We’re in this fight together, Jews and Muslims

Antisemitism, Islamophobia and other types of ethnic or religious animosities will never go away.

POLICE TAPE (Illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS)
POLICE TAPE (Illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This week we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where at least one million Jews were killed, to remember the horrific chapter of our modern history, and to appreciate how far we have come to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism and hatred from the face of the Earth.
It is not enough. Only this month the Anti-Defamation League documented 22 antisemitic episodes in the US. Since the incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, when white supremacists and neo-Nazis spewed antisemitic hate and killed a counter-protester, a number of antisemitic and violent incidents have laid bare the troubling trend.
In October 2018, a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshipers in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, an armed man killed a woman and injured three others in a synagogue near San Diego. Last month, three people were killed at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, and five worshipers were stabbed as a man broke into an Orthodox Jewish family’s home in Monsey, New York.
In fact, what we do will never be enough. The only way to ensure that antisemitism doesn’t rear its ugly face again is to remain ever-vigilant. Most Jews migrated to the US, just like other victims of oppression around the world, because they thought they would find a safe haven in this country. We should prove that they were right.
Hatred is like starting a fire. Once it begins, you don’t know where it will end. Hatred doesn’t recognize any gates and boundaries. Once it starts prevailing in any society, no groups are immune to it.
Standing up against antisemitism is the first line of defense for any society. If history is any guide, we know that nations that embrace antisemitism as normal go down a troubling path in burying their democracy, curbing freedoms and undermining the rule of law. Rising antisemitism in Hungary and Poland today are prime examples of that.
ACCORDING TO a recent survey sponsored by the ADL, one in four Europeans still “harbor pernicious and pervasive attitudes toward Jews.” Stereotypes such as “Jews control business and the financial markets,” or “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” are still pervasive in many European countries. Many people also believe in Jewish “disloyalty,” a claim that they have “dual loyalty.”
When we take a closer look at the discourse and rhetoric used against Jews in the 1920s and ‘30s in Europe, we see a striking resemblance to the language used by today’s autocrats. It’s not surprising because hatred has only one language. The methods and tools are remarkably similar. In short, we are fighting the same war.
The hatred that results in antisemitism is from the same source that fabricates Islamophobia and other types of ethnic and religious intolerance. It is the exact same mindset; the kind of mentality that considers itself a part of a superior culture that rejects diversity. It is ironic that those who believe their culture is superior – so-called supremacists – feel insecure about welcoming other cultures. We should start accepting the fact that living with other cultures is not a threat to our own culture. It is, in fact, enriching.
There is a particular duty that falls on the shoulders of American Muslims, who have faced their own share of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hostility, to spearhead efforts to battle antisemitism and reject this scourge. Educating our society and the next generation is a good way to start.
Over the years, I have donated and supported dozens of interfaith groups and activities across the US that aim to build tolerance among diverse groups, and encouraged them to continue educating the public about the importance of interfaith dialogue and tolerance. I believe that America’s secret sauce is its ability to co-exist, and we should do whatever it takes to preserve this very fabric.
As part of my efforts to encourage everyone to raise their voices whenever and wherever they see injustice or see people suffering, I recently launched an online campaign called You Are My Hope (youaremyhope.org) to raise awareness about the oppression and its victims in my home country.
Antisemitism, Islamophobia and other types of ethnic or religious animosities will never go away. We can tame them or we can suffocate them, but we always will have to be vigilant so that they don’t show their ugly heads again. No one can do this alone. We are in this fight together.
The author is a Human Rights advocate and NBA player for the Boston Celtics.