Peter Gottschalk:

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted recently that “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin.”

Her comments came in response to media reports that the suspect behind the shooting at a San Diego synagogue was also under investigation for burning a mosque.

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have shown an increase in recent years. But is there an association between the two?

As author of “American Heretics,” I have found that American antagonism toward Islamic and Jewish traditions goes back nearly 500 years, and shares some unfortunate connections.

From time to time, Muslims and Jews have both been viewed as being antithetical to certain ideas of Americanness.

Nativism and Jewish immigration

As I explore in my book, nativism – an effort to protect the position of native-born citizens from perceived threats by immigrants – has periodically erupted in the U.S. since at least the early 19th century. These nativist beliefs have led to bias, exclusion and even violence against different religious groups who immigrated to America.

Although Jews had faced discrimination since first settling in Europe’s North American colonies in the 17th century, they were not depicted as a racial threat until around 1900.

In the early 20th century, northeastern American cities swelled in size as both factories and immigrant labor increased. Both caused popular anxieties about industrial capitalism and urban decay. 

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