There is a rational fear that many people in the West feel when they see the extremism and violence perpetrated in the name of Islam around the globe, and sometimes at their doorsteps. As I wrote previously, we cannot blind ourselves to the problems of Islam, and we in the West must not shy away from taking any necessary measures.
But is it necessary or reasonable to ban every single Muslim from entering our countries, as Donald Trump has suggested? A friend told me that she sympathized with Trump’s idea; however, when I reminded her that one of her relatives is Muslim, and I asked her if she would ban that person, she said “oh no, of course not”.
What about Malala Yousufzai, the girl who was shot by the Taliban for promoting the education of Muslim girls? Should we ban her?
What about Aboud Dandachi, a Syrian refugee who speaks up against anti-Semitism and Muslim extremism?
What about Raheel Raza, a Canadian Muslim woman who wants to ban the Niqab and the Burka in public places?
What about Anett Haskia, an Israeli Arab who has two sons and one daughter in the IDF?
What about Bassem Eid, a Palestinian who relentlessly fights against the BDS movement and for peace with Israel?
What about IDF Major Alaa Wahib, former head of operations at the Israeli army’s training facility?
What about Maulana Jamil Ilyasi, Secretary-general of an Indian organization representing 200 million Muslims, who wants Pakistan to establish relations with Israel?
What about Salma Siddiqui and other members of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations who on November 30, 2015, held a fundraiser in Ottawa, Canada, for the National Holocaust Monument?
What about the Syrian children refugees who joined with Jewish groups for a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on December 6, 2015?
I could go on. There are 1.6 billion Muslims, and there are many such examples, some public and some private.
What about the many Muslim academics, clerics, journalists, and others fighting to reform Islam and to isolate Islamists?
What about every Muslim friend, coworker, or relative that each one of us has?
Should all these Muslims be banned?
It is disconcerting that many Americans have bought into Trump’s simplistic child-like theories about very complex issues.
The Jewish reaction
Jewish organizations in the West are heavily involved in helping refugees from Syria. Jewish community leaders do not see Muslims as their enemy despite the ongoing Israel-Arab conflict. “Peace and tolerance are stronger than any dispute,” said Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, the head of Chabad in Berlin.
In Canada, synagogues take it upon themselves to help Syrian refugees. As one example, in Vancouver, one synagogue raised $40,000 in a few days to sponsor Syrian refugees. In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) joined with a number of other Jewish organizations to form the Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees. There are many other such examples from around the globe.
Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote, “Our tradition holds that every human being is created in God’s image and is therefore entitled to be treated with dignity and respect”, and he added, “Terrorists wreaking havoc on every continent from their base in the Middle East must be stopped before they spread so much fear that civilized countries sacrifice the ideals that are the most important guarantors of our security”.
ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt, denounced Trump, saying, “This country must not give into fear by turning its back on its fundamental values, even at a time of great crisis. As we have said so many times, to do otherwise signals to the terrorists that they are winning the battle against democracy and freedom.”
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said, “I hear people extolling Trump’s statements and my heart sinks”. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Trump’s bigoted policy, and as a consequence, Trump canceled his planned visit to Israel.
We must learn from Jews that the choice between fighting Islamic terrorism and supporting our Muslim brothers and sisters is a false choice. Both can be done at the same time, and both must be done at the same time.