As Passover ends for my Jewish friends, I join them to mourn the attack on the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Yes I am a Muslim, and the world doesn’t expect me to sympathize with Jews. But the world is wrong. We have increasingly become divided along religious lines, and Jewish-Muslim relationships have become strained because they have incorrectly become synonymous with the Israel-Palestine issue. This is neither true Islam nor true Judaism.
Many on both sides of the divide believe that to sympathize with each other is disloyal. I don’t agree, and countless of my Muslim brothers and sisters across the United States and abroad don’t either. After all, terror has no religion, no loyalties, although we seem to have forgotten this important fact when our media insist on naming the ethnic and religious identities of our bad guys to make us all feel better. We would all do well to remember that hate is not from God, even if God’s name is evoked to commit a hate crime.
Make no mistake, the attack on the Jewish Community Center was an attack on all of us, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs – people of every religion and no religion. The perpetrator, apparently a former KKK member with ties to Nazism, is not just a person, but an embodiment of the hate culture rising around us. It is a sharp reminder that we all need to be more vigilant not just for our physical well-being but also for our social and emotional welfare. We need to work hard to build bridges and understand each other in ways that enable us to be friends, even if we have different opinions and politics. For when we misunderstand each other, we unwittingly encourage hate and intolerance to flourish in our societies, and the repercussions are dangerous for every group. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism – these are all names for the same thing, and we must stand against all of them.
For Muslims who protest when a mosque is vandalized or a fellow believer killed in a hate crime, I say, do the same when Jews are similarly victimized. Our voices should be loud against discrimination, injustice and intolerance, regardless of faith. Indeed the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, among others, sent messages of sympathy and affirmed the need for solidarity. And for Jews and Christians I will ask the same. If we all stand up for each other, feel the hurt when one of us is in pain, we will build a stronger America, and a stronger, safer world. Many will consider me naïve but again, I disagree. I think if we do so in our own social circles, teach our children these important values so common in our histories, we will be a little closer to that goal, God willing.
Saadia Faruqi is an interfaith activist, editor of Interfaith Houston and trainer of American Muslim issues. Follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi.