God and Man at Stanford

Feb. 27 2018

Stanford University, like any other major institution of higher learning in America, prides itself on the diversity of its students. Yet on its campus the devout of any faith are hard to come by, receive few accommodations from administrators, and face the bewilderment of their peers. Ben Simon, drawing on his own experiences as an observant Jew, and conversations with religious students of various faiths, reports:

Though the undergraduate student body comprises just over 7,000 students, one can count on one or two hands the number of religious Jewish undergraduates. . . . The story is similar when it comes to religious Muslim students. . . .

Stanford places a great deal of emphasis on building robust ethnic communities. How many other universities have dorms dedicated to fostering Black or Latino or Asian culture and community? But when it comes to strong traditionally religious communities, save for a slightly larger Christian contingent, Stanford is conspicuously lacking, especially when compared to other top-tier universities. . . . It may be unreasonable to expect a secular institution like Stanford to accommodate fully each student’s religious needs. With that said, Stanford goes far beyond the letter of the law when it comes to ethnic or racial diversity but does little to go out of its way to help religious students. . . .

When it comes to day-to-day interactions between secular and religious students, questions of religious practice and belief are oftentimes avoided. “People are too afraid to ask me about my practices,” says “Fatima,” [a Muslim student] who wears a hijab and prays five times a day. . . . “Rachel,” [an Orthodox Jew], also wishes religious topics weren’t taboo. “It’s obvious that everyone I interact with on a daily basis knows I’m religious, but no one ever really asks about it, except for my closest friends. People always say that diversity is important, but I wish we actually talked about what makes us different.”

Politics can also be a sensitive subject for religious students. Fanny, an evangelical student, recounts a conversation she had with her Catholic roommate about religion and its application to politics. “As soon as we began the subject, both of us glanced at the door, which was open. In a moment of unspoken agreement, I went over and closed the door.” Fanny thinks this incident sums up the challenging parts of being religious on campus. “For a university that champions free and open discourse, it is ironic that there are some opinions that just never make their way out of closed doors.”

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More about: American Muslims, American Religion, Evangelical Christianity, Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, University

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror