by Zaid Jilani
Wednesday, 19
January 2022
Explainer
17:15

US Jewish-Muslim relations are better than anywhere in the world

The hostage crisis in Texas was alarming because such events are so rare
by Zaid Jilani
Credit: Getty

The startling hostage situation at a Texas synagogue in mid-January has revived concerns in the US about anti-Semitism. Authorities continue to investigate the motives of alleged hostage taker Malik Faisal, a British national who was killed during the event.

Faisal reportedly demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is serving an 86-year-sentence related to an assault on U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.

It’s not clear why Faisal thought taking rabbi hostage would help him achieve his goal. With his death, we may never know exactly what was going through his mind. But the event serves as a reminder that the American far-Right hardly has a monopoly on anti-Semitism. Across the globe, some of the widest prevalence of anti-Jewish attitudes is found in Muslim-majority societies. Survey work by the Anti-Defamation League shows, for instance, that 68% of Egyptians say that “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind” and 81% agree that “people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.” Majorities across many other Muslim-majority countries hold similar views.

In the United States, by comparison, 13% of people agree with the first statement and 14% agree with the second one. For all its flaws, the United States is a relative haven for Jewish Americans and other minorities. This is a country where members of ethnic and religious minorities have been elected to highest offices in the land and are running some of our largest corporations. One reason the hostage crisis in Texas was so alarming was precisely because such events are so rare.

In fact, Jewish-Muslim relations appear to be much better in the United States than they are elsewhere in the world. 2018 polling by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding suggested that Jewish and Muslim Americans largely like each other. 45% of Muslims polled that year had a favourable opinion of Jews and just 10% held unfavourable views. Among Jews, 53% held favourable views of Muslims while just 13% held unfavourable views of Muslims.

I suspect there are a few different reasons why anti-Semitism has never quite caught on among American Muslims in the way it has among Muslims abroad. One reason would be that both Jews and Muslims the U.S. tend to be highly-educated, which allows them to be socialised into similar environments; Muslims in the rest of the world won’t have as much natural contact with Jews and have to rely on negative stereotypes promoted in the news media and in the education system.

The other major strength I would posit the United States has is its colour blind liberal ethos. Our schools and our system of laws stresses that group generalisations and discrimination are both irrational and harmful. We’re taught to see people as individuals first and members of groups second. That may be under threat now but it is still the best defence we have against the toxic tribalism that prevails in much of the world.

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Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
6 months ago

Wrong. There aren’t enough Muslims in the US to cause the problems as seen elsewhere. Just wait until there are as many Muslims as Jews…

Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
6 months ago

There are. A lot of them are African American. Their form of Islam has little tendency to Judeophobia, and none to terrorism.

L Walker
L Walker
6 months ago

You should work somewhere where half the workforce is black, as I have, and you will be astounded at the anti-Semitism and anti-white bigotry. It’s not openly 100% but it’s close.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
6 months ago

What utter tripe. How did this pass unherd’s editors??

James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago

“The other major strength I would posit the United States has is its colour blind liberal ethos. Our schools and our system of laws stresses that group generalisations and discrimination are both irrational and harmful. We’re taught to see people as individuals first and members of groups second.”
This article shows an absolutely shocking lack of insight into America. Utter tosh! Excuse me, have you been on Mars for 50 years? The exact opposite of what you say above has become mainstream, accepted dogma by some of America–those with the loudest voices, the elites, the technology platforms, and has been rammed down the throat of the plebs.
Your mild qualification “That may be under threat now….” does not recognize reality.
It’s not as bad as you think, it’s worse. Much worse.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
6 months ago

Firstly, let me say that this author is a “cup half full” kind of fellow. Kudos to him for that. That said, libs in the US are wokist more than liberal. They think that color and ethnicity are the MOST important parts of a person’s identity. And please, tell me what “far-right” anti-Semitic violence you see on the world stage today? It’s mostly from the left/liberal/woke/progressive and from Muslims (admittedly, not so much in the US of A). And when it comes to anti-Israel propaganda and lies, the BBC in England is as bad as any government channel in Pakistan!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
6 months ago

The Israeli new relationship with the Gulf states and Arabs is, thank God, a masterful piece of skill on behalf of Israel, that will more than help to contain Islamic extremeism…

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
6 months ago

Perhaps the Author should take his blinkers off before he next puts pen to paper.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Why – he is correct – USA Muslims and Jews get along better than anywhere else. And also it is because the level of education in the Groups – where in Europe and UK the unskilled made the biggest migrations.

His bit “But the event serves as a reminder that the American far-Right hardly has a monopoly on anti-Semitism.” shows a great deal of ignorance as such a ‘Hard Right’ is almost negligible. Most of the Right have no issue with migrants of any kind who come with education or skills.

Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
6 months ago

It would be interesting to go through history and see the times that Jews got along better with Muslims than they did with Christians. There were a lot of times and places where that was true. And a lot of Jews today remember.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago

Till the Pan-Arabism movement swept the Arabia and North Africa, really about the 1950s, the Jews and Muslims functioned in every city in the ME. In the 60s when the Israeli wars began it really took off in a really bad way anti-Semitism became universal and so the great pogroms of all the Islamic lands…..

L Walker
L Walker
6 months ago

Wrong, wrong. anti-Semitism in the US is overwhelmingly from the left. Before you write another piece like this, do better research. And as has already been pointed out when we have more Muslims we will have more attacks in Jews. To believe otherwise is to be suffering from delusions.