Nathan Gibson Wins 3rd Prize
North American Muslim Foundation's 11th Annual Speech Competition
Kol Hakavod to Nathan Gibson, the 15 year old Temple Sinai Congregation member who won 3rd place at the North American Muslim Foundation's 11th Annual Speech Competition.
Nathan is an active member of Temple Sinai's leadership and youth group. He is an assistant teacher in the Temple's Hebrew School, and was an active member in its pre-confirmation department. Nathan is a student in grade 10 at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (TanenbaumCHAT).
Nathan was the only speaker from a synagogue or Jewish school, and the sole non-Muslim in the competition. He spoke on the topic of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Do they face the same challenges and share the same solutions?
Nathan has graciously allowed us to feature his NAMF speech.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Do they face the same challenges and share the same solutions?
Mahatma Gandhi said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world." This statement really sums up my thoughts about Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. I believe they have similar challenges and solutions. Both are types of discrimination that exist worldwide. Both are controversial and touchy topics which people avoid discussing, and both can be addressed by the people here today by following my personal credo: "Love EVERYONE, NO EXCEPTIONS." There are three things I'll touch upon which can be addressed with my theory. One, distrust stemming from over-generalization, two, fundamentalism versus progressivism, and three, how to begin solving the problem. I am NOT saying my credo would make the world a perfect place, but it would force everyone to hear each other out before coming to conclusions and may expose some people to ideas they had never considered.
Throughout history, people of different backgrounds have migrated between different countries. Upon arriving in new places, they often faced discrimination. The Jewish people experienced this at the time of the Holocaust. Many Jews wished to escape from Europe, but countries such as Canada shut their doors to anyone seeking refuge, in part, due to Anti-Semitism. Similarly, North Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, were suspected of treason and espionage and thus were treated as traitors, though they were completely innocent. These ordinary citizens were put in camps and had their belongings taken and sold just because their roots were in Japan, the country with which the US and Canada were at war. This happened even to members of the second and third generations of Japanese living here. Now, Muslims receive similar suspicious treatment, sometimes because of the bad things such as gender discrimination or violence in which their home countries are engaged.
People vary within most religious groups. They run the gamut from fundamentalist to more progressive. I participate in the United Jewish Appeal's Walkathon nearly every year and every time I see Jews on the more fundamentalist end of things, standing on the sides, preaching their extreme beliefs and hatred of the State of Israel. An example of the more fundamentalist Muslims would be like Ahmadinejad in Iran who wishes to develop nuclear weapons and threatens to unleash them on Israel. These types of people and their supporters, in my view, are major causes of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The results of a survey taken in the United States showed that nearly 50% of Americans associate Muslims with radicalism. Although there are many radical fundamentalist Muslims, whom we hear about in the media constantly, there are many more progressive Muslims who despise the fundamentalists as much as any other person, maybe even more so, because they get a bad reputation from the radicals - guilt by association. Of course, we hear less about the peaceful majority, because their stance is less newsworthy.
It has been said that one problem is that the progressive Muslims are too timid and should speak out against fundamentalists and that it should start within their own families. But when a speaker mentioned this idea, during a meeting of the Council on American Islamic Relations, held in Washington, one man stood up and voiced the opinion, apparently held by many others, that speaking up against one's radical family members is one of the hardest things to do. This raises another issue, if people cannot even stand up for themselves among their own families, how are they supposed to stand up against whole countries and mobs on each side?
In conclusion, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia do face similar challenges and do share similar solutions. The main solutions are that we must have the courage to stand up to the radicals and we must work to educate the public to dispel ignorance and over-generalizations. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "we must be the change we want to see in the world." A good start would be to follow my basic rule. "Love EVERYONE, NO EXCEPTIONS."
Temple Sinai Religious School and TanenbaumCHAT receive financial support from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto through the Centre for Jewish Education (CJE), UJA Federation's educational pillar, dedicated to strengthening, enriching and promoting the quality of Jewish education in our schools.