Friday, November 03, 2006

Reaching Out to the Muslim Community

I read Robert Sklar's editorial in the Detroit Jewish News with fascination last week. We are constantly being told that the way to a radical Muslim's heart is through dialogue. We Jews and Christians have been repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the Muslim community. But what happens when Jews and Christians do reach out? Well, for one thing, the true colors of Muslim leaders become vivid and crystal clear.

After reading the editorial, I read Rabbi Klein's Yom Kippur sermon where he tells of his experience in reaching out to local Muslims.
If you recall, the convergence of our calendars found Rosh Hashana and the first day of Ramadan on the same Monday night new moon, preceded by the Lutheran’s Church’s “World Peace Sunday”. On the Friday night immediately before Rosh Hashana we welcomed Christian and Muslim lay and clergy to our Shabbat worship, which was followed by a Saturday night program at the new Dearborn mosque, which was followed by a Sunday afternoon service and discussion in a Detroit church. The tone and tenor of all three experiences spoke of common goals and values, of shared hopes for continuing interfaith dialogue and increasing cooperation. From those Holidays to these, much has changed, and on this Yom Kippur, I ask your forgiveness for my naïve belief that we share core values with our American Muslim neighbors.

The Muslim cleric with whom I sat on a panel discussion at the church was Imam Hassan Qazwini. I was heartened to hear him speak Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon of that interfaith weekend, about the evil of terrorism, and the terrible, tragic loss of innocent, civilian lives at the hands of suicide bombers. It was just a few weeks after that weekend, during the final week of Ramadan, that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made international headlines with his message to university students in Teheran that Israel should be wiped off the map of the earth. Ahmadinejad declared war against the “World of Arrogance”. He called Israel the “primary front of the World of Arrogance in the heart of the Islamic world,” and he declared that the struggle against Israel was only the beginning of a war between Islam and the international non-Muslim world, a war that Islam would certainly win. “Is it possible,” he asked rhetorically, “to witness a world without America and Zionism? You had best know that this slogan and this goal is attainable, and surely can be attained.”

I immediately called Imam Qazwini at the Islamic Center of America, but for two days, could only reach the mosque’s answering machine. So I emailed him, expressing my hope that he would publicly distance himself from the President of Iran, especially in light of that month’s interfaith weekend. I said that as religious leaders, we must quickly and publicly denounce this kind of hateful rhetoric, lest it become even more difficult for our faith-communities to build bridges of friendship and cooperation. I never heard from him. Al chet sh’chatani, for the sin I committed in dismissing the history of our local Muslim leadership, for the hope that a moderate Islam was growing in Dearborn.

This summer, during Israel’s war with Hezbollah, the Dearborn community rallied beneath Hezbollah flags, shouting “Death to the Zionists”. The Arab American Political Action Committee, and the Congress of Arab American Organizations condemned Israel and America’s support of Israel, equating the Jewish nation with Nazi Germany, calling the Jewish state “occupied Palestine” and praising the dedication of Hamas and Hezbollah “freedom fighters.” Reported in the press was a gathering at the Bint Jabeil Cultural Center, held the last week of July, at the height of the Lebanese war. The report described a blistering call for the destruction of Israel and death to its Zionist lackeys in the west. Imam Qazwini was there, as were other Muslim clerics.
Read the whole thing. And then remember what Robert Sklar says in his editorial:
There are rules for dialogue, and one clear rule is that one side should not be advocating the destruction of the other.
Apparently, Rabbi Klein's sermon has been speeding around the Internet. This led to an article in today's Detroit Free Press.
On the holiest day of the Jewish year, Rabbi Joseph Klein rose before his congregation in Oak Park last month to deliver a stunning sermon in which he apologized for working with local Muslim leaders and vowed to boycott interfaith events.

He accused Muslim leaders of complicity in "hate-filled and violence-promoting rallies" against Israel in Dearborn this summer, referring to protests in which Muslims carried signs equating the Star of David with a Nazi swastika.

The sermon was a thunderclap marking the edge of a storm that has been building for more than a year as local Jewish and Muslim communities pulled apart. Now, the tensions are open and obvious. Rabbis are avoiding events attended by imams and, when they do show up, conversation often becomes strained.

As a result, after years of pioneering efforts in southeast Michigan to create a haven for dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims, metro Detroit's world-famous interfaith tapestry is unraveling.

A month after they were spoken, Klein's words still are echoing across the Internet, cut and pasted into e-mails circulating among Christians, Muslims and Jews and leaving a trail of shock and sadness.
It should be made clear however that the fault of this "unraveling tapestry" is not the fault of Rabbi Klein, but the fault of local Imams who pretend that they are really interested in working with the Jewish community. This is no time to shoot the messenger. Rabbi Klein merely pointed out that the actions of these Imams speak louder than their words. This past summer, instead of speaking out against Hezbollah as they provoked a war with Israel, Qazwini and others from the local Islamic community went to Washington D.C. to condemn Israel and the United States for supporting the only democracy in the Middle East. This was inbetween a busy schedule of hate-filled rallies in Dearborn supporting Hezbollah.

As usual the local press pays no attention to the two-faced actions of local imams. They have to present an "even handed" report and avoid all traces of racism or "islamophobia." In other words, they whitewash the situation, absolving Muslims of all rightly deserved blame for the hatred they spew.

In the Free Press article, Qazwini claims,
. . . Klein is unrealistic if he thinks Muslim leaders based in Michigan can cool the world's religious hot spots.
Nobody's asking him to do that. What he can do though, is be honest and stop pretending he's working for peace rather than Islamic supremecy in the United States.

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At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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. . . oh, yeah, you might be put off a bit by the text . . . okay, so it's only fair to mentioned the blog post in question may be unsuited for perusal by people with squeamish disposition . . .

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