“And Abraham said to God, ‘be not angry as I speak this last time; What if ten righteous should be found there?’ And the Lord answered, ‘I will not destroy for the sake of the ten.” – Genesis Chapter 18 verse 32 – 33
I cannot be silent. I will not sit idly by while a leading candidate for the highest office of my country scapegoats a whole religion. As a Jew, an American, a son of a Holocaust survivor, a grandson, nephew and cousin of scores of victims of Hitler’s genocide I must stand and be counted. Being the progeny of a beneficiary of the generous and welcoming refugee and immigration policy, exemplified by the Emma Lazarus quote engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired/your poor your huddled masses, “ I must speak out.
I know it is cliché to say that I have Muslim friends, so be it. For a few years now I have been doing business in a country that is at least half Muslim. I have made Muslim friends, have Muslim colleagues, hired Muslim workers and been a guest in countless Muslim homes. In the United States where I live I encounter Muslims every day in business, in shops, on the streets and trains. At a banking job I once had in New York, I worked with and became friends with Muslims from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Gulf States. I can say with one hundred percent certainty that none of them are or ever were terrorists.
I walked down thirty-three flights of a soot and smoke filled stairwell of 2 World Trade Center on February 26th, 1993 aiding co-workers to navigate in the darkness while others assisted me. On September 11th, 2001 though I no longer worked there, sixty-one of my former colleagues perished. I know first hand the extremism that has triggered this hateful, misguided, xenophobia and intolerance.
While I do not live in a cave and am fully aware that Islam has a problem with violent extremists, I am also aware that Christians and Jews too have problems with fanatics. Many claim that there is not enough outrage from mainstream Muslims when their extremists perpetrate violence. I can say with certainty that no outrage would be enough for those voices and that there is a deafening silence from mainstream Jews and Christians to the agitating ranting’s and sometimes violence of their own radicals.
I know too that Islam is practiced in many places around the world with misogyny and ancient laws that seem barbaric in our day and age. I know as well of places where Judaism is practiced not that differently. I know that if given the freedom to do so certain Jewish and Christian sects would be glad to limit free speech, due process, women’s rights and install the Bible as the constitution and bring back stoning and lashings.
America, beacon of hope and the land of the free has a mixed record and a long history of mistakes from which it can learn to be better. Millions of Natives exterminated for white land appropriation, slavery, civil rights suppression, a gender gap, concentration camps for Japanese Americans, immigration quotas, college admission quotas, mass incarceration of people of color, abuse of migrant workers and now Islamophobia.
America is great because it rights its wrongs. America leads because it rejects its own prejudices. America is where people want to come to because despite what is wrong with America it is always seeking to be better. I cannot be silent. I cannot be neutral. I must take a stand and be counted – religious scapegoating has no place in American discourse. Today, Je Suis Muslim.