Borat the Character and Cohen the Jew

Jonah Goldberg can surprise me every now and then and come up with a good column; his piece on the film Borat and its star Sacha Baron Cohen was not such an occasion. He basically sees the film as an attempt to make America look like a racist and militaristic nation for the benefit of those who hate America, especially in Europe, and Cohen as someone with a grudge against America, I do not see it that way.

I went to see the film Borat twice since it has been out. The first time I saw it at a big multiplex in the St. Louis suburbs (St. Louis Mills Mall) and the second time I saw it at a more upscale urban theater at the Chase Park Plaza. Both audiences laughed throughout the movie and at most of the same scenes; however there were a few scenes that flew over the heads of those at the suburban mall and that hit home to the audience at the Chase and those were the jokes that people who are not familiar with Jewish history and issues will not get. The crowd at the Chase, by my estimation, was heavily Jewish, and again by my guesstimate, the crowd at the Mills contained few Jews.

Why do I make this point? Because in order to understand Borat, or any of the other characters that Cohen plays, you must first understand who Cohen the Jew is and how his Jewishness colors all of his brilliant work. This is a man with a strong sense of a Jewish identity, a commitment to the faith, and the product of an observant Jewish home.

Borat is an anti-Semite not just because Cohen seeks to highlight the fact that in many cultures anti-Semitism is a part of the national fabric; but also to draw out the anti-Semitism of others who at first appearance are more refined and sophisticated. Goldberg points to the fact that there are only two real instances in the film, at the rodeo and with the frat boys, that Cohen is able to usefully do this, and that is incomplete.

First let us look at the character of Borat on Da Ali G Show on HBO. On that show Cohen was given hunting lessons by a man who supported the killings of Jews by Nazis in the holocaust and said he personally would not mind if Jews were hunted on his ranch, a bar full of people joining in on an anti-Semitic sing-along (“throw the Jew down the well”) at a country western bar, a Mississippi politician who said all Jews or going to hell and as he character of Bruno a man at a gun show who goes on an anti-Semitic rant. You will also notice that during the film Borat Cohen, who did research on the American Civil Rights Movement in college, happens to bring a black hooker to a Southern mansion on Succession Drive and he falls and breaks the goods in a store dedciated to the memory of the Confederacy. It should also be noted that while at the right-wing Pentacostal Church, where fiery political rhetoric was given, a general stood on the stage and cheered the whole time.

The point Cohen is trying to make is that behind the niceties and political correctness, anti-Semitism still exists below the surface amongst many and on this issue I agree with him wholeheartedly and I can somehow identify with the character of Borat on this issue.

When people find out that I am a Muslim they often seek to get on my good side by telling me that they also dislike Jews (not knowing that I do not hold any animosity towards Jews they just assume that because I am a Muslim I am an anti-Semite) and through this I have learned that the hatred of Jews is one thing that unties a lot of people of many different racial and religious backgrounds. If the work of Cohen can bring this to the service he has perfumes a mitzvah in my humble opinion.

 

This topic is increasingly important in an era of a new anti-Semitism, the resurgences of classical anti-Semitism, and a generation of lost (and in many cases self loathing Jews) in the Jewish Diaspora. Cohen should be applauded for addressing this issue, unlike many prominent Jews in entertainment who run away from all tings Jewish and as the award winning American-Jewish documentarian Marc Levin has said “ you can get Jews in Hollywood to talk about anything….except Jews.”

15 Things the Imam Wont Talk About at Jummahu

  1. The fact that a large number of the children of immigrant Muslims are apostating from Islam.
  2. The fact that those remaining in the deen, who do not apostate, basically consider themselves agnostics and never pray and do not fast; but are not willing to get into a huge fight with their parents by telling them they are not Muslims.
  3. While over 90% of American college graduates have been sexually active at some time, and on some campuses the figure is much higher, Muslims tend to be less active but still sexually active at high rates and while daddies little princess is getting her MBA so she can marry that “Punjabi Muslim with a PHD” she is learning more than the nuances of American capitalism on campus.
  4. The issue of child abuse; in many communities child abuse is the rule and not the exception, and in many communities where it is not the rule the kids are running wild.
  5. Absentee fathers,
  6. Wife abuse. If you are a brother and being abused by your wife that is bad, but I feel more sorry for her in the fact that she married you; but what we don’t talk about in the community is the fact that wife beating is very common and this ranges from immigrant communties to African-American communities and there have been few places, with the possible exception of East Orange, where this issue has been taken seriously. Meanwhile, brothers are looking out for brothers.
  7. The fact that you have Muslim communities with millions of dollars of income a year who have to go and beg foreign sources for money to maintain and expand Masjids and you can pass the hat on Friday to a crowd of several hundred and only get a hundred bucks.
  8. The issue of why Muslims are in America when it is known from shariah that to migrate to a non-Muslim land from a Muslim land for purposes other than dawah is haram and that if you are such a brother and are pious, you cant be that pious when you left a Muslim land for America.
  9. The failures of Muslim societies. These brothers get over here from the basket-cases called Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, etc. (places that are in poverty not because of the West, America or “the Jews” but because of the failed culture and practices of the people) and talk about how great those places are and then trash America. A good khutbah would remind them they left a miserable place for a prosperous place and that they should embrace America and not only look at it as an ATM machine.
  10. Corrupt Muslim business. Delis and grocers selling bad food at high prices, dishonest cab drivers, sellers of bootleg merchandise, owners of pay phones that do not work, real estate agencies that prey on the poor, dingy restaurants selling dirty food, bloodsucking check cashers and payday loan stores and the like, what do all of these things have in common? They are fields in which Muslims dominate in many American cities. Yet, with much of the money at the Masjid coming from these sources, is the imam going to complain?
  11. Freeloading brothers in the community.
  12. Sisters who keep marrying brothers who get them pregnant and have more babies and after each divorce run to the Masjid broke. At some point we become enablers.
  13. Arab and other immigrant men marrying fat , ugly and trashy white women for a few years and holding these throwaways up as their trophy wives ( the difference in an Arab and Jewish shiksha is 100 pounds) before abandoning their white woman and kids for their cousin back home.
  14. Race relations in the community.
  15. Why immigrant brothers who are a part of failed political movements in their home countries, and cannot influence Third World backwards regimes; should be in leadership roles in the political Muslim community and not take a back seat to American brothers who actually have a clue as to what is going on.