How Jews re­spond to Is­lam­o­pho­bia

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Letters To The Editor - — YONI

Two years ago this month, in the wake of the Hy­per Cacher ter­ror at­tack in France and the killing of a guard out­side the Great Sy­n­a­gogue in Copen­hagen, a group of Mus­lims in Oslo de­cided to take ac­tion, form­ing what they called a “ring of peace” around the city’s main sy­n­a­gogue. “We want to demon­strate that Jews and Mus­lims do not hate each other,” one of the or­ga­niz­ers said.

Last week, just days af­ter a ter­ror at­tack at Que­bec City’s Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­tre that left six dead and many more in­jured, hun­dreds of Cana­dian Jews or­ga­nized to make a sim­i­lar state­ment, and on Fri­day, Feb. 3, they formed their own rings of peace around Mus­lim in­sti­tu­tions. In Toronto, 300 Jews gath­ered out­side the Im­dadul Is­lamic Cen­tre, wel­com­ing mid-day wor­ship­pers with a mes­sage of peace and unity. It was one of at least seven such gath­er­ings in the city that day. Mean­while, in the Mon­treal sub­urb of Dol­lard des Ormeaux, 50 peo­ple, mostly from Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Tikvah, joined hands out­side the Cana­dian Is­lamic Cen­tre al-jamieh. They car­ried signs say­ing “We Stand with our Mus­lim Brothers and Sis­ters/love & Em­pa­thy Must Pre­vail” and “Unis­sons con­tre le haine” (“Unite against hate”). (See page 12.)

By all in­di­ca­tions, their pres­ence was ap­pre­ci­ated. “We feel we don’t have to face this all alone, that we have friends in faith groups who’ve come to­gether in this time of need,” one mosque leader in Toronto said.

The deadly at­tack in Que­bec City, cou­pled with Amer­ica’s on-again, off-again travel and im­mi­gra­tion bans against seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries, had many peo­ple think­ing se­ri­ously about Is­lam­o­pho­bia, and in this week’s Cana­dian Jewish News, we take a close look at how Jews are re­spond­ing to the uptick in vi­o­lence and of­ten-racist rhetoric that Mus­lims in Canada are fac­ing. Is Is­lam­o­pho­bia the new anti-semitism? And do Jews have a par­tic­u­lar re­spon­si­bil­ity to speak up? (Pro­gres­sive Jewish groups cer­tainly be­lieve Jews have a duty to sup­port their Mus­lim neigh­bours. As Bar­bara Lan­dau, a co-founder of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Jews and Mus­lims, tells The CJN’S Ron Csil­lag in this week’s cover story, “Jews have been vul­ner­a­ble to ir­ra­tional ha­tred for cen­turies, and there­fore, our ex­pe­ri­ence en­hances our em­pa­thy and re­spon­si­bil­ity to speak out when oth­ers ex­pe­ri­ence racism and faith-based prej­u­dice.” (See page 8.)

But oth­ers, like Univer­sity of Toronto pro­fes­sor David No­vak, ques­tion the va­lid­ity of the term “Is­lam­o­pho­bia,” es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing “the prob­lem of what has been called Is­lam­i­cist ter­ror­ism, which cer­tainly can­not be blamed on Is­lam, but cer­tainly a lot of Is­lamic the­ol­ogy seems to lend it­self to that.”

No­vak adds: “Jews look to a cer­tain de­gree with sus­pi­cion on Mus­lims, be­cause Mus­lims largely come from coun­tries that are the ene­mies of the Jewish state and Jewish Peo­ple.”

Clearly, the topic of Is­lam­o­pho­bia en­gen­ders pas­sion­ate, dis­parate opin­ions in the Jewish com­mu­nity, en­com­pass­ing our own his­tory of per­se­cu­tion, as well as our hopes and fears re­gard­ing Is­rael. Whether or not those con­cerns should af­fect our re­ac­tion to what hap­pened in Que­bec City, and what con­tin­ues to hap­pen south of the border, re­mains a press­ing ques­tion. Last Fri­day, as they formed their rings of peace out­side Cana­dian mosques, many Cana­dian Jews of­fered their own an­swer.

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