MARC SCHNEIER 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the March 17 edition, Isi Liebler, in his column “A Jewish-Muslim alliance?”
alleged that the activities to promote mutual understanding and tolerance with
moderate Muslim leaders with which I am involved are wrongheaded and
antithetical to the interests of world Jewry.
Despite the tone of the
column, which appears to argue that efforts at building Muslim-Jewish
partnerships is dangerous to the well-being of Jews, the successes we have
achieved in building ties of friendship and trust are authentic. We have
inspired Muslim and Jewish leaders to speak out in defense of the
For example, Imam Shamsi Ali, spiritual leader of the largest and
most prominent mosque in New York, with whom I am coauthoring a book on Judaism
and Islam, made unmistakably clear that the Jewish-Muslim alliance we have
worked so hard to create is, in reality, a two-way street. Shortly after the
murderous terror attack against the Fogel family in Itamar, Ali issued a widely
disseminated statement strongly condemning the attack and emphasizing, “We
expect all decent people to unequivocally condemn this brutality. There is no
way to contextualize this outrageous crime. Political differences never justify
The fact that a prominent Muslim cleric would speak out so
unequivocally against a terror attack on Israelis in such a public fashion and
without reservation is an important example of the willingness of top Muslim
leaders to speak out for Jews in a manner that almost never occurred before we
began our coalitionbuilding efforts five years ago.
Another example of
the same important trend came earlier this month by another important ally of
ours in the effort to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations: Dr.
Sayeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the
largest and most prestigious Muslim organization in the US and
After representatives of both Hamas and Fatah each issued vile
statements on March 1 calling the Holocaust a “lie” and vowing to prevent
teaching about it to Palestinian youngsters in UN-sponsored schools in Gaza,
Sayeed immediately sent me a letter condemning Holocaust denial and declaring
his support for young Muslims all over the world who want to become better
educated concerning the bitter realities of the Holocaust.
directly from Sayeed: “We at ISNA reiterate our position denouncing Holocaust
denial, and we support any efforts toward teaching students the horrific
consequences of this great human tragedy.”
SUCH EXPRESSIONS of Muslim
sympathy are not confined to the US. Last December in Brussels, Imam Abduljalil
Sajid of Britain, European representative of World Council of Muslims Interfaith
Relations, opened his remarks at the first annual Gathering of European Muslim
and Jewish Leaders organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and
World Jewish Congress with a prayer dedicated to the victims of the Carmel fire
I recognize that much remains to be achieved in Jewish-
Muslim relations and, as the chilling Hamas and Fatah statements make clear,
there is still a great deal of anti- Semitism emanating from the Arab and Muslim
However, we would be doing both our Muslim friends and allies and
our own Jewish community a grave disservice if we failed to point out the
growing willingness of Muslim leaders to denounce anti-Semitism and speak out in
support of Jews. .
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has instituted
programs like the Weekend of Twinnings of Mosques and Synagogues that have
brought tens of thousands of Muslims and Jews in 22 countries together for joint
activities that celebrate commonalities and recognize differences. Something
exceedingly important is happening here, and it would be a tragic mistake if we
were to forgo this historic opportunity to advance relations with moderate
Muslims who oppose violence and stand with people of all backgrounds – including
Jews – in opposing terrorism.
I am proud that the World Jewish Congress
is working closely with us in this effort, as are hundreds of Orthodox,
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis and many thousands of Jews
around the world, including Israel.
The tragic killings in Itamar remind
us how inextricably the destiny of the individual Jew is intertwined with the
fate of all Jews. The tragic events in Japan stress the theme of human
interdependence. Even when we do not share a common faith, we share a common
fate, and our single destiny must strengthen our bonds of concern, compassion
and caring for each other. This is the spirit and substance we bring to the
Muslim-Jewish alliance; Muslim and Jewish leaders standing up for one another
and affirming in one voice, “Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack
on all Muslims and all Jews.”The writer is president of the Foundation
for Ethnic Understanding and vice president of the World Jewish Congress.