The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, pushing us online, limiting our contact with others, and causing growing feelings of isolation. For some, this isolation has resulted in political insulation, where differing viewpoints are never heard unless they are being dismissed or ridiculed. Online filter bubbles resulting from social media algorithms have pushed some into dark cycles of prejudice, encouraging hate against many groups, including Jewish and Muslim communities across the globe.
This cannot be tolerated. Even national figures have spewed this hate, including Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Taylor Greene has been cited as saying that Muslims do not belong in government and that Jewish space lasers caused the 2018 California wildfires, among many other hateful and idiotic lies.
These bigoted falsehoods have long predated the pandemic, but social media feedback loops have allowed them to go unchecked and spread without control. New twisted lies have emerged during the pandemic, as mask mandates and vaccinations are compared to the Holocaust and Democrats pushing COVID protocols and vaccines are compared to Nazis, which undermines the suffering and death of millions of Jews. No surprise, Taylor Greene spread these as well and has surprisingly since apologized, but this damage has already spread to everyday Americans. A rioter at the January 6 insurrection, who has since been arrested, was seen wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie alongside other instances of anti-Semitism at the riot.
Political turmoil has also resulted in bigotry. News reports of the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict, which was featured over the summer as Jewish settlers attempted to displace Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, ignited anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks across the globe, with both sides seeing a sharp uptake in attacks and targeted hate speech. Even more recently, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has reignited fears of Muslim men, who are accused of being terrorists, seeking refuge in the US alongside their families and other common Islamophobic claims. Islamophobia will undoubtedly increase as these refugees enter the United States, and perhaps even Mississippi. Each American has the responsibility to fight it.
As students step foot on campus, some for the first time since March 2020, we must confront this head-on. Students come to UM from across the country and from around the world; many may have been directly taught these harmful misconceptions or have been exposed to them during the pandemic. It is the duty of every student, faculty member and administrator to stop this bigotry in its tracks. Oxford and the UM campus are homes to diverse populations, including members of all backgrounds and worldviews. Respect for all is to be expected and no diversion from this should be tolerated. The Oxford-University community hosts Islamic and Jewish communities, including the Jewish Federation of Oxford and a sizeable Muslim population attending the Oxford Masjid (Mosque).
When we see these communities, among any other, attacked, we must take a stand and respond. The Ole Miss Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) assists all victims of prejudice and bias-related incidents and helps determine the appropriate next steps. Victims should not have to face these attacks alone, and it is the entire campus’s responsibility to be their ally, regardless of religion, race, sexuality or other identifier.
Londyn Lorenz is the opinion editor from Perryville, Missouri, majoring in Arabic and international studies.