I hope that my peers and I carry the lessons we learned with us moving forward, and inspire others to join us in this good fight against not only antisemitism and Islamophobia, but all forms of hate.
By Alexandra Ahdoot
In recent years, Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate have reached all-time highs in America. Especially in the current age of social media, where misinformation can be re-posted and circulated within seconds, bias and hatred against both groups has only created more animosity. Moreover, antisemitism and Islamophobia are perpetuated by the increasingly polarized environment surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As a “loud and proud” Jewish student, I have always spoken out against all forms of antisemitism, especially when it manifests as anti-Israel bias within the media. At Duke, I strive to create a more open dialogue around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by connecting with people of different backgrounds and engaging in civil discourse. In these conversations, it is critical to note that Jew hatred surrounding the conflict often goes hand in hand with Islamophobia.
I recently returned from a 10-day fellowship mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates, where my cohort of 40 college students from all different backgrounds and religions discussed these very topics. During the trip, I saw the Middle East through an entirely new lens, and our diverse cohort came together in using our differences as a source of strength rather than divisiveness. While we all had different stories and upbringings, we were united in our mission of learning about the Abraham Accords, experiencing its effects on the ground, and returning to our respective campuses as ambassadors of tolerance and unity across borders.
I feel a strikingly similar dynamic in “Combating Hate in the Digital Age" course. While I often struggle with feeling like I’m “preaching to the choir” in my antisemitism and Israel-related advocacy efforts, this class has disproven me time and time again. We are a mix of students of different religions, upbringings, and political views, yet we share this common goal of recognizing and calling out hate in all its forms. The group of students and our two professors inspire me immensely, and the class gives me true hope for the future. When other students directly ask me questions about antisemitism and Israel, or when my professors jokingly say that I should be teaching the class, it makes me realize that the work we are collectively doing to combat hate is truly meaningful and has impacts beyond our own respective communities.
For me, “Combating Hate in the Digital Age” has been an incredibly enriching experience. Not only have I been able to learn more about the historical origins of antisemitism and Islamophobia and the ways that these hateful “viruses” have mutated over time, but I have been able to be open about my own identity, experiences, and background and candidly share how this has shaped my worldview. I have learned so much from Professors Schanzer and Antepli, as well as from my peers.
These 17 other students and I come to class every week ready for a profound discussion. We are transparent in our perspectives, and not afraid to question or challenge each other. There have been moments of disagreement, tension, and pushback, but this is what makes our conversations so rewarding. Already, we have discussed topics such as the exploitation of theology in contemporary terrorism, have learned about the way that Muslim stereotypes permeate our institutions, entertainment, and media, and have debated things like the gray area between free speech and hate speech. These discussions have allowed me to build upon my existing knowledge of antisemitism and dive much more deeply into the issues of Islamophobia. It is only through understanding both types of hatred — their origins, modern manifestations, and intertwined nature — that we can rise up and fight them from an educated and empowered standpoint, rather than succumb to the narratives and bias we so often see and hear in the media.
Professors David Schanzer and Abdullah Antepli are two incredibly intelligent people who I am beyond grateful to know — I applaud them for putting this class together and encouraging all of us to connect with and truly listen to each other in an open environment. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I hope that my peers and I carry the lessons we learned with us moving forward, and inspire others to join us in this good fight against not only antisemitism and Islamophobia, but all forms of hate.
Alexandra Ahdoot is a Duke sophomore from Great Neck, N.Y. She is pursuing a Public Policy major and minor in Economics. Outside of the classroom, Alex serves as President of Duke Students Supporting Israel, and is an active member of both TAMID at Duke and the Duke Real Estate Club. She is also a die-hard Yankees fan and a true Cameron Crazie!