When Bernie Madoff was arrested in December, 2008, the blogosphere filled with hate. Anti-Semitic remarks of the sort not seen in a generation surfaced, as Madoff fulfilled all of the worst possible stereotypes about Jews. One crooked investor who preyed on his coreligionists’ charitable contributions made anti-Semitism seem trendy.
Last week, when a mentally unstable major in the army shot up a meeting space at Fort Hood in Texas, the blogosphere was again overflowing with hate, this time aimed against Muslims. Even as top military brass made clear that the incident was a military – not religious – matter, bloggers framed Nidal Hasan as a terrorist, inspired to kill in the name of his religion.
The hate must stop. But even as Jewish organizations denounce Madoff and Muslim organizations condemn Hasan, their voices cannot alone silence the din of the blogosphere. They desperately need for institutions outside their own religious communities to join in the chorus against hate and reframe the discourse. This mutual need may in fact provide an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration between the two religious communities.
The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Religious Action Center, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue, etc. should condemn slander committed against the American Muslim community for Hasan’s deranged acts. Similarly, the Islamic Society of North America, American Society for Muslim Advancement, Cordoba Initiative, Zaytuna Institute, etc. should condemn terrible generalizations about Jews based on the greed of Bernie Madoff.
Alone, both minority groups face defamation. Together they have the chance to make history. By coming together to protect each other from defamation and slander, the American Jewish and American Muslim communities can redefine their relationship as one of mutual service – rather than one overshadowed by the Middle East conflict.
The personnel cost of aligning would be next to nothing – the periodic conference call for top officials at Muslim and Jewish organizations and perhaps a yearly meeting. But through those contacts, and the active defense of each other as minority groups, the relationship between both communities could flourish. A partnership of necessity could lay the groundwork for rich interchange and collaborative learning in the spirit of pluralism. Now is the time for a Muslim-Jewish alliance against defamation. Hate has been left unchecked for far too long.
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.