A recent opinion piece in ynetnews.com (available here) reminds me how toxic the discussion about religion can be. The author believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about land or borders, but about religion. Whose god is greater? Dan Calic writes:
Hatred of Jews has been a cornerstone of Islam from its birth, which explains why the contentious relationship between Arabs and Jews is not a 20th century phenomena. It also offers insight into why today’s conflict has nothing to do with incorrect accusations of Israel wanting to subjugate Arabs, or “occupy their land.”
Indeed the modern conflict stems from Islam’s goal of destroying Israel and annihilating the Jewish people, in accordance with Islamic eschatology, expressed in the Quran. It also helps explain why Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 didn’t bring peace. It’s because Israel still existed after the withdrawal. Islam’s objective is the elimination of 100% of Israel. Nothing less is acceptable. Far too many people fail to understand this critical point.
These words are enlightening, but not for what they purport to teach about Islam or the conflict. The author has donned his Islamophobic robes and is preaching hatred of the “other” just as he believes Islam teaches hatred of Jews.
I experienced the anger and violence perpetuated by Islamophobes first hand earlier this Spring on the campus of the University of New Mexico and wrote about it here.
Extreme Islamophobes like Nonie Darwish and Dan Calic are dangerous because of the hatred and violence they incite with their words, but not as dangerous as the hundreds or thousands of people who silently believe this worldview. I think I may know some of them.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to convince these type of people that Islam is a religion of peace; that Muslims are people like you and me with the same dreams and faults; and that all three major religions have lived together in peace in the past (La Convivencia in Spain) and can do so in the future.
Fortunately, the Golden Rule —- treat others as you would want them to treat you —- is found in every major religion, including Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
I’m going to remind the silent, quasi-Islamophobes that I meet to read their religious texts and relearn the early lessons of their spiritual faiths.
And I hope my Albuquerque friends will see Paloma at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, a play about a modern day Muslim, Jew and Christian searching for love and understanding.