Photo: Nicole Brumley

Through my eyes: We shouldn’t be silent about the suffering of others

In Communities /

By Mira Miller

I am a Jew. During the 1940s in Europe, my people were persecuted, discriminated against, killed. Some tried to escape by seeking refuge in prospective host countries, only to be met with strict immigration policies, increasingly hostile environments, and the infamous idea that “None is too many.” Sound familiar? It should.

As many minority groups now face an increase in hate crimes and discrimination, I find it troubling to see people turn a blind eye to the suffering of others because it doesn’t affect their community. Every time this happens I can’t help but wonder: if we don’t speak up for those who are different from us, who will? Who would speak up for us?

On August 12, 2017, white supremacists gathered for a “Unite the right” rally in Charlottesville in order to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Protesters carried Nazi flags as well as Confederate flags and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” and “Blood and soil,” both of which are reminiscent of slogans from the Holocaust.

This event tells me that the world has not changed nearly as much as we want to believe it has. It tells me that we are in crisis and the only way to combat this rampant bigotry is to stand up for everyone. Not just those who look like us, but everyone.

Specifically, Jews and Muslims have a responsibility to stand up for one another. Both of our faiths are being targeted and both of our faiths would benefit from standing together rather than apart.

On Jan. 27, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump put an executive order in place that prohibited refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. throughout a 120 day period, and visitors from those same countries for a 90 day period. The ban was lifted, but then replaced with a modified version, with parts that went into effect on June 29.

Trump, as well as many people on my Facebook feed, continue to rationalize it by claiming that it is a safety precaution and that it is an essential step in putting “America first.” What this fails to acknowledge is that this is the same slogan that was used by America’s pro-Nazi Isolationist Movement during World War II.

The parallels between what occurred during World War II and what is happening in our world today are undeniable, uncanny, and horrifying to say the least. They say we learn about history in school to ensure that it doesn’t repeat itself, so how could this be happening?

On Jan. 29, a shooting at a Mosque in Quebec City left six people dead and eight injured. For those who believed that Canada was immune to Islamophobia, this tragic event was a wake-up call. I cried as if I had known the victims and my father attended the funeral.

We are not only seeing a frightening rise of Islamophobia, but also a resurgence of anti-Semitism. I strongly believe that it is more important than ever that we recognize our similarities instead of our differences.

Even at the progressive, open-minded university that is Ryerson, I have heard about and experienced anti-Semitism. Our very own RSU planned a walk-out when a Jewish student presented a motion to implement a Holocaust education week.

Relations between Muslims and Jews have always been rocky, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict can make them seemingly impossible to repair. But if we take a step back, we may find that we are more similar than we are different.

The oppression that all minorities face is rooted in the irrational fear of “the other.” As members of communities that are both being persecuted for our religions, it is up to us to speak up for each other. History will repeat itself, in more ways than one, as long as we allow it to.

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