The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam



Two weeks ago, on the morning of Sept. 11, I noticed a woman wearing a traditional Muslim head covering on the packed platform of the train station in Scarsdale, N.Y. Her attention was focused on a billboard ad that announced “19,250 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11/01” and pre-empted those who might dispute that claim with the refrain: “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.” I could only imagine what she was feeling.

On another morning commute to Grand Central Terminal, I sat on the train with Yawar Shah, a Muslim friend from Scarsdale whom I met years ago at my synagogue when he would attend a bar or bat mitzvah service of his friends’ children. Yawar told me how painful these ads are to his family and what an insult they are to our community in Westchester County and to our way of life.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is the group spearheading this provocative anti-Islam campaign. In July, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of the group in a freedom of speech case, forcing New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to place an ad that denigrates Islam in subway stations, and now, time may have run out for further appeals. It reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” Those ads went up Monday.

What is the message of this ad, directed at the multitude of subway riders of countless faiths and ethnicities?

Visit the New York Times to read the rest of this op-ed.

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs

About Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the URJ. See his full bio and other writings on the URJ website.

11 Responses to “The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam”

  1. avatar

    Thank you Rabbi Jacobs for sharing your thoughts. It is hard to not fall into a hardness of heart when we hear about so many acts of hatred. We are working to get to know our neighbors who don’t hold the same beliefs we do, working to see them as we want to be seen – ordinary people struggling to make a worthwhile life for our loved ones. It is a lifetime long effort. Thank you for helping us keep focused on doing what is right.

    • avatar

      Maybe you can refresh my memory. I do not remember that Rabbi Abrams voiced his outrage when Islamic terrorists kill Christians.

  2. avatar

    As Jews we hate to see other cultures denigrated. We know what that feels like. But what do we do with the reality of the points made on the billboards? Sure not all Muslims are out to destroy but a bunch are. I think we all know this. Still we can’t ignore that many have been killed by Muslims in the name of Islam. This is not a canard. There really are some Muslims who want to kill us. Do we ignore that because it’s not nice? We can remind people of the spiritual side of jihad but that doesn’t change the minds of those who use it for violent purposes. It is one thing to stand up against hate based in falsehood (9/11 mosque anyone?) but how should we stand up against hate based in truth?

  3. avatar

    Everything you say is true. But, where are the moderate and peace-loving Muslims standing up to say that they do not approve of and loathe the attacks on individuals, consulates, embassies, etc? Did your friend with whom you travel on the commuter train send an Op Ed piece decrying the violence? Did he appear at the UN with a placard decrying the violence? And if not now, when?

  4. avatar

    I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, I read your article and nod my head in agreement — yes, combating hatred of Islam is the right thing to do. I understand that intellectually. Then I turn around and see all the hatred and venom continuing to spew out of the Arab world, the UN, and even US college campuses, and in an instant I lose what sympathy I had. This makes it a real struggle. And finally, I think it’s valid to question why offending Muslims is worse than offending anyone else.

  5. avatar

    In the context of the harsh subway message, Jihad was meant to refer to the Islamic extremists: the ones that destroyed the World Trade Center, brutally killed our ambassador, burned the American flag, and teach their children to hate the infidels. That is why it stated Defeat Jihad, NOT Defeat Islam. There are many different meanings of the word Jihad which I found on the Internet including this website. It depends on the context. However, I would have rather the subway sign had been worded constructively: “How do you think Netanyahu and our Israeli brothers feel by the desertion of 70% of American Jews who are reportedly voting for a president who is not supportive of Israel. How do the Israelis feel who have thousand of weapons aimed at them and their children? ” I think they feel worse than the Muslim lady who read the sign who will have coffee with her Jewish friend here in America. I beg the Democratic Jewish community to really look at their party and Obama and the enemies of Israel and America that they are emboldening. I fear Obama will have little motivation to support Israel at all in a second term. Please read articles at: JewsForRomney2012.com along with http://www.committeeforisrael.com/. Also, it is not enough to just say, “Never Again.”

  6. avatar

    I’m sorry that Debi chose to convert Rabbi Jacobs’ statement into a political statement, especially one supporting a presidential candidate who stands opposed to every Jewish value, except support of Israel,and then further castigates a President whom many American Jews feels is the best friend of Israel ever to be in the White House. As a lifelong Zionist, I recoil at the expansion of settlements and thank President Obama for so forcefully asking the Prime Minister to wake up and smell the coffee, including recognizing how his policies have turned so many American Jews away from Israel.

