I had an experience earlier today that shocked me and left me extremely unsettled, and that reinforced for me an important lesson that I would like to communicate.
Another student asked me what classes I was taking this semester, and I told him in particular about one Middle East Studies seminar entitled, “Ethnographic Perspectives of Islam: Tradition, Religiosity, and Modernity.” When he heard the name of the course, he immediately endeavored to convince me that Islam as a whole is illegitimate, that Mohammad was a false prophet, and that Muslim practices are an affront to Christianity.
I was surprised and disturbed to hear such sentiments, especially from a fellow Brown student (any conservatism that I have encountered here has been mild and well-reasoned – nothing religious or radical), and I argued with him extensively until, gradually, the debate devolved into the time-old allegation that “the Jews” killed Jesus. I wasted some time detailing the historical realities that fly in the face of that deeply anti-Semitic remark, but I soon realized that no rational argument was likely to influence such a person’s thinking, or lack thereof, and excused myself.
As I was leaving, the bigot had the chutzpah to lie to me and say, “I hope I didn’t offend you.” I answered him with a question: “How many centuries of genocides must my people endure as a result of the accusation you just made before you assume that I would be offended?”
From this dialogue we can draw an important lesson: hatred of any collective “other” is equivalent to the hatred of all others. I was unsurprised when I found that someone so anti-Muslim was also anti-Semitic, because few of those who would sweepingly condemn all of the 1.6 billion people in the world who identify as Muslims would spare the few million who consider themselves Jews. Certainly no Jew should ever condone Islamophobia, and nor should any Muslim ever condone anti-Semitism. In fact, no one should consider any mode of hatred, whether or not they themselves are the most immediate target, anything less than a personal attack.
Hatred in any form is unacceptable.