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January 14, 2015 1

A French Jew Mourns a French Muslim Policeman

A guest blog by Eve Gani, Direc­tor of Inter­na­tional Affairs, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of French Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions (CRIF), ADL’s part­ner in France.

On Jan­u­ary 11, mil­lions of French cit­i­zens demon­strated in a his­toric moment of unity in defense of our demo­c­ra­tic free­doms.  On Jan­u­ary 13, we exer­cised one of those free­doms – free­dom of reli­gion – to bury 17 ter­ror vic­tims accord­ing to their respec­tive fam­i­lies’ reli­gious tra­di­tions, or absence of reli­gious tra­di­tion: Catholic, Jew­ish, Mus­lim, atheist.

My col­leagues at CRIF attended the Jew­ish funeral in Jerusalem and sec­u­lar funer­als in Paris.  I chose to attend the funeral of Ahmed Mer­abet, the Mus­lim police­man killed out­side the Char­lie Hebdo office.

I went with a Mus­lim friend, also a police­man.  I had met this friend a few months ago at a gala din­ner to sup­port the work of Lat­ifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of a Mus­lim sol­dier killed by Mohammed Merah, the ter­ror­ist who also mur­dered three chil­dren and a rabbi at a Jew­ish school in Toulouse. We came from two very dif­fer­ent parts of French soci­ety, but both wanted to sup­port Lat­ifa Ibn Ziaten’s work with at-risk youth.

Imme­di­ately after the Char­lie Hebdo attack, my friend called to alert me and urge us to be care­ful.  As he told me about the attack, his voice con­veyed how ner­vous he was.  A police­man had been shot dead in the street, and he wor­ried about his children’s future should the same hap­pen to him. Recall­ing that con­ver­sa­tion and the fact that a police­woman had also been shot in the interim, I knew I wanted to go with him to Ahmed Merabat’s funeral.

Funeral Procession of Ahmed Merabat

Funeral Pro­ces­sion of Ahmed Merabat

It was the first Mus­lim bur­ial I had ever attended. Dur­ing the prayers, I thought of the Mus­lim friends I have had through years, start­ing in high school. Some of them, like my Jew­ish friends, had left France. For Tunisia, Lon­don and Bal­ti­more. They all wanted to build a bet­ter life, one safe from vio­lence and all forms of hatred and bigotry.

At the bur­ial, I saw Mus­lim col­leagues of Ahmed proudly wear­ing their French Police uni­forms, lay lead­ers from Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, a priest, and a rabbi.  The prayer leader thanked the Jews for attend­ing and urged every­one to demon­strate their sol­i­dar­ity with the Jew­ish vic­tims at an event in front of the kosher super­mar­ket that was attacked.

Rec­tor Dalil Boubakeur and oth­ers from the Grand Mosque of Paris were at the funeral, and we recalled a dif­fer­ent meet­ing, not unre­lated to the Char­lie Hebdo ter­ror attack.  Three years ago, CRIF and the Grand Mosque of Paris had orga­nized an inter­faith dis­cus­sion on the topic of blas­phemy and the laws of the Repub­lic.  We under­scored our com­mon reli­gious val­ues and our com­mon com­mit­ment to the rule of law, all of which the jihadists oppose.

Trag­i­cally, Char­lie Hebdo was tar­geted because a jihadist inter­pre­ta­tion of reli­gion, incom­pat­i­ble with ours. And Ahmed, whose job was to enforce the law of the Repub­lic, was killed on the way.

I watched as Ahmed’s cof­fin was borne by my friend.  My friend who fears to be next.

To my friend,

A French Mus­lim policeman,

May your chil­dren grow up in peace, with their father, in a France, respect­ful of and safe for all.

 

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January 14, 2015 0

After Terrorist Attacks, Anti-immigrant Activists Attack Muslim Immigration

In the wake of the deadly ter­ror­ist attacks on the Char­lie Hebdo Paris office and a kosher mar­ket in Paris, anti-immigrant activists in the U.S. are urg­ing the United States to stop all Mus­lim immi­gra­tion to this coun­try. They also claim that any­one who prac­tices Islam is inclined towards extremism.

Tom Tancredo

Tom Tan­credo

In a Jan­u­ary 12, 2015 col­umn for World Net Daily (WND) titled, “Yes, It is Islam!” for­mer Col­orado Con­gress­man Tom Tan­credo writes, “So, here we are again, being told that we can’t blame Islam for the mur­der­ous acts that have cost thou­sands of lives since 9/11 and mil­lions of lives since the 14th cen­tury! Well, then let me ask a sim­ple ques­tion: If Islam did not exist, how many of these events would have occurred?”

Although Tan­credo acknowl­edges that rad­i­cal Islam is the prob­lem, he does not make a dis­tinc­tion between ter­ror­ists and peo­ple of the Mus­lim faith.. He asserts “that the jihadists do not rep­re­sent all Mus­lims is irrel­e­vant.” He con­tin­ues, “We have spent tens of bil­lions hunt­ing down and killing ter­ror­ist lead­ers with drones and other tools of high-tech war­fare, while accept­ing and per­mit­ting the growth of the can­cer of Shariah law in our own com­mu­ni­ties.” Tan­credo then sug­gests that “we stop all immi­gra­tion of Mus­lims into the United States and then deport those already here who adhere to Shariah law.” He also calls for seal­ing all our bor­ders against ille­gal entry to pre­vent jihadists from using “our open bor­ders to infil­trate our communities.”

