No question all forms of prejudice should be condemned in America

No question all forms of prejudice should be condemned in America
© Stefani Reynolds

The House of Representatives has been grappling with how to deal with the issue of anti-Semitic statements by public officials. The leadership is on the right track to condemning biased statements and actions against Jews and Muslims in one resolution. I bring a particular perspective to this issue as having served 26 years in the House as the only Jewish member of Congress from Texas in the history of the state. The Dallas Fort Worth area I represented had politically active Jewish and Muslim communities.

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One the one hand, one of the new Muslim members of Congress has made several statements viewed as anti-Semitic early in her career as a lawmaker. This has been echoed over the years by neo-Nazis and by some Republicans, including the president, who have just given dog whistles to anti-Semites in the voting public. On the other hand, some members of the voting public and some elected officials, including the president, have made some statements condemning Muslims as a class.

Let me draw on my experiences as a former member of Congress. Shortly after I was elected, my wife Valerie had attended a rally protesting the treatment of Jewish “refuseniks” by the Soviet Union. A spectator yelled out, “Go back to where you came from.” My wife, who grew up on Texas, was quick on her feet and replied back, “What do you mean? Fort Worth?”

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Fast forward to 9/11 when the United States came under attack by Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia who crashed planes into the Twin Towers in New York and into the Pentagon in Washington, killing thousands. Feelings were running strong all over country. In Texas, someone shot and killed a Korean shop owner in the Dallas area solely because he looked foreign.

I joined with Muslim leaders to condemn acts of violence against loyal Americans who happened to be Muslim or from another country. I asked one of my key local staffers to attend a public ceremony at a mosque in Fort Worth to express solidarity with the American Muslim community.

Any politician or other citizen who makes anti-Semitic statements should be called out by their colleagues and any person who attacks Americans as a class because they are Muslim should likewise be condemned. We can and should do both. We are a great country and we should condemn prejudice no matter where it is directed. This is not an “either or” policy.

Martin Frost served as a representative from Texas in Congress and is a past chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.