Max Zuckerberg was born on a crisp December in 1899 New York City to immigrant parents from Austria. Marcus Hollander, on the other hand, was born in 1874 in Hungary, and, before the new century, immigrated to the same city. If it isn’t already obvious from their names, both Max and Marcus were Ashkenazic Jews, and at a time when anti-Semitism had resurged in Europe to become not just an institutionalised hatred of Jews, but one based in [pseudo]scientific study of race. Then why are two humble Jews Max and Marcus, a fruit peddler and a tailor born in the 19th century, still important to us? Because they’re both Mark Zuckerberg’s great-grandfathers, and put his statement of support for Muslims in larger context.
We may be living in the least violent century in the history of the world, but the increasing flatness of the world makes even the most tempered act of violence that much more palpable. Two continents – Africa and Asia – with the largest share of Muslims are in a violent conflict of ideology, identity, ethnicity, resources, politics, economy, geography and history. There are as many reasons for this turmoil as there languages that Muslims in these regions speak. Yet, it is life that one man’s tragedy is another man’s rhetoric, and that has seemingly come to define American politics over the last fifteen years.
For many who are Jewish, this dumbing down of complex politics within West Asia, and its happy Western benefactors, to religion and ethnicity of Muslims is familiar, and sets a dangerous precedent. Nothing makes that more obvious than the utterly reprehensible and long-winded Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate for the “Free World”. Trump, in his vendetta against blacks, Mexicans, Muslims and literally anyone who isn’t white, has said things that not just betray his stupidity and propensity for spewing sensational falsehoods, but a uniquely skanky mythos that has millions of rabid followers supporting “internment” (much like the Japanese American concentration camps in the 40s), marking Muslims to banning them from entry in the USA. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson called his ignorance “stupefying” and stressed that while London would never ban Trump from visiting, he would not want Londoners struck with the misfortune of bumping into him. ‘Mr. Trump, like others, fuels hatred: our ONLY enemy is radical Islam’, wrote French PM Manuel Valls. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, considers the porcine billionaire’s comments ‘divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong’. Labour Party’s Jack Dromey echoed his colleague’s sentiments saying Trump was a ‘dangerous fool’ at a time when ‘we most need a unity of people and faiths to defeat ISIS’. Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev wrote in Haaretz: ‘For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago’. Ironically, Trump’s support base largely includes conservative ultra-nationalists in America and Europe, the same group of people who made it economical to systematically suppress (and annihilate) Jews – Jews like Max and Marcus.
So it was only natural that Mark Zuckerberg would write in support of America’s and the world’s Muslim community with the promise that no amount of bigotry, hate, prejudice and ignorance could make Facebook turn its Muslims away. Granted, Facebook isn’t a country; it’s not even a place, but just a virtual site. Yet Zuckerberg’s opinion will be echoed by many individuals (and the corporations they represent), politicians, celebrities and normalfolk, especially those whose parents or ancestors came to America in boats and ships, who vow to stand by what they want America to be: the land that anyone can make home. It’s a pity that the same Grand Old Party that gave birth to the man who abolished slavery and preserved the Union is also one that has created millions of divisive hatemongers who have no qualms about being reactionary neo-supremacists in the guise of “concerned” patriots. Trump is the village idiot who became a billionaire and may as well become the president of -undoubtedly- the most powerful country in the world. That should certainly put a large question mark on the fate of many growing markets in “Muslim Asia”, and how Muslims will perceive their leaders who and businesses that deal with Trump, especially when we have given him billions in business.
‘As a Jew,’ continued Zuckerberg, ‘my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone.’
What is most heart-rendering, and something we, as Asians, should equally emulate, is that those in positions of power who can affect change, like Zuckerberg, and millions who have expressed support of his views, want Muslims to know that they are ‘always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you’.
This should be the model for every society that wants to grow.
Trump’s nationalistic appeal is that he has enough money to wrest himself free of lobbies and corporations and wealthy industries that unfortunately dictate democracy and elections in America. The irony is that Muslim money made his candidacy even more possible. It may be too early to predict what becomes in a world where Trump is President of the United States of America… In the end, let us leave this space with words of wisdom from Tagore on nationalism:
‘For then it goads with its neighbouring societies with greed of material prosperity, and consequent mutual jealousy, and by the fear of each other grows into powerfulness. The time comes when it can stop no longer, for the completion grows keener, organisation grows vaster, and selfishness attains supremacy. Trading upon greed and fear of man, it occupies more and more space in society, and at last becomes its ruling force’.