by: Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Professor Marshall Breger, and Suhail A. Khan on June 6th, 2013 | Comments Off
May 18-24 felt like a lifetime: emotional, exhausting, and exhilarating, as amid the horror of the Holocaust, we escorted a global delegation of influential Muslim leaders from nine countries on an historic journey to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
In 2010 we had embarked on a similar journey with eight of America’s leading Imams, because falsehoods about the Holocaust remain a leading propaganda tool to foment deadly anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment. We sought to undercut that legacy with a journey that bore witness to the truth of the Holocaust.
Not everyone agreed with us. Jewish groups urged us not to undertake this trip, arguing that some of the invited American Imams had not been allies of the Jewish community in the past. We believe, however, that human beings grow and are transformed by their experiences and that it is our duty to engage with all those willing to openly engage with us. Further, we know the Holocaust is not taught in Islamic countries and so most have little to no knowledge base of the Holocaust. Therefore setting litmus tests for dialogue does little to increase knowledge or change hearts and minds.
In continuation of my series on First Amendment rights as they impact religious minority groups, I address current controversy over social media posts maligning religious groups. My previous post in this series entitled Does Freedom of Speech Allow Stereotyping discussed a greeting card that stereotyped Muslims as terrorists in an unusually offensive and glaringly inaccurate way. This week I have chosen another unfortunate event, a Facebook post that ignited debate over the possible classification of certain types of content as threats instead of free speech. Tennessee County Commissioner Barry West posted a picture on his Facebook page showing a cowboy aiming a shotgun at the camera with the caption “How to Wink at a Muslim”.
Courtesy Telegraph UK
This week’s savage attack of a British soldier by a maniac identifying himself as a Muslim rocked the western world for a number of reasons. With the Boston bombing still somewhat fresh in the minds of the media, yesterday’s attack in Woolwich, SE London has left people wondering what is going on in the world these days. There seems to be no dearth of angry people with home-made weapons from pressure cookers to meat cleavers, and law enforcement is understandably having a hard time guessing who will strike next, where and how. As I read the news reports coming out from the UK the day of the attack, both on social media and news channels, the usual song and dance of Islamophobic blame followed by the Muslim apologies and condemnations made me weary. Here we go again.
courtesy The Examiner
On May 11 at the Montage in Beverly Hills, approximately 300 people gathered to listen to a speech about standing up to extremism and intolerance in Islam. The topic was certainly not new, just another clarification of the old story: Islam doesn’t condone terrorism. The real reason why an array of California political and civic heavyweights – politicians, academics and community leaders including the California Lieutenant Governor, Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, and several members of U.S. Congress – attended the event was to listen to the keynote speaker, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, spiritual and administrative head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Courtesy Chicago CBS Local
These days, anything and everything can be uttered under the guise of free speech. We can hurt the religious sensitivities of others, call people names, stomp our foot on someone considered the son of God by billions. It’s all protected in the name of free speech. Don’t get me wrong, as an American Muslim I am indescribably thankful for the freedoms I receive in this great nation of ours. Without the First Amendment, I’d be unable to practice my religion freely, take time off for Friday prayers, invite friends over to my local mosque or even write posts such as this one in a Jewish publication. No doubt about it, freedom of speech is probably the greatest liberty and blessing we all enjoy here in the United States. But sometimes I think we misunderstand this freedom altogether.
The war over war with Iran has many battlefronts. Inside Washington, the battle line is between a small coalition of peace and security, non-proliferation and religious groups opposing war and favoring a peaceful solution to the stand off with Iran, and a well-funded war machine comprising neoconservative organizations who believe war with Iran should have started years ago.
A central organization within the anti-war coalition is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization. NIAC has been at the forefront of opposing war, favoring diplomacy and opposing broad sanctions that only hurt the Iranian people, while, at the same time, rebuking Tehran’s horrible human rights record.
Courtesy: Pew Forum
The Pew Research Center this week revealed another extensive and newsworthy piece of research: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. The results of the survey, which consisted of more than 38,000 interviews of Muslims in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia in approximately 80 languages, reveals many things on many topics. Some revelations are interesting, others curious, and a few even downright alarming. As an American Muslim, though, I was mostly interested in the appendices, which discuss the attitudes of U.S. Muslims and compared them to similar themes among Muslims of other countries. Here’s my take:
by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.
On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”
Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.
Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?
I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.
The gloves are finally off: according to a poll, one third of Americans want a state religion. Two hundred years after the United States was created by men and women fleeing the stifling rule and religious persecution of their homes, we have come full circle by expressing a desire by some to return to a state sanctioned religion. No surprise that the preferred state religion is Christianity. Reflecting on the reasons for such a supposedly non-American public opinion, the pollsters wonder if it could be “reflective of dissatisfaction with the current balance of religion and politics”. In my mind, however, the results of the poll point to some deep-rooted issues, which instead of being dismissed as inconsequential because it could never actually happen, should be analyzed to understand the thought process of millions of the population.
Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”