Director’s Desk: Blood Libels, Trump, and How to Oppose Islamophobia

by Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director

My aunt was blind in one eye. When she was a child in Czarist Russia, anti-Semitic gangs rode through the Jewish village where she lived, burning and shooting. A sliver of glass went into her eye.

The reason for this destruction: a local child had gone missing, and the Christian peasants were convinced that the Jews had murdered the child and used his blood in the making of matzot, the ritual bread we Jews eat during the holiday of Passover. This absurd claim, known as the “Blood Libel”, had a long history in European Christianity, and led to the murder of thousands of Jews in the 15th through the 19th Centuries, exposing the racist heart at the center of the West, a civilization in which the dominant majority culture descended into hatred in order the transform the minority in its midst, the Jews, into the hated OTHER, an inferior and dangerous kind of human being.

In today’s America, the Muslim has become this hated OTHER, in part due to the spreading of hate, lies, and distortions by certain media outlets and public personalities, some of whom are even running for president, the highest office in the land. And at the center of this Islamophobic eruption is a modern version of the anti-Semitic Blood Libel, the false charge by Donald Trump that thousands of American Muslims were seen and videotaped in New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. And adding exponentially to the bloody mess, the new charge by Donald Trump, made last week at a campaign rally in Nevada, that U.S. General John Pershing summarily executed dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with pig-tainted ammunition during the guerrilla war against the occupying United States during the first decades of the 20th Century. “Pershing took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the fiftieth person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, okay? We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”

MSNBC’s reporter, Benjy Sarlin, who was at the Trump campaign event, wrote:

“The most unsettling thing about Trump’s aside isn’t that it’s false, though. It’s that he’s indulging an openly racist murder fantasy — in which an American military officer uses dead Muslims he had killed with bullets dipped in the pig’s blood (an animal whose meat and other byproducts are considered impure, and thus forbidden from consumption, by the Qur’an) to terrorize many more Muslims — in order to convince South Carolinians to vote for him.”

Now, CAIR-Philadelphia is a legal not-for-profit organization registered in, and abiding by, the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As such, CAIR is forbidden by law from working for or against any candidate for public office, no matter our personal feelings about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States.

What CAIR can do, however, and what it has been doing superbly for 10 years now, is to oppose the anti-Muslim ideology of the Trumps, the Cruzs, the Pamela Gellers, the Robert Spencers, and educate the American public about the values of Islam, its love of peace, its dedication to charity, its belief in religious co-existence.

But CAIR cannot continue to do this without the support of the people reading this newsletter. With your generous contributions, you make possible not only our abundant educational work and media engagement, which reaches tens of thousands in our area, but the offering of free legal services to area Muslims facing public or private-sector discrimination or persecution.

So please, register today for our 10th Anniversary Banquet on March 12 at Springfield Country Club, one of the highlights of the Philadelphia Muslim social calendar. Network with old and new friends and colleagues, meet Muslim politicians State Senator Jason Dawkins and Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, learn about the achievements of the past decade, such as CAIR’s defeat of the proposed anti-Shariah legislation in the Pennsylvania House, and listen to the inspirational and often hilarious words of our keynote speaker, Muslim columnist, comedian, and blogger, Dean Obeidallah.