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By Andrea Peyser
December 11, 2015
I am not a bigot.
The fact that I, a white, Jewish, American-born citizen of the United States, feels compelled to make such a pointless declaration speaks volumes about the insanity of our times.
I own not a shred of racial or religious prejudice. Yet I feel as if I’m perpetually accused of harboring thought crimes that I’m not even aware I’ve committed — simply because I would defend this country to the death.
I live in Brooklyn, near one of the most vibrant Muslim neighborhoods in the nation. I interact daily with people of the Islamic faith, eat in restaurants fragrant with Middle Eastern spices, patronize Muslim-owned shops and have sent my daughter to schools in which she has shared desks and secrets with girls wearing hijabs and boys who will be called to prayer five times a day. I’m proud.
I’m proud to live in New York City, a place in which citizens check their prejudices at the door and deal, respectfully, with people who look, act and worship differently than they do. Wherever we were born, however we pray, or even if we don’t, we all have one thing in common: We live in the greatest country on Planet Earth.
So why is President Obama subtly accusing me of bashing people whom I hold in high regard?
Why has United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch threatened to prosecute those who slam Muslims online, while saying not a word about the threat Islamic radicals pose to us all — including other Muslims?
Channeling a Post editorial’s headline, I have one word for the president’s speech delivered to the nation on Sunday: pathetic.
He blamed “the perverted interpretation of Islam’’ observed by a husband-and-wife duo who slaughtered 14 innocents and wounded 21 others in San Bernardino, Calif., before being shot to death by police. He was close, but no cigar.
The president pushed lawmakers to enact tougher gun-control laws.
Then he launched into a condescending lecture against Islamophobia which, in Obama’s mind, seems to be as great a threat to the peace as mass murder.
“It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who[m] we admit into this country,’’ he said. (Take that, Donald Trump!)
“It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently.’’
Lynch was worse.
Addressing members of an Islamic group the day after the carnage in San Bernardino, she said the US Justice Department would “take action” when anti-Islamic speech “edges towards violence, when we see the potential to lift . . . that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Four days later, she dialed back the comments. “Of course, we prosecute deeds and not words,” Lynch soothed.
What the devil are they thinking?
The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did not unleash wide-scale violence against Muslims, nor are the recent assaults in California and Paris likely to turn large numbers of Americans into mouth-breathing bashers of men in beards and women in headscarves.
Anti-Semitism is a far bigger problem than anti-Islamic bias in this country, the most recent FBI statistics, from 2013, show. Of 1,223 religiously based hate crimes reported that year, 60.3 percent of victims — of acts ranging from verbal harassment to physical attacks — were committed by offenders motivated by bias against Jews.
In contrast, just 13.7 percent of hate criminals targeted Muslims, the FBI reported. The proportion of these crimes aimed against Jews has topped 60 percent every year for at least more than a decade.
Still, I’m not down with Trump. The 2016 Republican presidential front-runner has outraged some GOP rivals by proposing that noncitizen Muslims be temporarily banned from entering the United States. But among GOP voters, 42 percent back his proposal, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, while 36 percent oppose it.
But then, why do lawmakers back similar plans?
On Tuesday, members of the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill, supported by the president, that would bar people from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan, or those who have visited those countries since March 1, 2011, from traveling to the United States without a visa.
Last month, the House easily passed an Obama-opposed bill that would stop this country from accepting new refugees from Syria and Iraq until key national-security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk.
Which folks would these measures single out? Muslims.
I believe that the vast majority of my Muslim neighbors love this country as fiercely as I do. But this is no time to engage in the kind of shaming advanced by the president and attorney general.
Muslims must join the fight to root out terrorists.
Many already have and, I believe, many more will.