Sunday, February 5, 2012

On a Jew's View of Muslims in Europe

I have written about this in other forums, but now that I'm maintaining a blog, I thought I would add a post on the topic here.  A friend recently forwarded an article that was purportedly published in a Spanish newspaper (although apparently not) with the thesis that European guilt over the Holocaust has led to a too lenient treatment of Muslim immigrants and that effectively trading Muslims for Jews has been a horrible choice.

Here is my response (slightly modified).

First, tripe about English schools not teaching the holocaust, is just that. It is well debunked and only dedicated racists are still using it.

Second. the description of the Jewish community that was destroyed in the Holocaust is simply wrong. Yes, there was a vibrant and cultured Jewish community in Germany and other Western European countries that was destroyed.  They were educated at fine German universities and produced the kind of brilliant thinkers like Einstein and Freud that German universities of the era produced. And this was a tragedy.  But they were a small minority of Jews killed in the Holocaust. Most were villagers from eastern Europe. There were more Jews from Poland killed in the Holocaust than Jews from the rest of Europe combined. These communities were not cultured, they did not produce brilliant thinkers.  And their destruction was every bit as tragic.  Because the murder of a poor subsistence farmer is every bit as tragic as the murder of brilliant scientist when done simply because the victim has a particular race or religion.

Like all bigots, the Nazis rewrote history to justify their ideology.  And that is just what this author does.

Lumping of all Muslims into a single collective enemy who seeks the destruction of Europe is exactly what the Germans said.  Oh wait, that was the Jews who were bent on the destruction of Europe.  The Jews who were cultural poison.  I won't claim to know much about Islamic immigrant communities in Europe, but I can speak to the ones here.  They have been surveyed extensively and, survey says, they are much like other American immigrants.  Hardworking, patriotic, grateful for the opportunities that America provides. Before 9/11 most were Republicans.  The typical Muslim immigrant in America is no more extremist than my grandfather was.

Are there Islamic extremists?  Obviously.  Saudi Arabia seems to have a national system of education to produce them.  There are also Jewish extremists, or have you missed the growing communities of Haredi in Israel.  There are Christian extremists too, think Randall Terry or Fred Phelps.  To generalize from the small minority of crazy extremists to whole communities is the definition of bigotry.

In all likelihood, it is true that the Islamic immigrant communities in Europe are poor and dirty. That describes immigrant communities throughout history and across the globe. It is not usually the rich and well educated in society who immigrate, it is the poor and uneducated. We idealize it now, but the lower east side was described in its time as hell on earth and the worst place in the world.  And the Jews (and others) who populated were despised by the good citizens of the city.  They were excoriated as anarchists and terrorists, as dirty and uneducated, as trash.  Immigration laws were rewritten to keep them out.  There is nothing said about Muslim immigrants in Europe today that was not said about my great grandparents and their generation in America.

And if Muslim immigrants get help from the government, so to did the Jewish children of those times who escaped the horrors of the lower east side through the beneficence of a government that invested in public education not just for primary school but also the excellent system of higher education, the City Colleges of New York.

It is quite simple, the author argues for racism and bigotry. The kind of racism and bigotry that has ostracized Jews in America and around the world and resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews in Europe.  As a Jew, I find the use of the Jewish experience to justify bigotry (and, let's face it, racism) to be a particularly odious obscenity. It literally spits on the history of my people and my ancestors and I couldn't find it more offensive. Islam isn't the enemy, bigotry and extremism are.