Us vs. ‘them’

Us vs. ‘them’

I’ve been “informed” over the years that we Jews control banking and the media, U.S. policy (courtesy of AIPAC), and that the Talmud really contains the details of a plan for world domination. I’ve heard that we’re all rich, all powerful, and part of a secret cabal — although someone forgot to give me the password to the Swiss bank account or teach me the secret handshake. In all these screeds we’re referred to as “they” or “them.”

Which makes me all the more disappointed to read many of the letters and op-eds in the Jewish press against the Muslim community center planned in Lower Manhattan close to the WTC. I read that Cordoba is a secret code of domination. That “they” are in a war against Western democracy. That if we allow “them” to build a mosque it signals acquiescence to Islam. Who are “they”?

Islam is a faith with over 100 million followers spanning a wide variety of cultures, nations, and sects. The perpetrators of 9/11 were indeed Muslims. They were also disaffected youth attached to a terrorist group with a political agenda inspired by national politics, internal politics, power, and, yes, religion. The planners of the community center are American Muslims (either born or raised here) who have led a small, cramped mosque in the area for almost 30 years serving the Muslims who live and work in the area. Apparently they’d like a better prayer space and the ability to offer services to the community — including non-Muslims — and found a reasonably priced, properly zoned building for that purpose. What exactly am I supposed to be scared of? Them? What is so frightening about a day care facility, or a swimming pool?

The Muslims of lower Manhattan are bankers, taxi drivers, housewives, firemen, restaurateurs, and dishwashers, among other things. They are no more responsible for 9/11 than I am for the murders perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron. I choose to get my information about Islam and local Muslims from legitimate sources rather than politically motivated bloggers’ screeds about a Victory Mosque and plans for world domination. I suggest others do the same.

Not so long ago synagogues were banned from Manhattan to protect inhabitants from “them.” My father couldn’t study medicine because a quota was in place to prevent “them” from taking over university rolls. Many Jewish country clubs and hotels were built because “they” weren’t allowed to join existing ones.

I’ll stand up for them. I have no problem with local Muslims building a prayer space or mosque or community center in the area and heartily wish that it becomes a great resource for locals of all faiths. Americans of all faiths deserve better treatment.

Lisa Shapiro-Barr

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