Why do we condemn Anti-Semitism more than Anti-Islam?

Despite the recent hate crime waves in Toronto and Montréal against Jewish institutions, the battle against anti-Semitism has come a long way since the 1979 publication of the classic book "Anti-Semitism in America" by Professors Quinly and Glock. Now, nearly a quarter-century later, you’ll rarely find any of the gross examples identified and exposed in this well-documented study. Today, any anti-Semitism incident will be met with strong condemnation from the media, governments, and nearly all quarters of civil society. And that is as it should be.

Immediately after the library of Montreal’s United Talmud Torahs School was set ablaze, our federal government officials from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Justice were quick to issue very strong statements, condemning anti-Semitism as uncivilized and contrary to Canadian values. Front page stories and photos of the incident were in next day newspapers; the country was swept by a tidal-wave of social, religious and political opprobrium — and rightly so.

Following media pre-screenings of Mel Gibson’s movie "The Passion of the Christ," many Canadian columnists and newspaper editorialists were quick (even before the general public could view it), to address how this movie might inflame once again the idea that the Jews "killed Jesus" and cause a resulting rise in anti-Semitic backlash among some viewers. But when it comes to anti-Islam hate crimes, or anti-Islam hate propagation by the media or entertainment industries, neither media nor government reaction is as intense and as quick as compared to threats of anti-Semitism against Jews.

Following the display of Americans killed and mutilated by an Iraqi mob, several Canadian newspapers published an editorial cartoon that shows a Muslim family having dinner (the woman wearing a hijab) where the mother asks her son, "What did you do today, son?" The answer: "Oh, just dragged and mutilated the charred remains of American civilians and then hung them on a bridge." The proud father enthuses, "That’s my boy!"

Following the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Toronto columnist cheered "Yassin’s extermination," describing him as "a viper in a wheelchair" and asserting that Arab societies are "infused with choler, where wickedness is bred in the bone." The same columnist went on to explain how far Arab societies "have slithered away from even the most basic respect for human life," all because of "militant Islam."

When the Almahdi Islamic Centre in Pickering was set on fire last month, there was no reaction from the Prime Minister’s office. There was no front page photo coverage of the incident in Canada’s major newspapers. And Canada’s leading columnists and newspaper editorial writers did not bother addressing the issue.

With no strong, effective condemnation of such anti-Islam utterances, every angry or uninformed person who has chosen to blame Islam for problems we all share on this planet, will now feel safe in spreading hate speech against Muslims at will.

Now Muslims have been told time and time again since 9/11 that America’s "war on terrorism" is not a war against Islam. But the measured, "correct" tone of most media and public reactions to the growing tide of anti-Islam attacks on this continent leaves a huge credibility gap. The average Muslim is not convinced by hearing statements that are merely socially acceptable, or politically correct.

By contrast, over the past three decades, the Jewish communities in our midst have been notably successful in lowering the spread of anti- Semitism targeted specifically at their faith and ethnicity. North American Jews have made it their business to fight against it, from the local level on up to national, high-profile organizations that regularly lobby for government attention, as well as influencing broad public opinion.

Now it is the turn of Muslims to learn effectively how to lower the spread of anti-Islam, whose roots are, in fact, from the same sources as anti- (Jewish) Semitism. In fact, many Middle Eastern Muslims are Semitic peoples too. Thus, if Muslims do not work hard on their own behalf to combat anti-Islam and expose those who for religious or political reasons are advancing it, the practice of anti-Islam will go on and on … and on.

Stopping anti-Islamic prejudice — the new "model" of anti-Semitism — is a question of basic principles. And to accomplish this, Muslims need the help of every fair-minded Canadian. When it’s hate-crime, talk is not cheap.