GOP presidential hopeful and rabid Islamophobe Newt Gingrich is slamming Mitt Romney for vetoing a 2003 bill that would allocate an additional $600,000 of taxpayer money to provide poor Jewish nursing home residents with Kosher meals. Thundered Gingrich:
Romney as Governor eliminated kosher food for retired Jewish senior citizens…He has no understanding of the importance of religious liberty in this country.
I myself don’t have a problem with providing Kosher meals, and I would not have opposed the additional funding like Romney did. But, this does beg the question: what if this had been about Halal meals instead?
Had that been the case, the situation would have been completely reversed. In that scenario, had Mitt Romney supported a bill that allocated over half a million dollars of taxpayer money to Halal meals for poor Muslim nursing home residents, what do you think Newt Gingrich and the rest of the right-wing would be saying then? They would be ruthlessly attacking him for this.
We’d also hear a lot about how Muslims in America and the West in general demand “special rules” and “special treatment”–how they have a “feeling of entitlement.” We’d hear about how Muslims want “hand-outs” and “leech off” of the rest of us. We’d hear all the typical racist and bigoted charges that are often levied against non-white minorities.
Whenever a minority asks for cultural or religious accommodation, especially Muslims, they are accused of such things. What good, white, Judeo-Christian folk sometimes fail to realize is that the system is by default heavily bent in their favor, with “special accommodations” for them already built in.
This reminds me of a conversation I overheard between a Christian and Muslim colleague of mine. The Christian employee was complaining about how “it was unfair” that the Muslim colleague got to come in late for work on his religious holiday (Eid) and leave a bit early on that same day; she said: “It’s not fair: you guys get our Christmas off but we don’t get your holiday off.” I couldn’t believe my ears. She gets a whole two weeks off to go visit her family in another state, whereas he gets half a day off so that he can take his wife and kids out to eat at the local kabob joint. The Muslim employee wants “special treatment” (if you can call it that) because the system is already so slanted in favor of the dominant, majority group.
I’ve seen a similar occurrence with Friday prayers, with Muslim colleagues racing back and forth during lunch to make it in time. Meanwhile, Jews get Saturday off and Christians get Sunday off–by default. At my work, we often have to come in on Saturdays, but observant Jews can get it off by “special request.” If Muslims made that sort of request, we wouldn’t hear the end of it.
This is a nation of immigrants, and as such, we must be ready to accommodate–within the bounds of reason–various races, religions, and customs. The only alternative, I suppose, is to adopt the nativist view of right-wingers: “they” must accommodate to “us.” This view, however, fails to realize that both groups need to bend a little to accommodate the other.
Speaking of Kosher and Halal, one recalls how the Queen of Islamophobia, Pamela Geller, who is herself Jewish, attacks Muslims for how cruel Halal slaughter is, even though it’s virtually the exact same process used by Jews for Kosher. Had a candidate supported a bill to give half a million dollars to provide Halal food, Geller would be screeching about how this was providing state support for evil Muslim butchery and animal cruelty. Common sense and rationality are lost with such absurdities.
On that note, I think it would behoove the reader to consider how dramatically different views are when we substitute “Jew” for “Muslim” or the other way around: for example, the standard “you can’t be racist against Muslims, because Muslim is not a race” doesn’t seem right when we say “you can’t be racist against Jews, because Jew is not a race.” It’s a worthwhile exercise to do any time you read a story about Muslims: just do the substitution and ask yourself if it sounds right. There’s a reason it doesn’t: all of these anti-Muslim smears were once used against Jews: it’s the same message, just used against a different minority group.
Islamophobes never want to play the substitution game, which is why they cry “tu quoque, tu quoque” whenever anyone uses it. They must at all costs prevent it from being used because it lays bare their bigotry.
In this particular case, it’s supporting “religious freedom” to use taxpayer money to provide Kosher meals to Jewish residents. But remember: it would be against freedom and free choice to use taxpayer money to provide Halal meals for Muslims. When it’s about Kosher, then it’s forcing your religious beliefs onto Jews to not provide Kosher meals, thereby “forcing” them to eat non-Kosher meals; when it’s about Halal, then it’s Muslims forcing their beliefs onto us, by forcing us to provide them with special meals.
As George Orwell said: ”Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”
Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.