Why Many American Muslims Are Afraid to Stand Up to the Anti-Semites in Their Midst

Aug. 14 2017

A few weeks ago, near-simultaneous sermons by two California imams included anti-Semitic rhetoric of the most murderous kind, some of which constituted direct calls to violence. Shireen Qudosi examines the response of Muslim Americans:

The war-mongering rhetoric of [these] imams was not a matter of slips of the tongue or offhand comments. Their rhetoric is the same packaged radical ideology churned out in madrassas, terror camps, and online extremist publications. These are calculated and crafted messages that appear to convey the assumption that [these imams’] religious authority will not be challenged. Their words were not indicative of American Islam or [Muslim Americans as a whole]. Within days of the sermons, [a group of liberal Muslim organizations] launched a petition against Imams Ammar Shahin and Mahmoud Harmoush, calling for their immediate termination. . . .

This silent refusal of many [other] Muslims to condemn [physical or rhetorical] attacks that are openly inspired by Islam does not come from [actual sympathy with these attacks], but from a fear of challenging religious authority or . . . of holding our own community accountable. [The truth is, most] Muslims are not worried about what Jews, Americans, or a new presidential administration will do. Many [instead] fear first and foremost . . . the ostracism and harassment they risk from within their own community if they express dissent. . . .

Within days, the petition received literally thousands of signatures. All it demanded was that those imams be fired. The truth is that the entire mosque board that defended and allowed these imams to speak at length, without interruption, should step down. Members of the so-called “interfaith community” also need to take a hard look at their own complicity. Partnering with Jew-haters is of no service to anyone—not Jews, not Christians, and not the Muslim community. There is also the larger issue of the ineffectiveness of many interfaith groups and their tendency to be used as props during public-relations disasters such as this one.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Interfaith dialogue, Islam, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Radical Islam, Religion & Holidays

 

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays