Travelers on the Path of Knowledge

Knowledge is an ocean and a few drops just aren’t enough. -Unknown

Hope Amongst Hatred February 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — musaafir @ 6:01 pm

So I’ve been pretty upset lately. I’m part of this dialogue/forum (it’s an actual organization but has an online forum) that aims to get Muslims and Jews to understand one another and each other’s beliefs. As soon as the forum online started I posted an article about similarities in prayer. I was describing that unless you try hard it’s often hard to tell the difference between a Muslim and a Jew. Muslims make sujood (prostration) and there’s some specific day where Jews prostrate as well. We sway when we read from our Holy Books, etc. etc. We’re more similar than some would like to believe. So I was talking to the founder of the organization and he was saying that since the start of the forum things have gotten worse. People are hateful and extreme and the moderators don’t want to censor the comments but don’t know what to do. They want more moderate voices to be heard (I, of course, told him I dislike calling myself a moderate Muslim. I told him I feel moderate Muslim suggests that there is something inherently wrong with Islam so we need to defend ourselves by calling ourselves moderate. I don’t know I felt that the word had that connotation. I explained, though I know he knew, that if people followed Islam properly, there wouldn’t be this kind of violence and animosity). Anyhow, I went back to the forums and was hurt by what some of the Muslims were saying. I felt it was hateful. So then I started reading more and saw Jews were being mean, too. So I got even more hurt because I KNOW, as we ALL KNOW, that Islam and Judaism are not hateful faiths. We do not have to constantly be at odds with one another. So then today, I was listening to the news and heard about the attack in Iraq. Now what? Of course, Sunnis vs. Shias. Can’t we just stop?! I have Shia friends and you know what, I respect their opinions. Though I don’t agree with them in all aspects, I see that they have faith in it, they say the Shahadah, and everything is very symbolic (like the dirt/rock they put beneath their heads when making sujood). We can live together in harmony. Everything and everyone is SO HATEFUL. It annoys me. I was amazed at how the founder of the Muslim-Jew dialogue thing was so optimistic. He was Jewish and so nice to me (not like I expected something different because he was Jewish). And the co-founder is Muslim. Hmm, interfaith? Getting along? How beautiful. But I know that he experiences everyday on a much grander scale what I experience. And he remains hopeful. Amazing.

People say that one voice doesn’t make a difference. But it does. People like him encourage me to speak my mind. To say, no, what some people do in the name of Islam is UNISLAMIC. I do not agree with it, nor do I think the Prophet would encourage it. Even if we see Muslims being hateful, sorry, they are not representative of the majority of the Muslim body. One voice makes a difference because it encourages others of the same mind and opinion to feel free to speak up. Yes, the Muslim scholars speak up, but mainstream, average Muslims need to as well.

So, I was cheered up a bit from friends. And I found this article πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Please read. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ P. S- It was written by a Jew. In fact, one that I would LOVE to befriend. It’s people like these that we should come to know and respect. We can build an understanding amongst each other and learn to coexist and love each other.

The Respect Of A Cousin
Edward Miller

The Jewish Week (New York)

(02/10/2006)

After the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’?s 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad were republished in European newspapers, riots erupted in Damascus, Gaza, Beirut and elsewhere throughout the Muslim world. The violence is an extreme manifestation of the deep hurt felt by virtually all Muslims.

As we condemn the violence on the streets, perhaps we should take a moment to understand the hurt in the hearts of the great majority of Muslims who did not engage in violence.

For Muslims, the mere rendering of an image of Muhammad is sacrilege. The portrayal of Muhammad in a pejorative fashion is to them an inconceivably offensive desecration, on the level of what would be for us the defilement of a Torah scroll. Because it was done in newspapers across Europe, it was a slap in the face repeated thousands of times.

Perhaps it’s a question of respect, not freedom. Freedom of expression theoretically protects the right of a non-Jew to desecrate a Torah scroll. Yet we would all view freedom of expression as a hollow defense to such a vile act.

Some say Muslims can’t take criticism and simply don’?t understand freedom of the press. In my own limited experience, that has not been the case. For the past year I’ve written a column in a Muslim newspaper, Muslims Weekly, in which I’ve criticized suicide bombing, the treatment of Jews under Islamic rule, the anti-Jewish rantings of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and even Muslims Weekly’s own reporting about Israel. But it was all done with respect, an informed appreciation of the wonderful benefits that Islam conferred upon the Jewish people, along with a willingness to look at our own imperfections together with those of the other.

Regardless of whether or not the European press was constitutionally free to publish the offensive images, the act was a blatant and vulgar act of disrespect to Islam. Such insults no doubt contribute to the frightening specter of a clash of civilizations.

What can we do as Jews to lessen the hostilities? Perhaps, just perhaps, a little respect would help. Rather than ripping the wounds wider with editorial musings extolling freedom of speech and condemning violent protests, is it not time for a bit of healing?

The pages of this Jewish newspaper present a place for a small start by showing Muslims right here that though we too have the freedom to say anything we like, we choose to convey respect to our Muslim cousins. Printing something positive about Muhammad best does this.

There is a space between romanticizing the past and vilifying it. There is a time to focus on the dark side of history and a time to view the other in the best light. There is a time to cull from our rabbinic writings the good our sages saw in Islam and there is quite a bit of such sentiment recorded. We Jews need to learn to be more flexible, pursuing the claims of Jews expelled from Arab countries and criticizing anti-Jewish TV programs and cartoons in the Muslim media, while at the same time displaying gratitude for all the good Islam did for us. There is a time to jump over our pain and see the humanity of the other. That time is now. Let us start:

There is a Hadith (oral tradition concerning the words and works of Muhammad) recorded by Bukhari in the name of Amer Bin Rabiha that reads as follows:

A funeral procession passed us and the Prophet stood up for it. We said, but Prophet of God, this is a funeral of a Jew. The Prophet responded, A?rise.?

One can search the writings of the ancient non-Jewish world for a more powerful example of a public display of respect for the humanity of the Jew. There simply is no more powerful statement than the single word uttered by Muhammad nearly 14 centuries ago.

Some readers will bombard this newspaper with reams of material showing a darker side to Islam, as if it were just too much for them to hear one good thing. But it is there, it is a sacred part of their tradition, it is good and we should hear it and respect it.

When you give respect you get it. When you take criticism, you earn the right to give it. Perhaps this article will be republished in Muslim newspapers, compete with its critical comments about the pain we feel in the face of anti-Jewish cartoons and worse in Muslim media. Muslim readers may come to understand that an article by a Jew, in a Jewish newspaper, was one of respect, telling its audience: We know that the one mocked in newspapers in Europe is the one who had the humanity to tell his companions to rise for the funeral procession of a Jew.

Edward Miller, a local attorney, is active in efforts to reconcile Jews and Muslims.

Post-Script: This article was in http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/editletcontent.php3?artid=4825. Again, I think we should thank the editors for publishing it as well as the author. I couldn’t find the author’s email address but I emailed the editors. Please do so and tell your friends about this article. πŸ™‚

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3 Responses to “Hope Amongst Hatred”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Interesting, the Holy Qur’an says to approach the believers, the people of the Book, and the disbelievers all in the same way:
    Peace.

    (go Mona!)

  2. striving... Says:

    MUNZAREEN!!!!! (that was to Sarah’s comment.)

    anyway…Masha’Allah beautifully stated and great article.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Salam…

    heard this today and thought it was a nice, proactive comment (well known quote actually):

    Hope lights a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

    -MRP


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