John Seven: Inclusive community measure protects Jews, Muslims

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NORTH ADAMS — I applaud the unanimous decision by the North Adams City Council on the resolution declaring North Adams a safe and inclusive community and condemning hate toward "race, ethnicity, religion, sexual and gender identity, national origin, citizenship or of any perceived or actual identity."

I am glad to see that the counselors who previously raised some objections do see that actions or inaction nowadays sends a message. Local acts like these will become more and more important.

I was dismayed by the objection to singling out Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the document. Councilor Moulton voiced this and Councilor Moran seconded it. Moulton suggested that a century from now persecuted religious groups might be different and the document should not name groups being targeted now.

But if part of the reason you're passing this resolution is to offer protection to people in danger now, it's worth naming them as a clear line in the sand to the threats. Moulton revealed his ulterior motive when he said his concern was for Christians, who he described as "the most persecuted religious group in the country."

Moulton was giving into Christian Persecution Syndrome, which involves a Christian not being satisfied until they are acknowledged for having it harder than any other religion, despite that being entirely untrue. Certainly when offering other religions facing widespread persecution, Moulton didn't mention Hindus or Buddhists or Sikhs or Wiccans even. He mentioned Catholics..

This is a bizarre claim that is used to fuel hostilities from the alt-right.

Jews are the target of 60 percent of American hate crimes, not Christians. Anti-Semitic incidents have doubled on campuses.

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Hate crimes against non-Christian groups have been on the rise for the last two years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization. In 2016, anti-Muslim hate groups grew by 197 percent. Anti-Semitism has also risen, with more incidents of vandalism and online harassment.

By contrast, 70 percent of Americans are Christians. You cannot be the controlling religion and the most persecuted one. It is impossible.

It's disappointing that no one on the council other than the often impressive and always compassionate Councilor Kate Merrigan bothered to counter these claims by Moulton, speaking about the history of Christian dominance in American history. The general response was that they could go either way, which is a tepid statement coming from a bunch of non-Jews and non-Muslims debating on the fate of Jews and Muslims in a statement proclaiming commitment to their safety.

We need to single out these religions in our statement against hate? Yes. Loudly. Decisively.

Locally, I and others have encountered small but virulent anti-Muslim sentiment, from the belief that Sharia, or Islamic law, is around the corner to at least one citizen advocating online for the mass murder of Muslims. Considering the efforts of groups like ACT for America, which seeks to ignite a religious war on a grassroots level and which has an office in Boston, and the New England presence of other hate groups like the Daily Stormer, the Soldiers of Odin and IHM Media, and the KKK in upstate New York, the risks of escalation are real.

If a Christian community takes a loud and strong stand in defense of Muslims and Jews, that sends a message to Moulton's proposed future world, one that looks back to the kindness of the Christian community here and returns the favor if needed. It is not time for delicacy, it is time for forthrightness. It does not demean Christians to single out the two most persecuted religious groups in our country in a statement against hate. It makes Christians stronger and offers an example of what really does make America great.

Contact John Seven at mister.j.seven@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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