Monday, December 12, 2016

Islamophobia and anti-Semitism

The content of the sharia alone cannot explain fears of it. Many of its controversial rules, like death for blasphemy and apostasy, have parallels in the Hebrew Bible, a book revered by many Americans. Most Muslim countries to do not impose the sharia in total — they either limit its application to family law or ignore it entirely. And most of the 1 percent of Americans who are Muslim believe the sharia is just ethical personal guidelines that should not supersede the Constitution — even according to the crudest online polls promulgated by the right. Like any faith community in the United States, American Muslims can practice the Sharia as long as it does not violate American law...The distant fathers of American law, the Romans, would have empathized with this strain of America’s cultural anxiety. In their day, the Roman elite worried about Jewish law subverting Roman culture, including those who were particularly concerned about Romans who converted to Judaism. The senator Tacitus scorned “those who come over to their religion adopt the practice, and have this lesson first instilled into them, to despise all gods, to disown their country, and set at nought parents, children, and brethren.” The fear of Jews, which a historian of the ancient world dubbed Judeophobia, continued on in the Christian empires that replaced Rome for many of the same reasons. Jews were deemed a people apart, worshiping a law that God had annulled when he sent his only begotten son. “I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb,” Martin Luther wrote, because “they wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord.” There was some anti-Semitism in early American history, but there weren’t enough Jews in America to worry about until the mid-19th century when Jewish immigration began to sharply increase. Because Jews were associated with international banking in the public imagination, they were blamed for the financial downturns in the late nineteenth century that triggered spasms of populist rage. When global anti-Semitism reached a fevered pitch in the run-up to World War II, Christians and Jews combated it together by portraying Judaism as part of a common American patrimony. To that era we owe the phrase, “Judeo-Christian heritage.” The national guilt for failing to protect the Jews from the Holocaust forever enshrined the phrase in the America’s political lexicon."