheap, Mexicans are lazy, Irish are drunks, and so on and so on.  They’re ridiculous comments.  They speak of negative qualities that exist in all groups and aren’t dominant in any one particular group.  They are comments designed to insult people and be nothing more than statements of bigotry.  They’re offensive and disgraceful and I have always distanced myself not only from these types of comments but from those who make them.  That being said, no matter how liberal people want to be, it’s important that everyone realizes that attacking Islam is a very different story.

Attacks on Islam are not based on unwarranted personal bias.  The 9/11 attacks were committed by Muslims.  The Boston Marathon Bombings were committed by Muslims.  Israel has been getting attacked by Muslim terrorists on a regular basis since the 70’s.  We’ve just watched 3 people get beheaded by Muslims.  Boko Haram is a Muslims terrorist group killing Christians in Nigeria, and the entire western world is on edge because of the threat of attack by ISIS.  For those who wanted to believe the president when he said otherwise, let me be clear.  The first IS in ISIS stands for Islam.  Members of ISIS were just arrested in Australia for a plan to abduct random people and behead them.  They have sent messages online trying to recruit what they call “lone wolves” to set off explosions in Times Square.  Iran, that’s the Islamic Republic of Iran,  is pursuing a nuclear program and wants to destroy the State of Israel.  I can go on and on.  And that’s really the point isn’t it?

It’s not that every Muslim is a threat.  It’s that most of the worst threats today are coming from Muslims.  Should we like them for this?  Should we be tolerant?  I will not discriminate against someone because they are Muslim.  I am capable of making Muslim friends.  But I will want to know that they are not aligned with the ideology prevalent in their religion if I am to have a healthy relationship with them.  That is not racist.  That is prudent.

Do I blame people for lashing out at Islam?  Not I don’t.  I am far more offended by one of my fellow Jews defending Muslims with more vigor than they defend Israel.  There are very large numbers of Muslims who hate me without even knowing me because I am Jewish.  Many of them want me and all my fellows Jews dead. Does that mean they all do? Of course not.  But is identifying this as a real problem make me racist?  Absolutely not.  It makes me realistic.  Most of the people who show hatred for Islam are not unlike me in their basic desire, people who just wants to live in peace and see their people and country be allowed to live in peace. The fact that they hate the people who are not allowing them to do so does not make them racist.  It makes them human.  Something this enemy is not.

I get it. We want to be good people.  We don’t want to hate others.  I respect that, but it’s not that simple.  When I was 19 years old I had a few sessions with a psychologist.  I didn’t particularly like him and didn’t feel he did much to help me back then, but he did teach me one thing I never forgot.  If you think you are a good person but in the process you are not being good to yourself, you’re not a good person.  The same concept applies here.  If in the name of being good to others you are putting yourself in danger, you’re not a good person.  It’s a harsh reality, I know.  But if we ignore it the reality will become a lot harsher.

 

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I’m Jewish. I must be cheap.

1379505_10201629847641956_1291770149_nAs a proud Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, I always have my radar on for blatant or subtle anti-Semitism.  As an individual I try not to take myself too seriously, but as people who know me will verify, I am not always successful.  When these two factors meet, I sometimes find myself in a quandary.   How do I react to anti-Semitic remarks without falling into the trap of being too self-important and how do I distinguish between innocent, albeit misguided perception and unabashed bigotry?  Case in point, the “cheapness of Jews”.

If the comments were rare there would be nothing to speak about.  However, somehow the Jewish people have gotten the reputation of being significantly cheaper than other ethnic groups.  Partially because I don’t feel like doing the detailed research, but more importantly because I don’t think it matters at this point, I am not going to address the origins or accuracy of the perception.  What I will say is that for many people, even those who have never witnessed a Jew being cheap on a major scale, the statement, “Don’t be a Jew”, or “I Jewed him down” is what they would just refer to as a figure of speech.  However, it is unquestionably a racial slur.  The show Sponge Bob Square Pants has a character, Sponge Bob’s boss, whose whole character revolves around how cheap he is, and he is portrayed as Irish, not Jewish, because a cheap Irishman is not a stereotype per se.

Be that as it may, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable when hearing these comments and somewhat at my wits end.  To understand why I have no clue on how to address it, other than maybe moving to Israel and only living amongst Jews, here are three examples of what I, a very Americanized and modern Jewish man has had to listen to.

The first case is an African American friend of mine, and I call him a friend because his actions toward me have been helpful and seemingly genuine, when talking about a business deal he is in the process of making, consistently will make the comment, “I tried to charge him a certain amount of money but he kept Jewing me down.”  The irony is that this man is someone who generally lives by a high ethical standard and knowing I am positively Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, always seems to show and appreciation and respect for my background, except when making a comment that would get a news reporter fired due to its racially offensive overtone. 

The second case was when spending time with a friend who was somewhat intoxicated, he referred to a black co-worker who did a favor for him, and then charged him more than he originally agreed to, as a “Black Jew”.  In the course of his semi-drunken rant it was abundantly clear that he threw in the word “Jew” because he was calling the other man cheap and that it was unquestionably an attack on his behavior.  However, whenever discussing anything about my heritage with me, he’s been nothing but respectful.

The third case was a woman I dated.  Being someone who is frugal with her money, and not Jewish, I guess she felt she was bonding with me when she said, “I’m cheap.  I could be Jewish.”  And yet, she was someone who I witnessed showing respect to Jewish people and always seemed to show respect for who I was and where I came from.  Nevertheless, when the statement was made, due to the compounding discomfort I have from all of the people who refer to Jews as cheap, I was at a loss for how to react, and subsequently sat silently without reaction.

Some of you reading this may say that I just need to make better choices on who I spend my time with.  You may be right.  However, I am not only exposed to these statements in private environments, but in more public forums as well.  I am sure that many of you reading this have experienced the same thing that I have and find it as hard to handle as I do.  Part of what makes it so difficult to deal with is the fact that the people saying these things are often not anti-Semites, they are just unaware of the discomfort the comments cause myself and others like me.  The problem is that I hear it so often that a degree of fatigue has settled in that has resulted in me often remaining silent, especially when the comments are made by people I know as not being anti-Semites.