Bigotry in the Name of God and Religion
It was truly incredible. The stuff that dreams are made of. There I was sitting in my Riyadh living room in the last week of Ramadan with two women whom I respect and revere immensely. There we were, a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew discussing in earnest what was happening to our shared world. Practitioners of three faiths that are similar in so many ways and yet have all been subverted by political elements to fulfill their own hideous ends.
“Well,” began my Christian friend, “for a start, how dare George Bush, Pat Roberston and Jerry Falwell speak for me as a decent British Protestant? I think that Christianity has been hijacked in the United States.”
“That’s strange because most Muslims would say the same thing about Islam,” I commented. “It’s almost become second nature to keep reminding everyone that Islam has been ‘hijacked’ by Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen. I am just sick and tired of having to try to explain repeatedly that terrorism and violence are not representative of what my religion stands for.”
“Oh absolutely,” she chimed in. “I know enough about Islam to know that. It’s a religion of peace for God’s sake.”
“What do you think?” I asked my Jewish friend.
“Judaism has been hijacked by the state of Israel,” she said plaintively.
I was as shocked by the matter-of-fact manner in which she pronounced her viewpoint as I was by its gravity. “What do you mean?” I asked almost subconsciously trying to correct her. Such is the effect that the media has on all our minds, it was even somehow outrageous for me, sitting in Saudi Arabia, to be faced with the hard-hitting implications of this radical politically incorrect potentially suicidal statement.
“Oh yeah,” she replied nonchalantly understanding my incredulity. “I totally believe that. It’s almost as if it has become more important for Jews these days to worship Israel than worship God. It’s like the greatest sin that exists is to say anything against Israel.”
I could not have been more stunned. “But you’re Jewish so surely you believe in Israel?”
She thought for a minute and then said, “I can’t say that I don’t believe in it.”
Seeing my expression she interrupted my thoughts with, “Not one single grain of Palestinian sand should have been taken by Israel. If the people who lived there agreed to sell the land then that’s completely different, but that’s not what happened. They just took the land by force.
“They killed people and pushed them off their land. There were massacres. There have been horrific moments. Did you know what the Israelis did to an entire Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem? They murdered all the inhabitants of Deir Yassin and you know what? They didn’t even bother to hide it so that they could terrorize the rest of the Palestinians into giving up their rights. That was the blackest day in the creation of the State of Israel,” she said emotionally, adding, “All the top leaders in Israel are terrorists.”
“For sure,” concurred my Christian friend. “It’s not like we don’t all know that politics make the strangest of bedfellows. In theory, the Jews and the American Christians hate each other. But there is a link between their Zionist goals. Let’s not forget here what the truth of the situation is. Palestine existed before any talk of the creation of the state of Israel and yet every successive Jewish politician has talked about how there is no such thing as the state of Palestine.
“So in reality, the media always reinforces the so-called ‘threat to Israel of being wiped off the map’ when it’s ironically the opposite and Palestine has been erased from the map.”
I looked at my Jewish friend to gauge her reaction and she nodded slowly and deliberately with eyebrows raised in my direction.
“Aha,” she reiterated. “That’s right.”
“But what’s it like for you?” I asked. “I mean aren’t you targeted?”
“I’m on the ****-list,” she declared staring at me wide-eyed.
“Oh,” I said taken aback by her strong vocabulary, as she is ordinarily painfully polite.
“Nooo, I mean S H I T. It’s an acronym for Self-Hating Israel Threatening. I’ve received death threats. There are thousands of Jewish names on it featuring academics and prominent personalities who have spoken up against what’s going on. Have you heard of the campus watchdog?” she asked.
“No,” I answered.
“It was set up by Daniel Pipes in the states and is a website that has been created to get students to inform on their professors who say anything anti-US or what they deem to be anti-Semitic.”
“You’re joking?” I said astonished. “That’s just like McCarthyism!”
“Oh yes,” said my Jewish friend exasperated. “As an American Jew I can say that it’s horrifying. Israel has become the 51st state. I see my government hijacked by Christian Zionists and my religion hijacked by the state of Israel, which means that I can be sitting in the freest country in the world and yet I am not allowed to criticize. Jobs have been lost and careers have ended because of people expressing their so-called right to freedom of speech.”
“Honestly,” said my Christian friend, “Israel is much freer. You can say pretty much what you want there. Much more so than in the US.”
“So what’s the solution? How do we stop all this hatred and misunderstanding?” I asked.
“Pretty much like this,” said my Jewish friend. “The solution doesn’t come with governments or politics; it comes with ordinary people coming together seeing that we are just the same. Why do you think that the Israeli government is so paranoid about separating their citizens from the Palestinians with such huge barriers?”
“That’s definitely it,” agreed my Christian friend.
As I walked off to the mosque for the night prayer, I thought about all the times I had been targeted for criticizing the failings of people within my own faith. I marveled at how narrow-minded and bigoted some of us had become in the name of a God who created all of us. But I took comfort in the fact that a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew could still share a solid honest friendship bound by mutual love and respect.
Sorry if it is in the wrong section.