This Website use Cookies OK

Read more Opinion News

Liberals must call out all kinds of hate, or they’ll only wind up helping Trump


To its credit, the Muslim American Society — which had rented space to the school group seen chanting on the video — condemned the words used in it.

So let’s imagine that a group of white children had been captured on video calling for the beheading of Jewish kids. My fellow liberals would be up in arms, demanding a broader investigation of the incident and penalties for the people involved.

But when it’s Muslim children, doing the same thing? Meh.

Witness our blasé reaction to last month’s news in my hometown of Philadelphia, where students were seen reciting a revolutionary anthem often used by Islamist groups. Reading from a prepared text, one girl in the group says, “We will chop off their heads, and we will liberate the sorrowful and exalted Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

That’s a reference to a holy site in Jerusalem, revered by Muslims and Jews alike. The video was cited repeatedly on Fox News and other conservative media outlets but made barely a blip on CNN, MSNBC and other left-leaning venues.

And that’s a big problem for liberals, especially in our efforts to counter violence by white racists. For the past several years, we’ve been warning that President Trump’s election and rhetoric have triggered the rise of white nationalism at home and abroad. And we have lambasted Trump for dismissing the threat, which gives further encouragement to racist hate groups.

But we weaken our case if we fail to raise our voices against violent Islamic extremism, which is an obvious threat as well. If you fight hate selectively, you fuel the idea that campaigns against prejudice are just about politics. And you echo the inconsistencies of Trump, who warns darkly about Muslim terrorists but has almost nothing to say about white ones.

After Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc sent explosive packages to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats, the president said Sayoc had been “insane” long before he backed Trump. When Robert Bowers murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Trump denied that his overheated rhetoric about caravan migrants — echoed by Bowers on social media — might have played a part in motivating him. And when another synagogue was attacked in Poway, Calif., Trump refused to call shooter John Earnest a terrorist even after the temple’s rabbi used the term to describe Earnest.

Ditto for the deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand, which Trump attributed to “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” In his manifesto, Brenton Tarrant — who murdered 50 people in two mosques — called Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity.” But when asked if he thought white nationalist violence was a rising threat around the world, Trump gave a simple reply: no.

He’s wrong, of course. But so are my fellow liberals, if we refuse to call out violent Islamic bigotry. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Israeli policy, including the decision to close down part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque last February. But when you call for the beheading of Jews — or when you say you will “subject them to eternal torture,” which we also see on the Philadelphia video — you have clearly crossed the line from politics into hate. And if you can’t recognize the difference, you’re no better than Trump.

To its credit, the Muslim American Society — which had rented space to the school group seen chanting on the video — condemned the words used in it. It also announced that the person in charge of the event had been fired.

But this isn’t really about Muslims; instead, it’s about all of us. Will we have the courage to fight hate wherever it appears, and no matter whom it targets? Or will we continue to pick and choose, depending on the politics of the moment?

Consider all of the attention that focused on Nick Sandmann, the white Kentucky high school student who was accused — falsely, as it turns out — of menacing a Native American protester in an encounter at the mall in Washington D.C. back in February. My fellow liberals unleashed a massive viral attack against Sandmann and the other students from his school, because their behavior seemed to reflect the kind of hate that we love to indict.

But hate is hate is hate. And if we don’t call it out, everywhere we see it, we’ll become blind to it. That’s exactly what Trump wants, of course. It’s a pity to see his opponents helping him along.

Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.”