On March 6, President Trump signed his second executive order pertaining to a travel ban, which bars migrants from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan from entering the United States. Iraq was removed from the first travel ban, prior to its overturning those traveling from there will still be subjected to supplementary security procedures before permitted entry.
Although this ban was frozen just last night by a federal judge in Hawaii, the fact that it is the second ban targeting predominately Muslim countries is just one reflection of underlying prejudices the oval office unfairly perpetuates. This, coupled with the pre-existing culture of ignorance surrounding the Muslim faith has normalized a set of behaviors that directly contradicts the ideals of non-discriminatory freedoms for which basic human kindness should stand.
The hijab has become a target for violence and racial slurs, mosques are routinely defaced, and peaceful Americans are continuously classified as terrorists. In 2016, the year that saw Trump’s rise to political influence, anti-Muslim hate crimes surged 67 percent, reaching an unprecedented level of violence not seen since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Along with the spike in Islamophobia, anti-Semitic acts have recently been making headlines. According to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the first two months of 2017 saw over 100 bomb threats against Jewish community centers, schools, and other institutions. This frightening statistic, combined with the recent desecrations of Jewish gravestones, proves that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the United States.
Our president may claim to be a friend to the Jews, but the faction of extremists he has emboldened through his candidacy are clearly not. Additionally, members of Trump’s cabinet have openly expressed frightening anti-semitic views on multiple occasions.
Last Monday alone, the JCC reported that 31 more threats were reported against Jewish-affiliated centers, and a gunshot was fired through the window of an Indiana synagogue during a Hebrew school class.
The reaction to these events was a slew of tweets from Muslim Americans showing their support for the Jewish people, condemning the violence, and offering their services in protection of our synagogues and graveyards. One such tweet came from Tayyid Rashid, a former member of the Marine Corps who vowed to “stand guard” at Jewish institutions if necessary, proclaiming that “Islam requires it.”
Although these acts of violence are horrifying, this outpouring of support from Muslims for the Jewish community exemplifies this country’s best attributes: the ability for people to reach across lines that traditionally divide us to help each other, and to view each other as friends despite our differences.
In light of the travel bans, it is imperative that we as Jews stand with Muslims against this onslaught of religion-based discrimination that we know all too well.
In the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East are programed to hate each other, taught to see each other as the enemy. However, in America, we are bound together by a shared endurance of persecution based on religion and a common understanding of fear. It is for these reasons that we should be each other’s greatest allies and the first to step in when injustices arise. College campuses can function well as incubators for generating this alliance.
The Holocaust began with words, words that evolved over a ten-year period from hostility to statelessness to violence to mass murder. I do not pretend to predict the future and have no idea how far this discriminatory behavior will go, but regardless, it is imperative that we put a stop to it before the potential for the unfathomable becomes a reality once more. Morally obtrusive words cannot seep into our policies without detection and immediate protest.
American Jews, starting with those of us at Swarthmore, have an obligation to stand up to this Muslim ban because we know the horrors that stem from complicity. We have a responsibility to hold those in power accountable for their actions, because we know the horrors that stem from silence. Sitting idly by and watching horrific promises to persecute people on the basis of religion has never been an option for us. Just because we are not the ones personally affected by the ban does not permit us to be passive. Being on the front lines of this fight isn’t an option — it’s a necessity.