This is a cross post by David Toube. It was written shortly after 9/11, 2001
It was interesting – and in many ways, heartening – to see that Jews in the United States of America have been speaking up in favour of the civil rights of US Muslims.
It’s not a freak one-off occurrence: during David Copeland’s racist bombing campaign two years ago, Jews and Muslims in the mixed Jewish and Muslim area of Stamford Hill in London patrolled each others’ places of worship jointly.
People in the UK know from the Irish experience that if the state is fighting a war against a terrorist movement that claims to be speaking for the interests of a cultural group, it will inevitably end up alienate members of that group from society as a whole.
Many Muslims in the UK or US – including those who thought of themselves as British or American through and through – will start to feel divided loyalties.
When Muslims with associations with terrorist groupings are arrested, when innocent Muslims are wrongly convicted – as from time to time, they inevitably will be, just as innocent Irishmen and women were – at the height of the troubles, when ordinary Muslims encounter discrimination and violence, the detachment of British and US Muslims from society will be palpable.
It is relatively easy to fight a battle against terrorist threats directed from outside; it is much more difficult to fight a threat which comes from from inside. The low point of the campaign against the IRA was when the bombers started to include British born men called O’Rourke or Reilly, whose connection to Ireland was a single grandparent. The by-product of the campaign against the IRA – internment in Ireland, discrimination in the UK – was the IRA’s greatest recruiting tool.
There’s a nice passage in the Haggadah in which (to paraphrase) Pharaoh decides to enslave the Jews because they were so numerous that he feared that one day they might join with his enemies and turn against Egypt. With the benefit of hindsight, one thing is clear: by oppressing the Jews, he sure as hell wasn’t going to make allies of them!
The point is this. The obligation of Jews towards Muslims isn’t a matter of enlightened self interest. It is a duty. Avadim hayinu, lePharaoh biMitzrayim: We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt. We’ve been where Muslims in Britain are now.
If Jews don’t speak up in defence of Muslims living in our civil society when they face persecution on the basis of their cultural and religious identities, who will?
Remembering Gordy Aamoth today.