Imagine, there was a prominent Jewish clan in the town of Medina, in the Arabian Peninsula. At the time, the people of Arabia (the Arabs) were pagan. Came the Messenger of Allah, Muhammed, seeking shelter from his enemies in Mecca, where he first revealed the new religion of Islam, and brought his teachings to Medina. At first, it was difficult for Muhammed to gain a following in Medina, as well. Yet, he was a great and charismatic leader. Sooner or later, Muhammed attracted the Arabs of Medina to his side. The Jews of Medina, however, continued to reject Muhammed’s teachings. Muhammed then raised a militia and defeated his opponents of Mecca, as well as, of Medina, and forever silenced all doubters, including the Jews of Arabia. Muhammed, thereby, showed everyone he was a strategic mastermind who knew when to make peace and when to war with those who reject him as the Messenger of Allah.
In short, this is what one of my SJSU students wrote on his short essay response (which I briefly paraphrased above) for my summer (2019) course on Western Civilization (until 1648). It had almost nothing to do with the assignment, which was to write at least five-hundred words on any aspect of the history in chapters 8-14 in the assigned textbook, The Making of the West, that had to do with either gender or economy. It was a way to assess how well the students gobbled up large chunks of information presented to them in the one-month long summer session that ought to take three months to cover.
I am not sure why someone would write the response I paraphrased above. Is it because I am unmistakably Jewish? I could just ignore the matter, make no mention of it publicly, not bring unsavory attention to the issue and to myself.
Now, imagine, in an American history course, a white student wrote an essay response to a black professor that retold the history of American slavery from the perspective of Confederate slave-owners, even though it had nothing to do with the assignment. The professor in question would be confronted by a Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. Dubois choice: Should she/he not call any attention to the matter because he has more important things to focus on or worry about, such as, his personal career? Or, should she/he call attention to the matter and risk making someone in the administration uncomfortable, especially since the university blogosphere is almost entirely for promotional purposes?
From my personal point of view, as someone who is unmistakably Jewish, the primary difference between the case in my course and the hypothetical case in the American history course is that American slavery is something that happened less than two centuries ago, the effects of which are still very much present in American society, while the enslavement and eradication of the Jews of Medina happened about fifteen centuries ago.
Of course, the response was written in 2019 and should the administration investigate, there was absolutely nothing on my part that would prompt such a response. Not even close.