Drew joins forces with Manhattan College to educate and spread awareness
December 2023 – Drew University and Manhattan College joined forces to present a timely webinar to their combined communities entitled Antisemitism and Islamophobia Now: Why This Is and What We Can Do.
The event featured Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture, & Conflict Jonathan Golden, and Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Holocaust, Genocide & Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College Mehnaz Afridi.
Donald Proby, leadership consultant, mediator & conflict transformation facilitator, moderated the event. “This is an invitation to move away from positionality that is fueling so much conflict,” he said. “In this space, we want to elevate humanity.”
The event opened a dialogue to understand the history of antisemitism and Islamophobia and provided strategies to navigate the unrest and move towards peacemaking.
In a model of empathy, compassion, and a commitment to the principle of taking a stand against hatred, Golden, an observant Jew, provided a history on Islamophobia. Afridi, a Muslim, offered a history of antisemitism. The speakers explored shared perspectives across differences and outside of their own experiences.
“As a Jew, I feel it is absolutely my responsibility to stand up for Muslims or anyone who is experiencing any sort of hatred,” said Golden.
“This has been a challenging and explosive time for someone like me who is Muslim and has fought against antisemitism and Islamophobia—being someone who has experienced Islamophobia during my time in the U.S. and elsewhere,” shared Afridi, who pointed out that freedom of speech is very different and distinctive from freedom of hate.
“You do have the freedom to protest, but not the freedom to hate,” she said. “We need to respect the pain of others.”
Both speakers stressed the importance of getting involved with interfaith communities and finding unbiased information and educational resources. “Fact check what you’re reading and posting,” cautioned Golden. “When you’re in such fraught territory, extra care with your language is essential.”
Afridi advised against engaging in polarizing conversations, resulting in deepening the divide and pulling people further apart. “We have to navigate our spaces peacefully because we don’t have the answers,” she said. “There are other issues that surround the problem. It’s about nation, race, religion, space—so many things in one complex ball. The best thing we can do in the U.S. is to be there for one another.”
The speakers concurred that the best practice is to listen. “If you’re going to have a conversation, try to have an open mind,” said Afridi. “Talk to people who have historical knowledge on many different sides.”
“We don’t practice selective empathy,” said Golden.