Standing up to bigotry is not easy, but it is necessary

On Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I stopped for gas before leaving for a trip. I went inside to buy a drink while my husband filled up the car. I was waiting in line absorbed in my phone when a very well-dressed middle-aged woman at the front of the line started to thank a gentleman for his military service; he must have been wearing something indicating that he is a veteran.

When he finished his transaction and walked out, the well-dressed woman turned to us and said, as if to continue on the same topic, “We have a real problem with these Muslims. They rape babies, they have sex with 4-year-olds because they are sick. We have to let people know and stop being scared to speak out. We have to stop Islam.”

The cashier suddenly looked like a deer caught in headlights, and I avoided eye contact with the woman because I was in shock. She started to become self-conscious because no one else seemed to agree with her, but she continued to rant, later apologizing for “getting political.” When she finally made eye contact with me, I squeaked out, “Not all Muslims cover their heads…” She looked me over and ignored me.

Yes, I have fair skin but many people in the Middle East look just like me. I meant to say, “how do you know WHAT or WHO I am based on how I look?!”

I am not proud of my weak reaction to that bigoted woman’s statement, and what she said made me feel ill. I want my Muslim, Arab, and Persian friends to know that I will try to do better next time.

During the incident I found myself unconsciously touching the Star of David that I wear around my neck. I think that I was instinctively trying to hide it.

Jews and Muslims are wrapped up in a horrible conflict in the Middle East, but here in the United States, we are both minorities, and we have a duty to stand up for one another against bigotry.

If someone hates Jews, they probably hate Muslims, blacks, and God knows who else too. Bigotry is an equal opportunity ailment.

I have plenty to say about fundamentalist Islam, terrorism, and anti-Zionism, but I refuse to stand idly by and let people in my community speak in such brutal and false generalizations about Muslims or anyone else.

I pride myself on my support for human rights and on my opposition to all forms of bigotry and racism, but when this incident occurred, I was passive. This has been a humbling experience that I will remember in the future to help me be stronger.

About the Author
Klari is a Califorina Girl, a Liberal, and an avid supporter of Israel
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