Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"What are the origins of Jewish hate for Muslims and Arabs?"

Does that title sound antisemitic to you as it does to me? Do titles like that get on your nerves? I hope it does. Why then do I choose a title that annoys me personally, and can even get me in trouble?
Well, I chose it to make a point.

This morning I came across an article in Haaretz that had the title “What are the origins of Muslim antisemitism?” That title got on my nerves. For whatever reason, generalizing against Jews in a negative way raises the concern of antisemitism, and the rabid voices of the likes of the ADL screech through our ears scaring the heck of those who are charged with the heinous crime. Yet, generalizations against Muslims and, in many circles, Christians as well, seem so benign and do not raise the eye brows of the morality police.

Sometimes I am not sure about a generalization I read - or about a statement I intend to make - that favors one group over another or seems to criticize one group more than the other. In such a case I try a quick test: I substitute the ‘hot words’ (e.g., Jews-Muslim, Sunni-Shia, or White-Black, etc) with a word that refers to the group on the other side of the argument in the statement I am testing. If it sounds morally wrong or over-the-top, then the statement needs to be revised.

That rule of the thumb I use is the equivalent to the Golden Rule: “Do unto other what you want them do unto you”. And if you apply my rule to that article title in Haaretz, the title does not sound right.

It is intertesting why generalizing a bad claim about Muslims, and even Christians, seems a lot more acceptable than generalizing about Jews. That seems very counter intuitive considering that there is about 70 times more Muslims in the world than there are Jews, and that near 60 countries claim a Muslim majority while only one country claims a Jewish Majority. The burden of proving a generalization should apparently be heavier in the case of generalizing against Muslims (or Christians).

What is even more baffling is that most of the newspapers, visual media and literature produced by Muslims are in languages that is scarcely translated into English or French (i.e., culturally invisible from the Western point of view), the exception being ‘well-selected representative samples’ to help the popular generalizations against Muslims. On the other hand, most of the Jewish intellectual literary, media and political production is in English, or is quickly translated into English.

So, if you combine the larger number of Muslims, with the tremendous diversity in cultural, national, ethnic and political backgrounds among them, and multiply that by numerous languages in which they express their thoughts, it may be reasonable to assume intellectual dishonesty (or utter ignorance) in someone who believes that you can generalize about Muslims.

How come then that those generalizations against Muslims are prevalent and acceptable? If we follow the Golden Rule (see above), then we should either accept generalizations against all, or refuse generalizations against all. Anti-Muslim statements should be as unacceptable as anti-Christian sentiments or as the mother of all crimes, antisemitism.

So, if anyone felt offended by my factitious title, they should also feel offended by the term ‘Muslim antisemitism’ in Haaretz article title (and in the thousands of publications in paper and in cyberspace published by the people who scream antisemitism ad nauseam).

If they are not consistent in the way they feel, then I hope that next time they here an unfair generalization about their own ethnic, religious, or racial group, they should think twice before bursting in righteous indignation.

As for the article in Haaretz: it is actually a very interesting article and present very interesting bits of information from the author's point of view.

In a simplistic nutshell: It is Christians that incited modern Muslim antisemitism. Of course that is if you believe that such a generalization against Muslims is valid. And if you do, please re-read this posting after a good night's sleep. May be you will get my point next time.

Read Haaretz article for yourself here.


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