The biblical imperative "Bakesh shalom v'radfehu" (seek peace and pursue it) came to mind the other morning as I awoke to a local news story that nauseated me.
The story concerns a blatantly Islamophobic birthday card produced by Noble Works and sold locally. It features a hijab-wearing Muslim doll along with several incendiary phrases, overtly linking anyone who wears the traditional female Muslim head covering to terrorism. (Traditionally observant Muslim and Jewish women share the custom of covering their hair.)
There's no dearth of stories that enrage, nauseate, terrify, disgust, or make me just want to stay in bed; this one struck close to home because, unlike the slaughter in Syria or many other world problems, you and I can do something about this.
We can be mindful of what we see on the shelves of stores selling greeting cards that cross the line of civility, and other public displays of bigotry. We must make our voices heard respectfully whenever we feel that something we see endangers the core values of our society.
This card, by directly linking traditional Muslim dress to terrorism, is totally objectionable in an open, diverse and pluralistic society. People of good conscience should oppose it for the same reasons they should oppose cartoons riddled with anti-Semitic imagery, such as appear all too often in newspapers around the world (and especially in the Middle East).
Is the card protected under First Amendment rights? Yes. Can a stationery story sell such a card legally? Yes.
But is it good for us as Americans--be we Jews, Muslims, or Christians; of African, Asian, or Latin descent; straight or gay--to acquiesce to dangerous stereotypes of "the other," whoever he or she may be, bandied about as though hateful words and images have no consequences? NO!
I am in regular discourse with Muslim Americans of faith, who share the same values as I do when it comes to the kind of society in which we both wish not only to live, but to live and let live. Proud Americans of all faiths must be vigilant if we are to preserve a society ruled by law, where people are judged, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "not by the color of their skin [or whether or not they wear a kippah or for that matter, a hijab] but by the content of their character."
The anti-Muslim card is a gratuitous, opportunistic, and disgusting display of fear mongering. For Jews it offends our ethical values and insults our collective memory. We know, better than many, how slippery the slope can be from hate speech to violence.
The purveyors of hateful message targeting a specific group may have the right to peddle their brand of pornography in public. Those who recognize it for what it is have the responsibility to raise our voices in protest. That is the best way I know to seek peace and pursue it.