A unity that transcends faith and rejects the ignorance at the root of religious bias may be the best antidote to violence directed at people for their beliefs, a panel of local Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders said in Elmont on Tuesday night.
“Complacency is sometimes equivalent to complicity,” said Afaf Nasher, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York, one of a panel of eight leaders representing the three Abrahamic faiths, at an event to discuss anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of religious hatred and violence. The discussion lasted about two hours.
“What I would like to suggest is that we stop being complicit. . . . We need to hold people accountable; that means media, politicians. . . . We need to speak to our youth at the dinner table to let them know that it is never OK to utter a racist comment as a joke or otherwise. There needs to be a zero tolerance among us,” Nasher said.
The forum, attended by about 20 people at the Elmont Memorial Library, was sponsored by Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream), to have a conversation before the next possibility of violence against Jews, Christians or Muslims at their houses of worship or on the streets of Long Island, Solages said.
“I do not want to wait for the next massacre or hate-related incident to happen to bring people together,” he said, adding that the recent killings of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in October and 50 Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, “brought me to tears, honestly.”
Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola said much of the violence directed at people for their beliefs stems from ignorance and a sense of superiority.
“The key to all of this, particularly anti-Semitism, is ignorance,” he said, adding that "everyone must remember there is no pecking order here, no bigger, no less. We all have our diverse religions and outlooks and that’s our strength.”
Imam Ibad Wali, director of the Hillside Islamic Center, said there is a double standard when it comes to violence against the members of some faiths. He cited fatal shootings against Jews in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2014; Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2015; and Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012, as not readily labeled terrorist acts by media reports or by politicians and other authority figures.
“There is a double standard,” he said. “Words that would usually come out and people being outraged if it was a different ethnicity and a different group of people targeted. That type of expression is not there.”
Mindy Perlmutter, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council on Long Island, called for “common ground” to resist hatred between groups.
“We need to say, ‘You’re my brother, you’re my sister,'” she said, looking out to the audience while calling for unity. “Bring me your ideas, bring me your thoughts. You want to have something in your ethnic group, your church, your mosque, your synagogue? I’ll help you plan it. Because that is how we start fighting hatred.”