September 8, 2007
Time has come to stress Islam’s positive side
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Compare this with the situation in Christian Europe. For centuries, we were the "other" in Europe. The Europeans have little ability to deal with difference and often show suspicion or outright contempt for people of faith.
As you are well aware, there are places in Europe where wearing a head scarf to a public school is a punishable offense. What an outrage this is, what an abomination.
In a global media culture that fawns over Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, why should anyone criticize the voluntary act of a woman who chooses to wear a head scarf or a veil? Surely the choice these women make deserves our respect, not to mention the full protection of the law....
Permit me to conclude with a few words about the situation in the Middle East, because this too must also be included in our dialogue.
American Jews have a deep, profound and unshakable commitment to the State of Israel. We see assuring the security of Israel as one of our community's most important accomplishments, and we see maintaining her security as one of our most important priorities.
At the same time, we understand the ties of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans to the Palestinian people.
The challenge that we face is this: Will we, Jews and Muslims, import the conflicts of the Middle East into America, or will we join together and send a message of peace to that troubled land?
Let us choose peace. Let us work toward the day when a democratic Palestinian state lives side by side, in peace and security, with the democratic State of Israel.
The basic outline of such a peace has been clear for a long time. For peace to be achieved, territorial compromise will be required of Israel. Unconditional acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will be required of the Palestinians.
Jews will need to accept the reality of Palestinian suffering, and understand that without dignity for the Palestinians, there can be no dignity for Israel. Muslims will need to accept the reality of Israeli vulnerability, including the vulnerability of that tiny nation's ever-threatened borders.
And what can we do, American Muslims and Jews? Three things, I believe.
First, while the terms of a settlement must be negotiated by the two parties, an American role in achieving such a settlement will be essential. Therefore, we must urge our government to commit itself to active, high-level engagement in order to move the parties toward peace.
Second, if the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is seen in religious rather than political terms, resolving it becomes impossible. If Israel is portrayed as "a dagger pushed into the heart of Islam" rather than a nation-state disputing matters of land and water with the Palestinians, we are lost. As religious Jews and religious Muslims, let us do everything in our power to prevent a political battle from being transformed into a holy war.
And finally, to all those who desecrate God's name by using religion to justify killing and terror, let us say together: enough.
No cause in the world, and surely no religious cause, can ever justify murdering the innocent or targeting the uninvolved. You cannot honor a religion of peace through violence; you cannot honor God if you do not honor the image of God in every human being, and you cannot get to heaven by creating hell on earth. If we can agree on nothing else, let us agree on this, and let us remain united on this point, come what may.
We have expressed these views and so have you with your clear statements condemning terrorist attacks. But let us agree that this task will not be done until the message is heard and others in the Muslim world join with ISNA [Islamic Society of North America] in ringing denunciations of terror that will be heard throughout the globe.
Our agenda is long and difficult. There is nothing simple or easy about the project that we are about to undertake. But, interconnected since the time of Abraham, thrust into each other's lives by history and fate and living in a global world, what choice do we really have?
Surely, here in this land we cannot permit fanaticism to grow or prejudice to harden. Surely, here in America, as Muslim and Jew, we have a unique opportunity to reclaim our common heritage and to find a new way and a common path. Brothers and sisters, let us begin.
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