Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, sent a message to his five million subscribers on YouTube last week basically urging Muslims to “stop fighting” among themselves and end their inherent religious bigotry towards the Jewish people. He suggested that they should start by first becoming “pen pals” with people they hate.
The subtext here is obvious: Muslims are predisposed towards violence and anti-Semitism because of their faith. Said another way, Muslims are barbaric and uncivilized, unlike we people in the West.
The video received more than 2 million views within the first 96 hours. It has drawn a sharp response from Muslims on social media but has been almost completely ignored by non-Muslims and the mainstream media, even though Peterson is a world-renowned public intellectual with an enormous social media following.
It’s yet another reminder that Islamophobia remains the only “acceptable” form of bigotry in the Western world.
Imagine the fits of rage and condemnation had Peterson used the “greedy Jew” trope, the same way he so casually invokes the “violent Muslim” trope. Imagine that he had said, “Jews, stop focusing on making so much money and controlling the media,” or imagine the outcry had he urged Jews to seek to become pen-pals with Nazis or neo-Nazis.
His comments would’ve dominated the news cycle for 72 hours, getting him cancelled far and wide. His YouTube account would be blocked—and rightly so Because, as many people recognize, anti-Semitism is a vile form of racism and bigotry that must be stamped out wherever it rears its ugly head.
But somehow Islamophobia does not garner the same response, even though it and anti-Semitism are “two sides of the same bigoted coin,” said Ilhan Omar (D-MA) three years ago in response to revelations the suspect behind a shooting at synagogue in San Diego was also under investigation for setting fire to a mosque.
Hate crimes against both Muslims and Jews spiked upwards during the Trump administration, a by-product of the former president’s racist and hateful rhetoric. It’s easy to forget now that Trump launched his political career by falsely accusing President Barack Obama of being a foreign-born Muslim.
Peter Gottschalk, a professor of religion at Wesleyan University, says Islamophobia and anti-Semitism share a long history in America’s past, and some “unfortunate connections,” with both Muslims and Jews having being viewed at different moments in time as “antithetical to certain ideas of Americanness.”
Today, anti-Semitism is so universally viewed as an intolerable form of bigotry that even fair-minded critics of Israel are accused of anti-Semitism. And that is true even when they’re specifically calling out discriminatory policies of the Israeli government, as illustrated in the case of former CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired by the cable news network for saying Palestine must be free from the “river to the sea” during a speech at the United Nations.
Urging justice and equality for the Palestinian people, who live under Israeli occupation and apartheid rule, is not anti-Semitic, but Hill was fired, anyway. But show me a single instance of an American pundit being fired, cancelled, or even cautioned for espousing hatred towards Muslims, and I will show you a unicorn.
In the United States, even bogus charges of anti-Semitism get you cancelled, whereas naked and vicious Islamophobia gets you elected President of the United States. The stark difference in how society views both forms of bigotry could not be more obvious.
This difference is reflected in our laws, with twenty-seven US states adopting legislation that essentially criminalizes support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) of apartheid Israel, a non-violent form of protest against Israel’s criminal and discriminatory policies. But nearly all of these states have introduced anti-Sharia bills, which are designed to counter the false notion Muslims are secretly plotting to overthrow the US government and American way of life, the same kind of conspiracy Adolf Hitler levelled against the Jews.
This double standard has directly contributed to the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence to alarming levels in recent years.
In Europe, the contrast between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is even greater, with the latter considered a crime, while the former is permitted under the guise of freedom of expression. This unequal treatment of the respective forms of bigotry under the law contributes to the popularity of anti-Muslim discourse in mainstream politics and a rise in hate crime incidents.
“Islamophobia is not only ignored – but in fact enabled and emboldened by the state, through War on Terror policies, surveillance and anti-immigration measures that cast Muslims as perpetual outliers, making Islamophobia one of the last bastions of acceptable bigotry in the West,” Professor Khaled Beydoun, author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear, told Inside Arabia, and explains why prominent individuals, such as Jordan Peterson, can say things about Muslims they could never say about Jews, without fear of social punishment.