A lot of us are deeply disturbed by Donald Trump’s election victory, although I’m not personally shocked. Hysteria, hate and fear are potent mobilizers, and it has been this way as long as history itself. Moreover, the industrial West has been experiencing a general shift to the right over the past decade or so, even toward the far right in some cases. The jury is still out in places like Austria, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Sadly, many of these places — in Western Europe and elsewhere — have had long and notable histories of pluralism and tolerance.
Here in the United States, President-elect Trump’s appointments to date indicate that his acerbic campaign rhetoric was more than just a way to shore up votes. It’s more than possible that he really intends to translate it into policy. And so, this note is for all of us who repudiate hate, religious intolerance, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.
But I do not mean to repeat what has been said ad nauseam since the dreary morning of Nov. 9. As a Muslim-American and a resident of Pittsburgh, I write this note also as a special plea for cooperation and unification between the Muslim and Jewish communities. This just might be the point in history when Muslims and Jews can reshape their relationship in the broadest possible sense, and, hopefully, re-align themselves politically in an explicit and intentional manner.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stubbornly and unequivocally defined Muslim-Jewish relations around the world for at least three-quarters of a century, and this needs to change. I am prone neither to sentimentalism nor to facile optimism. I am not naive, and I realize that conciliation and peace remain elusive.
There is pain, doubt and suspicion all around, and anyone who reduces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its geo-political dimension doesn’t understand it. But I do think that it behooves Muslims and Jews around the world to rethink the way they relate to one another, especially as religious minorities in the United States.
To my fellow Muslims — and the large majority do not need to hear this — I ask that Mr. Trump’s election remind you that anti-Semitism, white supremacy and Nazism in all its iterations and stages are real, and that these things now threaten to engulf Muslims.
I hope my fellow Muslims continue to remember — especially in their disagreements with and opposition to some Israeli policies and actions — to remain vigilant against anti-Semitism, holocaust denial and other offensive strokes of the rhetorical brush.
I hope my fellow Muslims perceive the eerie resonance of Mr. Trump’s call for “bans” and “registries,” regardless of whether they actually materialize.
I hope my fellow Muslims continue to extend to other communities the respect, tolerance and forbearance that they hope to receive from others in an increasingly menacing and antagonistic social climate.
In this, I join my voice with the sensibility of Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj’s “Open Letter to American Muslims on Same-Sex Marriage.”
I extend my comradeship to Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League for his powerful and courageous statements against anti-Semitism and hate this past week — among them his remarkable vow to register as Muslim if Muslims are required to do so.
To my Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbors, I hope you see that, while there may be real differences around the Israeli-Palestinian issue (some of them seemingly inexorable, for the moment), many Muslims welcome partnership and unity of purpose with you during a time in which hatred has been normalized and renamed as “honesty” and “straight-talk.”
The same cross-section of “Americans” who chant “JewSA, JewSA” at Trump rallies are necessarily the same people who erupt into rapturous cheer when he calls Mexicans rapists and vows to ban Muslims. And so, we all must necessarily be unified in our response. Interfaith initiatives have been on the rise in recent years in metropolitan areas, but this particular interfaith relationship is going to be particularly crucial moving forward.
Mine is not a situational and ephemeral hope. I wish it to extend beyond this particular episode in American political history and shape the way Jews and Muslims relate to one another in perpetuity.
Emad Mirmotahari is an associate professor of English and African studies at Duquesne University.