Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Beware the ides and tides of Jewish racism


Ed Ziegler’s April 18th column, “Islamic enclaves in America,” is, in my opinion, an attempt to create monsters out of us. The Judeophilic philosopher Frederic Nietzsche, who broke ties with Richard Wagner in large part over the opera composer’s German xenophobia and anti-Semitism, penned many proverbs and aphorisms, one of his most famous being “He who chases monsters lives in danger of becoming one.”

By this, he means that if we compromise our own ethics and values in the fight against evil—for example, if we use torture to extract information, or resort to terrorism to prove points, or develop deep-seated hatreds in our hearts the way terrorists harbor them— then the values and ethics of the terrorists, evil people, and hate-mongers have, in a sense, “won.” In the fights against injustice then we as the Jewish people, “the light unto the nations,” must not succumb to such phenomenon as Muslimphobia.

There are 3,144 counties in the United States and here is how many have adopted Sharia as the law of the land: zero. There are 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam and here is how many have adopted Sharia: zero. The U.S. Supreme Court has been deciding thousands of important rulings (either by ruling or tossing cases back as not worthy of appeal) since Marbury vs. Madison (1803) and here is how many have used Sharia to base their decision: none. There are 535 members of Congress (the House and the Senate combined) and here is how many are Muslim: two. Keith Ellison is a Democrat from Minnesota; Andre Carson is a Democrat from Indiana. Compared to the number of famous Jews in politics today— Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein (both Jewish female senators from California, quite a feat); Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York; Florida’s own Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee; Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia; Senator Chuck Schumer from New York; three Supreme Court Justices and more— and there is no comparison.

There is no question that radical Islam exists in the United States. I do not dispute the facts of Ziegler’s article. However, local law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the NSA monitors it as best as it can and as well as it should. There is no question that radical Islam— any radicalism— must be checked. But just glance at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, and you will find plenty of white supremacist hate groups as well. There is no shortage of radical and even some fairly mainstream Christians who believe America should be a Christian nation.

Ziegler writes “we can no longer turn a blind eye and sit idly by doing nothing.” He is right. We should not do “nothing.” Let me offer some solutions: We should be engaging in interfaith dialogues with Muslims; taking Muslim children to Holocaust memorial museums as we do here in Orlando; co-teaching Muslims and Jews as the Jewish Academy does; building more programs like Panim-el-Panim, an Israeli-Palestinian youth effort that brings young people together each summer; taking a deep and serious cue from Rabbi Engel, part of NPR’s “Wise Guys: Friends Talking Faith”; and sharing meals with Muslims as Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation and other synagogues have repeatedly done.

More than anything else, we as Jews should be doing all we can to show our Muslim brothers and sisters that it is time for Islam itself to develop modern branches, just as Christianity and Judaism have done. It is well past time for Islam to usher in Reform movements of their own, with equality for women and gays. We certainly aren’t going to ship Muslims overseas and be like the nations that expelled Jews for centuries. And we shouldn’t be lulled into mass distrust, paranoia, or be led to believe that the large percentage of Muslims in America aren't peace-loving, law-abiding citizens.

To believe or act any other way than with respect, tolerance, and unwavering commitments to the Jewish value of tikun olam would be simply monstrous.

Richard A. Ries is writing his master’s thesis at UCF.


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