Opinion: As People of the Book, Muslims should stand in solidarity with Jews – National Post

Posted By on January 4, 2020

Tovey was a boy in my first grade class. I remember him distinctly because he was the first person I ever identified as being Jewish, or as my father would say in Arabic, yahudi.

Growing up with a family from the Middle East meant I heard a lot about Jewish people within the context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. As a child, I had no idea what any of the discussions happening around me meant, just that there was a distinctly different people from us involved in significant conflict somewhere far away that also involved fellow Muslims and Christians.

It was not a favourable first impression.

Yet, at the same time, I had also been taught to fully respect people of other faiths, or of no faith at all. I was taught to view the Jewish and Christian communities as People of the Book, or those whose communities had received particular sacred texts. I would become friends with Tovey and later, Sarah in the third grade.

And when a Jewish family moved next door to us when I was older, I would happily go for walks with the young mother, both of us pushing our toddlers in strollers, feeling nothing but kinship and mutual respect.

Sadly, such teachings and experiences are not as widespread as they should be. Instead, Jewish communities are once again on edge as a spate of attacks in New York City, and across the pond, in London, England, have rattled many to their core. This is just the latest chapter in the ongoing and relentless targeting of these communities based on stereotypes, fear, prejudice, and hatred that have existed throughout history.

As a Canadian Muslim, I know how hurtful and unfair it can feel to be seen as the Other. It happens to far too many communities considered different for a variety of reasons, ranging from their faith, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Its up to all of us to confront any and all efforts to otherize communities because it indeed threatens the well-being of our entire society.

It has become far too easy for those who promote hate to find a platform. As comedian Sacha Baron Cohen said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) last November, Facebook may be the greatest propaganda machine of all time. Groups boasting of tens of thousands of members share all forms of hateful, false content on a daily basis, whipping up anger towards minority communities around the globe.

These social media tools have been used against the Rohyingya minority in Burma, as amegaphone of hate against Bengali Muslims in India, against LGBTQ people and have facilitated the unleashing of a hurricane of hate against Jewish communities. All of this eventually compelled the United Nations to launch a strategy and plan of action on hate speech earlier this year.

Sadly, such teachings and experiences are not as widespread as they should be

In Canada, the Liberals pledged to bring regulations that would ensure tech giants are fined should they fail to remove hateful content within 24 hours, similar to Germanys model. However, even this will not necessarily be a panacea. Researchers writing in Nature magazine last August have documented that when attacked, the online hate ecology can quickly adaptand self-repair

The federal government has also committed millions of dollars towards anti-racism initiatives. These would aim to empower targeted communities themselves to educate fellow Canadians about the insidious nature of racism, and provide opportunities to share stories and to connect with the broader public.

The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray, Baron Cohen said in his now oft-quoted speech at the ADLs 2019 summit.

This sounds rudimentary and yet remains painfully elusive.

Amira Elghawaby is a writer and a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Follow her on Twitter @AmiraElghawaby

Originally posted here:
Opinion: As People of the Book, Muslims should stand in solidarity with Jews - National Post

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