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Unbelievable ADL Decision

August 2, 2010

The ADL recently said it would not support the establishment of the Cordoba House, an Islamic Center that would include a mosque located 2.5 blocks from Ground Zero in New York. This decision is just awful and shows zero backbone. I am very disappointed.

A friend recently sent an email message  to a group of us who worked as counselors-in-training many years ago at Camp Swig (a Jewish summer camp in California). The message included a link to a video from Jihad Watch against the Cordoba Institute.

Now, one of our members is Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam
at Hebrew Union College. He wrote the book An Introduction to Islam for Jews and others.

Here is Rabbi Firestone’s message to the group responding to the attack on the Cordoba Institute and House:

Dear friends,

The video you received about the Cordova Initiative is outrageous bigotry. It is full of lies and is in essence an antisemitic diatribe, but directed toward a community that is the state-of-the-art scapegoat for this decade. Just substitute Judaism for Islam and Jews for Muslims and you will find the typical antisemitic screed that was broadcast on the radio in Germany and occasionally in the US during the 1930s.

I can’t believe that Jews who have any sagacity will think that he is talking sense. I happen to know something about Islam, and I can assure you that the narrator is an ignorant bigot who doesn’t know what he is talking about.

I could destroy virtually every one of his arguments. He does what bigots typically do, which is to take single items, enlarge them, and pretend that they are typical of the community as a whole – and at the same time keeps hidden the fact that the negative trait described exists in many (or most) other religions or cultures as well. Take his comment that “building mosques on sacred ground” is typical of Islam. That particular practice has been much more prevalent in Christianity! Most cathedrals in Spain are at the site of former mosques or synagogues, for example. It is common for all religions to piggy-back on the sanctity of sacred sites previously occupied by pagan temples, synagogues, mosques or churches. Everybody wants a piece of the “sanctity action,” hoping to absorb something of the sacred by co-opting previously established sacred space.

Islam is an inherently violent religion? Keep in mind that the vicious wars of Christianity to eliminate heresy among their own people massacred 50 percent of the entire population of Germany in the 15th-16th centuries (and plenty of Jews). Thousands of villages were completely annihilated. And of course, the Crusades were a war for religion that destroyed a higher percentage of the Jewish population of Europe than the Holocaust – and it was all about the Holy Land? Who is calling the kettle black?

Of all three monotheistic religions, Christianity is essentially the most totalitarian with its creed that there is no salvation outside of the Church (extra ecclesium nulla sanctus). I am not condemning Christianity, but only using it to demonstrate that Islam is no more violent or religiously problematic that Christianity has been. When Christianity was viciously combating virtually anybody who did not conform to its Orthodox creedal positions, the Muslim world was developing medicine and hospitals in which Jews and Christians and Muslims all practiced together. And unfortunately, there are even rabbis today in the Orthodox world who condone the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians because they represent for them the hated Amalek, whom God commanded be annihilated (Deut.25:17-19).

I personally am sick and tired of having to remind my fellow Jews not to be bigots against another religion that is being so blatantly slandered as we have been for so many centuries. I used to assume that we learned a lesson from our victimization not to allow such tactics to be used against any people, any religion, any race and any ethnicity.

I happen to know the Imam personally who is behind the initiative, Feisal Abdul-Rauf. He is a mensch and one of the most wonderful people I know. He is engaged in the Islamic version of tikkun olam – the effort to “repair the world” and make it a place that is friendly to all people and races and classes alike. It pains me personally that he is so slandered. Why don’t you find his website and judge for yourself what he is all about?

Here are the links to a few short pieces I have written recently in the Jewish Journal of Southern California that I hope you will read. While I am not the kind of person who tries to call attention to himself, I hope you know that I know something about which I write here. I speak and read Arabic, I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies, I have traveled and lived in the Muslim world, and I write academic articles on Islam for refereed scholarly publications. Trust me on this. The guy is a bigot and lost his humanity somewhere along the road. Don’t let yourself become one as well.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/obituaries/article/death_of_a_muslim_20100709/Obituaries

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/waking_up_in_singapore_20100720/

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/banning_the_burqa_20100209/

Reuven Firestone

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2010 9:53 AM

    A very brave & very wise post, David.

  2. August 10, 2010 10:36 AM

    Rabbi Firestone is an amazing person.

    It seems that the ADL calculated which choice would lose them more members and going against the Islamic Center won’t be as bad for them as its support. The ADL management must have in mind the support a generation ago for neo-Nazi marchers in Skokie, which lost them a hunk of membership.

    Of course, they didn’t have to make a choice here.

    At least the American Jewish Committee has some balls.

  3. Ken Meltsner permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:00 PM

    Thanks for posting this article, not just for the content — it’s certainly still relevant in 2012 as my community decides whether to allow the construction of an Islamic center — but because it allowed me to find out what happened to my first camp counselor at Camp Swig. I’m extremely happy to find out that the incredibly cool counselor who made my time at Swig such a positive experience (I was a homesick first-time camper) is now doing such great work for the entire community, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

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