Facebook Friends vs The FBI…

For a large portion of my life I was the extreme of extremists. The moment I heard there was a terrorist attack anywhere my first thought was “the terrorist’s last words were ‘Allah achbar.’” When I heard there was a money laundering scandal I knew the next word I would see would be someone’s name ending in a “Berg”, “Baum” or “Stein”. Or when a robbery case was reported, of course it was by the African American who sat next to me on the bus the other day.

I would blatantly throw out lines such as “they are all terrorists. Every single Muslim has someone’s blood on their hands.” For the most part, comments like these were not only accepted, but were encouraged in a sick and twisted sort of way.

It goes without saying, stereotyping is sadly a daily if not hourly occurrence and one of the worst qualities that make up a human being.

I remember a few months ago I was waiting for a bus at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Two girls cut me in line for security. Before even hearing them speak to each other, I immediately assumed they were Muslim, because people of my type, Jews, are never this rude as to cut (if only). When I heard the two girls speaking Arabic to each other I felt a sort of success within me. Not only did I identify them solely based on their actions, but also I was right, thus proving that all people that are rude are of course Muslim.

As I was congratulating myself on this “win” it struck me how ridiculous I was being. Did an Israeli really never cut me in line? Did a fellow Jew in the streets of New York never push me?

Reading the recent articles and blogs about the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon at the beginning of the week it struck me how the blame is immediately given to one religions and one religion only, Islam. Of course it is easy to assume based on past attacks, but one can never be certain until official reports are released. I commend Obama’s efforts on Monday night to stress the fact that we don’t know who committed the attack at this point and to not run to conclusions. I will never sympathize with those who kill innocent men, women and children. Those who kill in the name of their god. Those who advocate and promote violence and death. People like this can’t even be called people. However, since when is a woman wearing a burka in the supermarket immediately branded with the word terrorist? Or a man named Mohammed a future suicide bomber?

I know it is something we are all guilty of doing.

I was recently watching a documentary from the History Channel about the days following the horrific September 11th attacks. One scene in the documentary embarrassed me to the core.

The videographer of the documentary was in a mosque. There were children everywhere. A Muslim worshipper was telling the videographer that they have been receiving hate calls from the time Al Quada took responsibility until now (I think this was being filmed about four days later.) He was also saying parents were scared to send their children to (public) school out of fear that they will be bullied and patronized for something they are not. The worshipper ended the scene saying just because a Muslim group unfortunately succeeded in the most horrendous and tragic attack on American soil doesn’t mean Muslims throughout America were all apart of the plot. He constantly stressed both he and his congregation condemns the attack with every fiber of their beings. He said he moved to America from Pakistan due to the bountiful opportunities for him, his wife and their children. He never thought he would be petrified to walk the streets of New York out of fear. The constant fear of death he felt in Pakistan was slowly creeping back into his life.

This was all I could think about when minutes after the Boston attacks I saw Facebook statuses and blogs immediately claiming it was a “crazy terrorist Arab” or “anyone who thinks anyone but a Muslim did this is crazy.” When the reports of the bombings were initially released no one knew anything. I have a feeling my twenty something year old Facebook friends don’t know more then the FBI, as to so confidently place the blame on an entire religion.

To clarify, yes, it is the sad reality that majority of terrorist attacks have been committed by Muslim extremeists. However, I want to highlight the word “extremist”. This does not mean all attacks, shootings, and acts of violence were in the name of Allah or Jihad. It is wrong to assume.

When there is a money scandal, I think it is safe to say that that does not represent the entire Jewish religion. I can honestly say as a religious Jew I have no intentions or urge to steal anyone’s money. Just as I don’t want to be branded with the term “money launderer”, I am sure Mohammed from New York who is doing all he can to raise his children in a healthy environment doesn’t want to be called a terrorist.

I want to end once again emphasizing I will never sympathize with hateful murderers. I will never sympathize with those who want to kill those who don’t share their faith. Those who want to kill people who believe in the freedom of choice, democracy and the pursuit of happiness. I won’t sympathize with people who preach raging, hateful comments and slanders. I won’t sympathize with them ever. However, we cannot ever jump to conclusions. We can’t blame billions of people just because a portion of their religion believes in terrorism and instilling fear in the innocent. Stereotyping and accusing only creates more hate and animosity. We have enough of that in the world. Don’t create more.

About the Author
Lottie Kestenbaum was born to British parents and grew up in New Jersey. To add to the identity crisis, Lottie made aliyah in August 2012. Hello tri-citizenship! She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Holocaust Studies at Haifa University and living in Jerusalem. Yes, it is a shlep. No need to mention it :-)