America’s Islamophobia Is Bad For Everyone
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
A 2014 poll, Boundaries in the American Mosaic showed that over the ten-year period between 2004 and 2014, the proportion of Americans who would disapprove of their child marrying a Muslim went from a third to a half. In every religious group except Jews and conservative Christians there is a significant increase in marriage disapproval.
But over that same decade there is significantly less disapproval among all religious groups of a child marrying an African-American, an Asian-American, or an Hispanic.
More important, the proportion of Americans who think Muslims don’t agree at all with their own vision of America, jumped from a quarter to almost a half of all Americans. This clearly is evidence of a sharp increase in Islamophobia in the U.S.A.
But the study also shows that for every group considered (except atheists and homosexuals), the percentage of Americans who think that group does not at all agree with their vision of America has at least doubled. (For African-Americans it quadrupled; and for whites it quintupled.)
This indicates a growing sense that the country is divided into mutually distinct and dissimilar religious subcultures, because the estrangement trends diverge between religion and race/ethnicity.
Thus, Americans now see racial and ethnic differences as less important; even as they have become much more wary of religious/political differences.
The Boundaries in the American Mosaic Survey results are confirmed by the Public Religion Research Institute’s annual American Values Survey released in November 2015, that found a majority of Americans (56 percent, including majorities in all the major Christian traditions) say the values of Islam are at odds with American values.
That’s a significant rise of nine points, since 2011 when Americans were split, with 47 percent saying Islamic values were incompatible while 48 percent disagreed.
This includes: 73 of white evangelical Protestants (up 14 points from 59 percent in 2011)
63 percent of white mainline Protestants (up 16 points from 47 percent)
61 percent of Catholics (up 20 points from 41 percent)
Only two American groups did not reflect a large rise in Islamophobia: 55 percent of black Protestants said Islamic values were incompatible (up only 4 points from 51 percent) and Jews (only 42 percent).
Many people are very surprised to learn that Jews are much less Islamophobic than Christians even after eight decades of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Most Rabbis would explain the relatively low rate of Islamophobia among Jews, by pointing out that Judaism is more compatible with Islam because both religions reject the concept of Jesus as the Son of God, and the doctrine of original sin.
Most Jews think of Jesus as a Rabbi; who was a mixture of a “believe in the power of prayer” Hassidic Rabbi, and a “don’t make religion hard” Reform Rabbi. Other Jews also think of Jesus as a prophet, and some Jews even think of Jesus as a Messianic figure, who tried to liberate and redeem the Jewish People, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.
Judaism however, totally rejects the idea that Jesus was a Divine Messiah, the son of God, and a part of a Divine trinity. This is also the view of Islam. Most of the non-Jews who convert to Judaism [about 3-5,000 a year] do so because, while they believe in God, they cannot believe that God has a son.
The similarities between Islam and Judaism are not confined to the unity of God, although that is of great importance. They extend to many general principles and even to details like the following: “A quick tempered man should not teach.” by Hillel, a first century Jewish sage, in Avot 2:6. And Ibn Abbas quotes the Prophet as saying: “Teach and make things easy, and if you are angry, remain silent.” A Hadith related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.
“Who is a strong man? He who conquers his impulses; as scripture says, ‘One who is slow to anger is better than a strong man’.” by Ben Zoma, a second century sage, in Avot 4:1.
“A strong man is not one who physically overpowers others. A strong man is one who controls himself when angry.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ahmad).
Also, all rabbis know that during the ten plus centuries of the Medieval Age, Jews were persecuted much less in Muslin countries than they were in Christian countries. Even today, Muslim extremist terrorists have slaughtered more Muslim victims, than the number of Christian and Jewish victims combined.
Our religious and political leaders could help improve interfaith relations in 2016 by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by a German Protestant theologian, Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), about the cowardice of German intellectuals when the Nazis’ rise to power; and began purging their chosen targets, group after group:
First they arrested Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they arrested Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they arrested Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Or as Torah says: “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’” (Leviticus 24:22);
and the Qur’an says: “To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so compete to [do] good. To Allah you will all return together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.” (5:48)
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com