Who are we?

Below I will describe a group of people who are marginalised and live in Europe, America, Canada and Australia. Who are we?

We are part of a tradition stretching back centuries.
We can and do live in every part of the world.
We are sometimes considered to be a race or a nation yet we are of many races and have no particular leader, government or land.

We have no leader yet each of us is held responsible for the actions of others like us.
We are each made to explain over and over that we are peaceful and acts of violence committed in our names were wrong.

We suffer violence daily in the so-called “Western World”.
Our children hear racist taunts.
We are harassed by strangers in the streets.
Our religious clothing is openly mocked and derided.
We are attacked and even killed.
Our places of worship are frequently graffiti-ed and desecrated.
We are stereotyped, mocked or invisible on TV and in films.
Our symbols and art are appropriated.
We are pressured to conform to white christian national norms.
If we manage this, we are mocked. If we fail, we are still mocked.
We form communities of our own and are accused of not trying to integrate.
We try to integrate and find ourselves isolated.
We can feel the target on our backs whenever we are out of home.

People who even “look” like the racist stereotype of how we “look” face the same slurs, the same exclusion, the same violence.
We try not to “look” like ourselves.
We are told we are ugly.
We can never do enough to “fit in”. Our names, our clothes, our food, our bodies will betray us.
The target never quite disappears.

We make ourselves small.
We make ourselves quiet.
We try to be “moderate”.

We are told we “take over” spaces; we take too much space.
We are accused of having too much influence; we “control” too much.
And we are called radical even if all we ask is to live our lives in peace.

Our loyalties are always suspect.
We cannot claim loud enough to love the country we live in,
Sending money abroad is a sin if we do it.
If we cannot love this country, we are told repeatedly to “Go home” –
No matter how many generations it’s been since “home” meant anywhere else.

Who are we?

The answer isn’t: “Jews”
And it’s not “Muslims” either.

It’s “Muslims AND Jews”.

Islamophobia and Anti-semitism are two sides of one very racist coin.

And that constant feeling of being a target, being unwanted, being impermissible because we can’t or won’t live within white christian cultures? That pressure is hurting Muslims and Jews across Europe and I suspect across the US, Canada and Australia as well.

Letter to a Drive-by Antisemite

So, today I got antisemitic harassment outside Tesco. This was a bit disturbing and I intend to report it but for now I’d like to make myself feel better by poking fun at the kind of guy who thinks it’s cool to yell things at people from a passing car.

SO:
“Dear Stranger,
Thank you for your unsolicited interest in my religious choices and genital configuration.

After considering your comments carefully, I have come to the conclusion that these facts are none of your business.

To help you in your quest to learn more about Jews, Judaism and my penis, I offer the following helpful hints:
1. Leaning out of the window of a moving car is not an ideal place to start a conversation. Try walking up to someone in a bar, cafe or, if you must, on the street.
2. “Oi, Jew!” is not a polite way to start a conversation. You might like to try “Hello, is it okay if I ask you about your hat?” or “Hi, my name is X, what’s your name?”
3. “You don’t have a foreskin on your penis!” is a declaration rather than a question. My genital configuration is a fact known only to me and a small number of other people, all of whom have actually seen my penis. You have not seen my penis and yelling at me in the street about it will not improve your chances of ever getting to see it. Street harassment is not sexy.
4. I am aware that I am Jewish. I am aware of what my penis looks like. I do not need your help to figure this out. You are not aware of either of these things and are going the right way to remain unaware.
5. As you are neither my doctor nor my boyfriend, there is no need for you to enquire about my genitals. We’ve only just met. I suggest selecting neutral topics such as the weather.

I hope you will take my advice and instead of yelling at the next vaguely Jewish-looking guy you see, will take the time to respectfully approach him, introduce yourself, talk about some neutral uncontentious topics and then *maybe* once settled into a pub or cafe you can think of turning the conversation to religion. Using such an approach, you might find that you learn something and even make a friend.

Yours,
Liam, the Jew who was sitting outside tesco when you drove past”