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MJ Rosenberg: A Muslim Kid’s Pain

20 August 2010 Huffington Post One Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Growing up in a small town with few Jews, I was a sensitive about my minority status. The half-dozen Jews in my elementary school were not all friends but we were all very much aware that we had something in common. We were a tiny minority, and most of our classmates had no idea what Jews were.

There wasn’t much anti-Semitism but pretty much everyone reacted with horror when they discovered that we did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord. Of course, we Jews went out of our way to avoid the subject. To this day, I know more Christmas carols than most Christians I know. I never missed a tree trimming party and never, ever, wanted to stand out as different. (American kids invariably want to “fit in”).

The occasional burst of anti-Semitism, when it came (“CHRIST-KILLER!”) was unbearable but thankfully rare. (Besides, we had it easy compared to the black kids).

I recalled all this as I have watched Fox News, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and other media outlets broadcasting anti-Muslim hate non-stop for going on a month now. And not just the right-wing media but mainstream Republican, and some Democratic, politicians.

Muslim bashing is everywhere you look and listen, with Muslims being called terrorists virtually nonstop. Terrorist and un-American.

I cannot imagine what that feels like for a Muslim kid in the United States.

I cannot imagine how hurt and humiliated I would have felt if people like me were called America’s enemy. Or if the synagogue I attended was labeled a haven for evil.

I think I would have looked at every one of my friends and classmates and wondered: does he hate me for being a Jew, what do her parents say about my parents? I know I would have felt lonely and miserable.

The only other ethnic group recently subjected to the right-wing media’s nonstop hate campaign is the Hispanic community but, even there, there is at least the half-hearted distinction between “legals” and “illegals.” For Muslims, no distinction exists. They are all bad (much as all Jews were bad in other countries I could name in the 20th century).

I would hate to be a Muslim parent today. I mean, what does a parent say when a child asks, “why do they all hate us.”

In my opinion, we, as a culture, have reached a new low.

One Comment »

  1. Yours is an interesting – and compassionate – perspective. I can only imagine that there already have been many dinner table conversations about this, with the aim of calming the nerves of Muslim kids wondering what all the fuss is about.

    However any of us may feel personally about the location of the community center, it is good to think about the example we are setting. How and what we teach our young people will determine what kind of country we will be when they are ready to lead our government, our businesses and all other important societal institutions.

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