Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are All Muslims Supposed to Hate All Jews?

After a very long sabbatical thanks to finals, I am back. The story that brings me back is a disturbing tale of religious hatred and animosity. I'm sure many people have heard about the attack on a Q Train in Brooklyn a week ago in which a man was attacked for saying "Happy Hanakkah" in response to a group's saying "Merry Christmas." A group of about 9-10 people (the Christmas folks) were assaulting 2-3 people (those who wished people a Happy Hanukkhah) when a sole person stepped in and helped the outnumbered people. The main victim of the attack, Walter Adler, was able to pull the emergency brake at the next station, when cops came and arrested the large group of attackers.

Needless to say, the victims of the attacker were Jewish (Adler and two girls) and the perpetrators of the assault were Christian. Obviously not very knowledgeable about either faith, one of the pro-Christmas group members allegedly said that Hanukkah was the day that the Jews killed Jesus. This is funny, as Christ died on Good Friday (in April, no where near Hanukkah) and the Romans killed Jesus (though it is debatable what role the Jews played in Jesus' arrest which led to his death). In any event, the group clearly was ignorant of other religions, as well as their own.

To throw in the last of the Abrahamic religions, the man who jumped in to assist Adler and his friends' aid was Muslim. Of course, the news outlets ate this up. The local newspapers in New York had the typical headlines such as "Jews' Subway Hero a Muslim". I figured it would end there; the newspapers got their fill of playing on the religion theme to get readers to read an article. But no, CNN jumped on the bandwagon with their: "Muslim helps Jews attacked on New York subway".

All of this emphasis on the religions of the people is ridiculous. It is as if people should act shocked that someone of the Muslim faith helped someone of the Jewish faith. Can it not just be a person helping another person? Think of the ridiculous headlines that other combinations would have made: "White man helps latino man on subway," "Black man helps Asian man on subway," "Irish man helps German man on subway." Who cares about the good samaritan's religion?

The problem with pointing out the samaritan's religion (the man's name, by the way, is Hassan Askari) is that it simply reinforces stereotypical hatred between Jews and Muslims. It's like saying "Oh my! A Muslim actually helped a Jew! Look, they don't all hate each other!" The fact that one person stood up for another person on a New York subway is news in itself, there is no need to include the religious aspect of it, as it does harm by reinforcing stereotypes.

Of course, the papers are not the only people who were shocked that a Muslim would help out a Jew. The victim of the attack, Walter Adler, said, "A random Muslim guy jumped in and helped a Jewish guy on Hanukkah - that's a miracle." This makes it sound like all Muslims are supposed to hate Jews and that it is miraculous that a Muslim would prevent harm from happening to someone belonging to the Jewish faith. Askari is the only one who seems to not care about the whole religious talk, saying "I just did what I had to do. My parents raised me that way." Imagine, someone who was told to help others in his childhood, no matter what their religion/race/creed/ethnicity/etc. and acting on it - seems that a lot of people find this to be a foreign concept. Peace.

Photos - Hassan Askari, Walter Adler, and a friend (, A Q Train (NancyK!'s flickr),

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