In 1879, German journalist Wilhelm Marr originated the term anti-Semitism, denoting the hatred of Jews and many other things sometimes associated with Jews. The term anti-Semitism has long outlasted the man who coined the term, and has become synonymous not only the hatred or persecution of Jewish people, but with the questioning of the Israeli government. Anti-Semitism is also defined as hating Jewish people because they are Jewish.
Anti-Semitism came to a head during the 1930’s under the Nazi directives which called for the outright ‘liquidation’ of the Jewish ‘threat’. The anti-Semitic propaganda and direct Nazi action cost upwards to 7 million people lose their lives due to an irrational hatred and willful ignorance. This crime, which was not exclusive to Jews although they by far were highest casualties, should never have happened and should never be allowed to happen again.
So much was the pain of Jewish people felt (from the pogroms and general anti-Semitic discrimination of Europe, to the Holocaust during WWII) that numerous countries around the world drafted laws that not only make anti-Semitism illegal but also make illegal the denial of the Holocaust, culminating with the US President George W. Bush signing legislation requiring the US State Department to monitor not only anti-Semitism but to also rate countries annually on their treatment of Jews.
Events leading upto the destructive and deadly pogroms of Europe did not happen overnight, rather they were built up over years of fear and hate mongering. People often singled out Jewish people, often making false accusation against them. Many Jews lived within and primarily associated with only their own Jewish communities, they dressed different, had a different culture and even had a different religion. Those factors combined with the fact that some Jews (not all) were successful during hard times across Europe were all reasons that spurred anti-Semitic hatred. Year after year these accusations were made, simply because the Jews were ‘different’ and misunderstood, fear and ignorance fueled the flames of anti-Semitism until it erupted.
Today we can see a new anti-Semitism growing in the form of Islamophobia. Since the tragic events of ‘9/11’ we have seen the rise of the anti-Islam propaganda cottage industry. When a people are attacked and they see the loss of nearly three thousand lives there is no question there will be anger, and more specifically there will be anger towards the perpetrators of such a heinous act. A group of 19 men with a ‘violent disagreement with US foreign policy’ were identified and the light was thus affixed onto a worldwide community.
The atrocious acts of ‘9/11’ were attributed to Muslims and Arabs and since then there have been those who have tried to associate the belief systems of over 1.6 billion Muslims and 400 million Arabs to those acts of these 19 men. Fear mongering demagogue’s have appeared overnight as self-styled Islamic experts or scholars and have begun a purposeful and deliberate attack on Islam. They methodically misquote or take out of context information to further their hate mongering, inciting anger, fear, and distrust of every Muslim, or Arab.
In the same vein as the beginnings of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, we now see a collective attacking a specific group because it is easily identified (as the Jews were) by a distinctive religion, culture and dress. We have seen what years of unchecked fear and hatred leads to and we should never allow such acts to happen again. Not only should we be stepping up our efforts to promote mutual understanding, we should be discouraging acts of fear mongering and hatred.
It is a crime to be Anti-Semitic but is not a crime to be Anti-Islam. You would be hard pressed to find a magazine that would accept paid advertisements that promote the Jewish stereotypes of Nazi propaganda yet there have been numerous magazines and papers which have openly flaunted anti-Islam ads as ‘freedom of speech’. Try and find a book store that would sell your hate filled anti-Semitic book (if you were able to find a publisher) and see how many take you up on that offer, yet time and time again, anti-Islam books get published and sold all over the place. Hateful ads have sprung up in subways and public transportation, and yet we do nothing.
How do we attack anti-Semitism with such vigor and yet do nothing when we see hate being spread about another group? How many more murders, or destruction of property must we see before we act. How many more people will suffer for the acts of others? Demonizing a religion or people should never be acceptable, no matter how hurt we are from individuals.
Nearly 1 out of every 4 people on the earth (technically about 23%) is a Muslim and we, like most people, for the most part more worried about our jobs, our families and our friends then we are about some mythical war against the West. We are individuals of a collective, while we share the same religion, we also have our own views and perceptions; we have our own dreams and ambitions. If we do not stop the hate and fear mongering we have seen what it leads to. We must not pervert the ideology of free speech so that we can hide behind it as we promote and hate and encourage fear. We as a people must remember the past, and remember where this leads to. No good can from ignoring the inherent dangers of this should we allow it continue.