    Fortunately 70% of American Jews, and maybe more, will vote for the best interests of the U.S.A., which includes a concern for the 99%, and working towards a 2-state solution for Israel and the “Palestinians.”

  7. avatar

    Rabbi Jacobs, I am sorry your friend finds these ads painful and insulting…yet the facts in the ads are incontrovertible.

    Perhaps the ads are ‘wrong and repugnant’. But just this week, Andres Serrano’s photograph “Piss Christ” goes back on display at a New York gallery. While the Huffington Post celebrates the photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine as an “iconic work”, where is the condemnation by the URJ? For that matter, isn’t the Tony Award winning Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” not worthy of repudiation? Our society would be shocked at any religiously motivated act of violence incited by these insults. If such aggression occurred we would properly consider it uncivilized and barbaric. Isn’t expecting less from any group a form of cultural prejudice; that of low expectations?

    How sad that the URJ would so readily abandon a core American principle if the free speech is offensive to a particular group. Celebrating diversity must include the right to offend. Indeed, if we are to successfully navigate our multicultural world, shouldn’t we demand more, rather than less tolerance of what some may deem offensive? Who decides what speech is offensive and which groups are protected from offense? Politically correct speech codes neither make us safer nor more free, they are an expression of authoritarianism. And that is certainly worse than being offended.

  8. avatar

    I see this message deploring any denigration of Islam, despite the real threat from a dangerously potent and radicalized faction thereof. But I have seen no similar objections to denigrations of Christianity (viz: Mapplethorp’s “Piss Christ”) or of the LDS in the recent stage comedy, “The Book of Mormon”). Seems to me, the double standard is sadly appropriate: The latter applies to denigrating religions whose members are nearly all rational, and the former, well, not quite nearly all. The difference is telling.

  9. avatar

    Aryeh Lev,

    Really? Obama the best friend of Israel ever in the White House? I strongly disagree. It doesn’t matter how many settlements there are, the Palestinians don’t want peace as evidenced by thousands of rockets being launched into Israel from Gaza after Israel dismantled its settlements there.

    And in that 99% you refer to, is me, a Jewish small business owner, not a millionaire, who will get a huge tax increase thanks to Obamacare and the elimination of the Bush tax cuts. Four more years of this inept anti-business president, who can’t bother to go to his jobs counsel, no thank you. This Jew will vote in what I pray will be a historic landslide against this anti-Israel, anti-business president.

  10. avatar

    Aryeh,

    Regarding, the settlement issue, I advocate reading the following from the Middle East forum site:
    http://www.meforum.org/3265/israeli-settlements-american-pressure
    I feel it gives a lot of history about the understandings that were formulated over the last 40+ years by various presidents and Israel and Palestinian leaders regarding the settlement issue. It is a long article, but worth it. It brings to light how counterproductive Obama’s demands and lack of diplomacy were to the peace process. Also, please view the YouTube video: “ Israel: Why the 1967 borders won’t be happening” and see how flawed and naïve Obama’s request was.
    Don’t lose sight of how many times since Israel’s creation, that the Jews have offered the Palestinian refugees land/statehood for peace, and were told NO DEAL. The real problem is the bigotry of the Arab world which doesn’t want Jews as their neighbors. Arab nations don’t want a 2-state solution; they like having the Jews as scapegoats and exploit the Palestinian refugees to justify their hatred. The huge Arab nations don’t welcome the Palestinians into their countries. Also, don’t lose sight of the 856,000 Jews who fled persecution in Arab countries soon after the Israel was created. These Jewish refugees lost billions of dollars’ worth of property and assets too. Israel is tiny and has an ever growing population that pressures its leadership for settlement expansion too. Even if a 2-state solution can be achieved at this late stage in the game, the Arab terrorist groups will not leave the Jews alone. Where will Israel’s 7 Million Jews go if America elects naive leaders and a democratic party who are “kind-of-sort-of-maybe” allies to Israel? (also, don’t forget about the long list of anti-semites who are buddies with Obama) I loathe the liberals and media who lean towards blaming all the problems of the Palestinians to the Jews. Romney and Netanyahu have mutual respect for each other and a friendship dating back to 1976 when they worked for the same company in America. Obama and Netanyahu don’t even share a cordial relationship.

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