Frosty Wooldridge, who is an advi­sory board mem­ber of the extreme anti-immigrant group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, often den­i­grates immi­grants and Mus­lims in his columns for in the right-wing online pub­li­ca­tion, “News with Views.” He has writ­ten a series of columns titled, “Impreg­nat­ing Amer­ica with Mus­lims,” in which he attacks Mus­lim immi­grants. In his lat­est col­umn on Jan­u­ary 12, titled, “Islam Forces West­ern Ideals into Extinc­tion,” he reprints a num­ber of anti-Muslim quotes from the late writer and bigot Lawrence Auster, includ­ing: “It is impor­tant to under­stand that what makes Islam dan­ger­ous to non-Muslims is not that Mus­lims are morally bad peo­ple. The prob­lem is not that Mus­lims are bad peo­ple, the prob­lem is that they are good Mus­lims. Our con­cern is with the reli­gion and the polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy of Islam, which makes all Mus­lims dan­ger­ous to us, since all Mus­lims, even if they per­son­ally have no aggres­sive inten­tions, even if they are per­son­ally fine and lovely peo­ple, are part of the Islamic com­mu­nity and owe their high­est loy­alty to Islam.”

Wooldridge ends his col­umn by warn­ing, “The illit­er­ate, bar­baric, killing-machine war­lord Mohammed con­tin­ues his car­nage into the 21st cen­tury with the hands of 1.5 bil­lion of his fol­low­ers. If we fail to stop mass immi­gra­tion, France’s night­mare becomes our future.”

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January 14, 2015 1

Beyond the Dream, Teaching King in Context

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Day is Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 19, and many edu­ca­tors will take the oppor­tu­nity to teach about King and his enor­mous con­tri­bu­tions to our soci­ety. As edu­ca­tors, how we approach the teach­ing of this hol­i­day makes an impact on how stu­dents under­stand the larger con­text of the Civil Rights Move­ment and whether they make a con­nec­tion between the past strug­gles to the cur­rent day and their own lives. Here are some thoughts about teach­ing the topic in a mean­ing­ful way:

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, LC-USZ62-126559

Cour­tesy of the Library of Con­gress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Col­lec­tion, LC-USZ62-126559

Focus on what Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. rep­re­sents.  King is an icon, a larger than life fig­ure and a tremen­dous ora­tor. These char­ac­ter­is­tics can lead stu­dents to believe that he sin­gle­hand­edly accom­plished the goals of the Civil Rights Move­ment or that they could never be like King.  It’s impor­tant to put King’s work into the con­text of the larger move­ment of peo­ple that he rep­re­sented.  Stu­dents need to know about King’s life, that he was a leader of all types of “ordi­nary” peo­ple, and it was them – peo­ple of all ages, all walks of life, all dif­fer­ent races and reli­gions – that made the Civil Rights Move­ment possible.

It is impor­tant to under­stand and teach that the Civil Rights Move­ment was a strate­gic, on-going  move­ment with spe­cific objec­tives.  Author Bryan Steven­son talks about the idea that peo­ple today often think of the civil rights move­ment as a 3 day event; “Day One, Rosa Parks gave up her seat on a bus; Day Two, Dr. King led a march on Wash­ing­ton; and Day Three, we signed all these laws.”  This sim­plis­tic view of the Civil Rights Move­ment leaves out all of the impor­tant ele­ments of strat­egy, strug­gle and the actual “move­ment” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Sim­i­larly, it is impor­tant to be spe­cific when talk­ing about King and the Civil Rights Move­ment. Dr. King’s legacy can­not be under­stood with­out talk­ing about big­otry, race and racism.  That may seem obvi­ous, but often edu­ca­tors are hes­i­tant to talk about race.  With thought­ful prepa­ra­tion, how­ever, these issues can be raised in a devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate way.  It’s also really use­ful to be spe­cific about the aims of the Civil Rights Move­ment– not just a vague notion of “equal­ity” but a social jus­tice move­ment that was seek­ing to end seg­re­ga­tion, secure vot­ing rights, advo­cate for worker’s rights, and address eco­nomic disparities.

In this way, we have teach­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that con­nect the past to cur­rent events.  Stu­dents can see both the suc­cess of the Civil Rights Move­ment while also con­nect­ing to what forms of sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion and unequal treat­ment exist today.  For exam­ple, exam­in­ing the Vot­ing Rights Act allows for an oppor­tu­nity to ana­lyze the 2013 Supreme Court deci­sion which gut­ted the heart of that law or explore tac­tics like Voter ID laws which sup­press the abil­ity to vote.  Sim­i­larly, focus­ing on the impor­tance of youth involve­ment and lead­er­ship in all aspects of the Civil Rights Move­ment allows for an oppor­tu­nity to learn about cur­rent activism led by youth.  

We know that no edu­ca­tor has the lux­ury or time to focus on all aspects of King’s life and the work of the Civil Rights Move­ment. Choos­ing one spe­cific aspect of King’s life or the Civil Rights Move­ment can give stu­dents more oppor­tu­nity to under­stand and explore, whether focus­ing on Selma or The Children’s Cru­sade or the San­i­ta­tion Work­ers’ Strike in Memphis.

These are just a few exam­ples of the many dif­fer­ent entry points for learn­ing about Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and the work of the Civil Rights Move­ment.  For many, the “go to” entry point is to focus on King’s most famous and most quoted “I Have a Dream” speech, specif­i­cally the end with its lyri­cal, mov­ing rep­e­ti­tion. Because this speech has vivid imagery and phrases that make it easy to teach, it can also be over­sim­pli­fied. We need to go beyond “the Dream” for stu­dents to truly make mean­ing of King’s legacy.  King’s dream was deeply rooted not just in “the Amer­i­can Dream,” but also in that time’s con­text of dis­crim­i­na­tion, racism and big­otry.  How­ever we choose to honor King’s legacy this year, stu­dents’ learn­ing should also be rooted in those con­cepts of injustice.

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