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Lesley Hazleton: Anti-Semitism = Islamophobia

16 March 2011 General 8 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by: Lesley Hazleton

This past weekend, I spoke to a Hadassah meeting – the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.  The subject, of my choosing, was “What’s a ‘nice Jewish girl’ doing writing so much about Islam?”

The easy answer to the question I’d self-imposed was “Why not?”  A perfectly reasonable answer, perhaps, but not with bigots like Peter King about to begin his witch hunt this week in the form of congressional hearings on the alleged “radicalization” of American Muslims.

The real answer is that it’s precisely because I’m Jewish that I find myself writing so much about Islam these days.  Because as a Jew, I know the dangers of prejudice.  And I can smell it a mile off.  When I hear someone talk about “the Jewish mentality,” I know I’m listening to an anti-Semite.  How else stereotype millions of people that way?   Just as when I read someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali talking about “the Muslim mentality,” I know — no matter how pretty she is, how soft-spoken, and how compelling her life story – that I am listening to an Islamophobe.

And I recognize that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the exact same coin:  the stereotyping of millions of people by the actions of a few.  That is, prejudice.

So it’s particularly painful, let alone absurd and self-defeating and dumb, to see that some Islamophobes are Jewish.  And equally painful – and absurd and self-defeating and dumb – to see that some Muslims are anti-Semitic.

I have no statistics to say what proportion of Jews are Islamophobic or what proportion of Muslims are anti-Semitic (though I could doubtless make some up and throw them out there with such an air of authority that they’d be repeated ad infinitum until they achieve the status of “fact”).   But the Muslim Brotherhood, for all the changes it has undergone, still distributes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  And while anti-Zionism does not necessarily mean anti-Semitism, there is a clear overlap, with a venemous hatred finding its outlet in what is now the more acceptable form of anti-Zionism.

So we need to be clear.  We badly need it.

“Islam” did not attack the US on 9/11;  eighteen people with a particularly twisted and distorted idea of Islam did.  “The Jews” do not shoot Palestinian farmers in the West Bank;   Bible-spouting settlers with a particularly twisted and distorted idea of Judaism do.

The Quran is no more violent or misogynistic than the Bible.  In fact it’s less so.  If you insist, as Islamophobes do, on highlighting certain phrases, then you should turn around and do the same with the Bible, which you will find ten times worse, with repeated calls for the destruction of whole peoples.  Only the dumbest, most literal, hate-filled fundamentalist, Jewish or Muslim, takes the rules of ancient warfare as a guide to 21st-century life.

We have to stop this stereotyping.  Now.  All of us.

We have to recognize prejudice not only in others, but in ourselves, Jewish or Muslim.

We have to be able to see that the anti-Semitic trope of “the Jews” trying to take over the world is exactly the same as the Islamophobic one of “the Muslims” trying to take over the world.

We have to acknowledge that an Islamophobic Jew is thinking exactly like an anti-Semite.  And that an anti-Semitic Muslim is thinking exactly like an Islamophobe.

We have to realize that American Jews need to stand up with Muslims against Islamophobia just as American Muslims need to stand up with Jews against anti-Semitism.

Because Islamophobia is, in essence, another form of anti-Semitism, and vice versa.  And it’s in the direct interest of both Jews and Muslims — of all of us — to stand up and confront both forms of prejudice.

In the famous words of an anti-Nazi Protestant pastor during World War II:

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Original post: Anti-Semitism = Islamophobia


  1. Excellent post. We need more people to speak out like this and to challenge the hate.

  2. I am so thankful to read this article. Unfortunately, the majority of people that surround me speak in the exact opposite vein.

    Please keep this work up and encourage fellow Jews, Muslims and Christians that you meet, that any extremism, especially religious extremism is a terrible way to think and act. The acts of Kindness and Mercy can only become real, by adopting the way of Kindness and Mercy.

    Without this… Peace will be only a cruel joke.

  3. This article best summarizes that all racism are equal in danger. Anti semite, Islamaphobia and other racist stereotypes against any religion or ethnicity are very harmful to society.
    A very influential article
    thanks again Lesley Hazleton for opening the light on this topic

  4. This article is even more accurate than most realize, seeing as both Arabs and Jews are in actuality Semitic, as it refers to a language group. Therefore, a lot of hatred towards Muslims is quite literally antisemitism. Boom, mind blown.

  5. Thank You Lesley Hazleton,
    I hope more people start thinking like you, i am Muslim from Egypt and it makes me upset to see anti-semitism here and i always talk with the person and say that this is a prejudice, i usually tell them “we don’t like when americans say bad things about Muslims so why are you doing the same thing about Jews”
    unfortunately both anti-semites and islamophobes see their argument is valid and the other is not. anti-semites say look around you they are controlling the world etc.. and islamophobes say look at what terrorist say and “proof” from the quran.

    I think it is a beautiful thing to see Jewish people stand against islamophobia and see Muslims stand against anti-semitism, this will really help fight the bigotry on both sides

  6. Judaism and Islam are the two racist parasitic ideologies that both divide the world by “we and them”. The idea is to solve difficulties in life on the expense of all others (goim, kaffirs). There will never be peace in the middle east, because the 2 racist ideologies colide there and exclude each otther.

  7. Rather than condemn vague, made-up labels like “anti-semitism” and “Islamophobia”, I suggest we fully embrace reality, complex as it is . In reality, the views of the people given these labels have some truth to them, some half-truth, and some falsity. Meet their challenge head-on and you will eventually determine which is which. For example, Judaism is a racial religion that distinguishes Jews and Gentiles by blood and whose scriptures reflect this, full of self-regarding pride while scorning the other. Yet there is no political doctrine regarding the proper relation of Jews to Gentiles – this is the province of Islamic doctrine with the concepts of “ummah”,”kufr”, “jihad”, “jizya”, “dhimmi” and so on. This is one more reason why Islam is the faith more dangerous to modern democratic values.

  8. @Some Jew

    “Judaism is a racial religion that distinguishes Jews and Gentiles by blood and whose scriptures reflect this, full of self-regarding pride while scorning the other.”

    Um, no. Judaism, as a religion, does not distinguish by blood, as conversion to Judaism is possible without any intracommunal hangups about the ancestry of the convert. “Gentile”, in the modern era, refers to any person who simply either does not observe the religion or does not descend from someone who practiced it.

    “Yet there is no political doctrine regarding the proper relation of Jews to Gentiles – this is the province of Islamic doctrine with the concepts of “ummah”,”kufr”, “jihad”, “jizya”, “dhimmi” and so on.”

    I find your choice of Arabic words rather detractive from the rest of this comment, as the last four are used frequently to slur the majority of practitioners of Islam as real or potential oppressors.

    “This is one more reason why Islam is the faith more dangerous to modern democratic values.”

    Abrahamic religion in majority demographic concentrations tend to be that way; the first and foremost victims of such outrage are those in the country who are accused of not being devout or moral enough.

    But it does not mean that Islam, by itself, is more dangerous, nor that Christianity will be a better alternative, nor that simple secularism will ameliorate the more violent impulses of Abrahamic majority religions.

    It is, ultimately, a matter of religious and intellectual liberty, liberty that would allow for divergent sects and offshoots of Islam to develop without enforced precarity, but also allow for those who may no longer believe in Islam (or any other religion) to leave the religion without fear of precarity by the state or mobs.

    And for as long as (sects of) Christians or (sects of) Muslims seek more souls but loathe to release some, the more that you will see the sort of nonsense that impregnates exclusivist, expansionist religions and sects.

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