January 8, 2004
Local Muslim Events Hurt, Help Jewish Ties
Recent Southern California Islamic gatherings attracting several thousand Muslims showcased various relationships between themselves and the Jewish community.
About 120 amateur athletes played in the first Muslim Football League tournament Jan. 4 in Irvine. It became controversial in December because the 14 flag football teams' names included Soldiers of Allah, Mujahadeen and Intifada, the Arabic word for "uprising" tied to the current Palestinian Al Aqsa Intifada.
After Jewish leaders complained, two teams took new names and Intifada team members emblazoned theirs onto shirts. Imam Yassir Fazaga, of the Orange County Islamic Foundation, said the name was kept to honor nonviolent Palestinians and because the Intifada team is smaller than other squads.
The tournament was calm, far removed from six Jewish Defense League activists picketing on the other side of Irvine's Heritage Park. Intifada lost the championship game, 18-6, to the league's South Bay All-Stars.
Separately, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) hosted 3,000 Muslims at its Dec. 25-28 West Coast conference in Long Beach.
"American Jews and American Catholics have gone through certain experiences before us; they have carved out a path for a minority in this country," said ISNA secretary-general Sayyid Syeed. "They have suffered a lot but through their suffering they have opened up this society as a pluralist democracy."
An ISNA seminar outlined persecutions of Muslims in Chechnya, India and other hot spots. Syeed told The Journal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "one among those. So therefore, they're not the only issue."
"Nothing should stand between us and American Jewish organizations," Syeed said. "Because both American Jews and Muslims, they have the same destiny in America."
Another Islamic event in Long Beach saw 1,000 people attend the Dec. 20-21 Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) convention. Three Democratic presidential candidates with varying levels of Jewish support -- former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich -- made phone pitches for Muslim votes, with Dean earning 67 percent of a straw poll of 800 MPAC conventioneers.
Similar to Judaism's internal debates, MPAC convention speakers criticized Islamic fundamentalists. The ISNA gathering discussed Muslim families -- similar to December's Orthodox Union West Coast Torah Convention seminars on Jewish families -- plus Muslims stereotyping non-Muslims.
"Just as we don't like people stereotyping us as Muslims, we should also not stereotype others," said ISNA speaker Suhaib Webb. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Return of Rabbi Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe will return full time to Sinai Temple following a hiatus of more than two months due to illness.
Wolpe, the senior rabbi at Sinai for the last seven years, had a seizure on Oct. 23 and later underwent surgery to remove a brain lesion.
Now, upon his recovery, he will be speaking at Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple on Jan. 13.
Friday Night Live, a Conservative Shabbat service and after-event for single Jews, takes place 7:30-10:45 p.m. at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3243. -- Staff Report