I believe in Allah. Maybe you believe in a different God. But you also have eyes, ears, and a mouth like my own children. Should I not love you the same?
I was shocked to hear those words in the Great Mosque of Ramle — from a Muslim, speaking to a group of American Jews. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. It means I was expecting something less friendly.
It’s an expectation that’s been bred by the place I grew up, where racism is a historical precedent, and though my country isn’t the worst culprit, we’re definitely the loudest. We’re Americans. Being loud and proud is our thing.
Yet, in the wake of the Islamic Panic and the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting, I’m struggling to find my American pride, because hate is running rampant yet again.
Discrimination has become an American coping mechanism. We use it like camouflage to hide our fears.
The early 21st century was fraught with it. When the World Trade Center tumbled down, what rose from the wreckage was panic, and Muslims hit every watch list, in every agency, in every state in the country. Our national news media was quick to help hunt down the offenders, stoking our fears with endless tales of domestic terrorism and peppering headlines with words like ‘Muslim aggressor’ or ‘Islamic extremist’. It’s true that terrorism was flourishing, but the American multitude, unable to differentiate the word ‘Muslim’ from ‘terrorist,’ took to the Mosques with sharpened pitchforks.
Most of our fears were prejudices, unabashedly veiled by the words of our Patriot Act, and assuaged by an insistence that our American mission was accomplished. The Middle East was in flames, but our homeland was safe from terrorists. What we didn’t realize is it had fallen to bigotry, and seventeen years later, America is still hesitant to see past the burkas and turbans.
Now hate is back in the States, and instead of smothering it, we’re feeding its flames.
The American leadership has not only decided to tolerate intolerance, but they have perpetrated it themselves. Radical racism thrives, and the world should be highly concerned — especially with the wounds of the Pittsburgh massacre wide open, and anti-Semitic sentiment pouring out. It will spread if we don’t stem the flow.
To my fellow Americans, and my fellow humans:
Don’t sanction this hatred with silence. Do not proliferate it’s existence with complacency, but speak out against it. Most importantly, do not hide your fear with discrimination.
If you aren’t a Jew, and if you aren’t a Muslim, I encourage you to look closely the next time you’re with one. You’ll see. They have eyes. They have ears. They probably have a mouth. They are not they, but us.
Should we not love them the same?