Muslims and Jews stand on tragic common ground

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks during funeral services for shooting victim Lori Kaye, who was killed last month when a man opened fire two days earlier near San Diego.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks during funeral services for shooting victim Lori Kaye, who was killed last month when a man opened fire two days earlier near San Diego. AP

Today’s headlines often focus on the controversies between Muslim and Jewish communities. We are here as Charlotte interfaith leaders to discuss what we have in common. The foundations of each of our religions are traced back to Abraham. We have quite similar creeds and our religious laws have many parallels. Unfortunately, at the same time, we have both been the recent victims of hate crimes committed by the same ideology. With 40 active hate groups in North Carolina (according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) and rising incidents of antisemitism across our state, Charlotte Muslim and Jewish organizations have had to dramatically increase their focus on security.

Six months ago, 11 Jews were killed in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue on their Sabbath. Two months ago, 50 Muslims were killed in New Zealand mosques during their Friday prayer service. Three weeks ago, one Jew was killed and three wounded during Passover prayers in Poway, California.

Determining the why is often difficult. The California shooter, proclaiming white supremacy, said he was inspired by the New Zealand and Pittsburgh terrorists. He also claimed responsibility for arson at a nearby Escondido mosque.

Far too often, white nationalism, a social movement that seeks a white-only ethnic state, has fueled the documented rise in both Islamophobic and anti-Semitic acts of violence. The movement is rooted in the fear of “the other” as well as the pride of tribal identity or nationalism.

White nationalists often cite an early 20th century anti-Semitic pamphlet, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The forged 1906 pamphlet claimed that Jews were plotting to control the world despite the fact that Jews represent less than one quarter of 1 percent of the global population. This counterfeit conspiracy theory has incited violence against, and placed false blame upon, the Jews from the early 1900s to today.

These same types of stereotypes are used to fuel Islamophobia. Since 9/11, all Muslims have been unjustly denounced for acts of violence considering the fact that these acts are completely inconsistent with traditional Islam and the Muslim worldview. Despite widespread condemnation by almost all mosques and organizations, there is a common accusation that Muslims do not denounce terrorism.

White nationalists denigrate all those they deem as “other” – black and Latino, naturalized citizen or immigrant. In solidarity, we stand against this ideology that devalues human beings. As a visibly white Rabbi and Imam, we are the first to reject this hatred because of the privilege we enjoy that others in our community do not. As non-Christians, we appreciate the value that Jesus’ teachings bring to billions of people — teachings which are clearly distorted or dismissed by white nationalists who obviously don’t represent Christianity.

Our city of 1,000 houses of worship has spectacular diversity. We invite you to support the safety and security of all Charlotteans whose life and right to faith is equally sacred according to all Abrahamic religions. Hate is strong, but we, as a community, must be stronger. We must oppose an ideology that puts those of one race and religion above the rest as we lift up democracy over demagoguery and stand in solidarity to build a world of peace and reconciliation.

As Muslims, Jews, and Christians, we share so much. If we, as a community, can be educated regarding the dangers of white nationalism, then perhaps victimhood can cease to be our common ground.

Imam John Ederer is President of MeckMIN. Rabbi Judy Schindler is on the Executive Committee of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice.