Muslims are inveterately hostile to Jews: False narrative

Muslims are speaking out – and acting out – every day in defense of Jews who are under attack.

A CANDLELIGHT vigil in the aftermath of the attack on the Poway synagogue.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A CANDLELIGHT vigil in the aftermath of the attack on the Poway synagogue.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The proliferation of antisemitic attacks this year in the United States and globally shook the global Jewish community to its core – the attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, this month, and unfortunately, the list goes on and on. However, amid our grief, fear and anger at these escalating attacks, and at increased demonization of Israel from the likes of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, it is important for Jews to realize that we are not alone but have allies in the Muslim community.
There is a false narrative out there that Muslims are inveterately hostile to Jews. In fact, Muslims are speaking out – and acting out – every day in defense of Jews who are under attack. Consider the following inspiring examples of Muslims standing up for Jews during the past year:
• On Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, backed by the government of Saudi Arabia and based in holy city of Mecca, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “Why Muslims From Around the World should Remember the Holocaust.” Taking vigorous issue with those in the Muslim world who have trafficked in Holocaust denial, Al-Issa wrote, “The lessons of Holocaust are universal and Muslims around the world have a responsibility to learn them, heed the warnings and join the international commitment to ensure ‘never again.’”
• In October, Al-Issa took another groundbreaking stand by issuing a strong condemnation of an antisemitic incident in Australia in which a Jewish boy was bullied into kissing the shoes of a Muslim boy. He shared, “This shameful behavior is contrary to the doctrine of Islam and they are barbaric acts.... Examples from the Holy Scriptures abound of the importance of respecting Jews. The Prophet, peace be upon him, stood solemnly at the funeral of a Jew.”
• In the wake of the Poway, Halle and Jersey City attacks on Jews, leaders of local and national Muslim organizations spoke out at news conferences condemning the attacks in uncategorical terms and offered emotional succor and financial support to families of the victims and to the Jewish community. Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Muslim Relations said, “We stand in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers and ask people of all faiths and backgrounds to repudiate the hatred that apparently motivated this heinous attack.”
• Jews in Minnesota, and across America, were deeply hurt and alarmed by comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), who suggested that US support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” and that Jewish supporters of Israel are more loyal to that state than to the US. While Omar’s ugly comments were deeply disturbing, it is important to note that many American Muslims denounced them.
In an interview with CNN, Omar Jamal and Mohammed Ahmed, hitherto strong supporters of Omar, denounced her remarks as overtly antisemitic. Jamal said, “You’re supposed to bring people together, you’re supposed to create a sense of unity instead of farther dividing them and pitting one group against the other.”
Ahmed commented, “We believe in Palestinian rights and freedoms, but we will not do it denigrating our Jewish community.”
• In November, public figures from 15 Arab countries met in London and denounced the BDS movement against Israel and called for direct person-to-person contacts between Israelis and citizens of their respective societies. This group, the Arab Council for Regional Integration, called for mending relations with Israel not only as path to peace, but a way to mend relations with Israel and also to heal some of the greatest internal problems in their own countries.
• It wasn’t only prominent Muslim clerics and political leaders who drew worldwide attention by defending beleaguered Jews. Last month, a Muslim woman named Asma Shuweikh noticed a man spouting antisemitic vitriol at a Jewish family on the London Underground. As seen in a video that went viral on YouTube, the deranged man is seen haranguing the Jewish children about “synagogues of Satan,” until Shuweikh steps in tells him to cut out his harassment. The man turns threateningly on her, but she stands her ground.
For my part, as someone who has been involved in Muslim-Jewish relations for more than 15 years and has come to know Muslims of all ranks of life, I am confident that there are many more Mohammed Al-Issas and Asma Shuweikhs out there who will not sit still or look away when Jews are being threatened or attacked. At a difficult moment in history that is some good news that we should never allow ourselves to forget.
The writer is president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations.