Thursday, August 19, 2010 | return to: views, opinions


Imam Rauf’s writings on Israel are cause for concern

by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin

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NOTE: This is one of our Two Views this week. For the second view, <Click here>


I admire my colleagues and friends who have shown themselves to be courageous enough to speak out against the anti-Islam hysteria that tends to surround conversations about the Islamic center that is being planned for a property that for many is uncomfortably close to ground zero. They have shown themselves to be paragons of religious tolerance, and for this I commend them.

Salkin, Jeffrey
Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
But in one general category — “Is this good for the Jews?” — we might want to examine the words of the man who is the imam of the Masjid al-Farah mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf. Luckily we have no shortage of those words. A brief perusing of his 2004 book “What’s Right with Islam” might prove both instructive and sobering.

What does Rauf believe about Israel? Rauf states that the creation of Israel was an unfortunate byproduct of the nation-state idea. Jews, he said, lived completely peacefully in the Muslim world for centuries.

“They looked, spoke and ate — even sang — like the rest of the people around them,” he wrote, adding that the creation of Israel began a most unfortunate schism between Jews and Muslims, who had previously experienced “a deeply intimate kinship with each other.”

Rauf would have us imagine that life in the Middle East was Woodstock until the creation of the nasty State of Israel, which comes to ruin everyone’s good time. We might rightly wonder aloud whether the historic dhimmi status of the Jew in Muslim cultures actually implies the deep intimacy that Rauf imagines. And a subtle but telling point: Is the nation-state a concept to be condemned (an arguable point), or only if that nation-state happens to be Jewish?

In his imagined history of the Middle East, Rauf continues to say that because of the Israeli-Arab conflict, Sephardic Jews became “unfortunately victimized” in many Muslim societies. He goes on to say that the worst thing about this is that it deprived those societies of their rich, deep pluralism.

Rauf lists notable dates in Islamic history — among them 1924, when the Ottoman caliphate ended; 1947, when India was split into Pakistan and India; and 1948, when Israel was “created as a homogenous Jewish nation-state within the geographical envelope of the Muslim world.”

I realize that we Jews carry our own historic losses with our souls; the wound of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem is still memory-resident. But Rauf is mourning the loss of the power of the caliphate and simply repeating the Palestinian narrative, and saying that the Muslim world is a restricted neighborhood into which a Jewish sovereign nation-state need not apply.

Rauf acknowledges that a number of conflicts exist today in the Muslim world, including Pakistan-India over Kashmir and Russia-Chechnya, “but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is viewed in the Muslim world as being sustained by America.” He not only drastically understates the number of conflicts that exist today in the Muslim world (Darfur, the Balkans, etc.), but he clearly believes that the United States is at the root of the problem in the Middle East — and not, for example, the fact that the Arab leaders themselves cheated the Palestinians out of their land (see “Palestine Betrayed,” by Ephraim Karsh).

For the record: I believe that a Palestinian state is necessary — not out of any sentimental admiration of Palestinian nationalism, but because of a belief in Zionism, the idea that we might truly be “a free people in our land,” a people free to continue to craft our own national narrative, complete with our national values. Is there room for that narrative in Rauf’s worldview?

On Sept. 12, 2001, I heard the baristas at the Starbucks in Manhasset, N.Y., whispering about the cars that remained overnight in the railroad station parking lot — cars that would never be claimed because their drivers had disappeared. That moment will be with me forever.

Since that moment I have worked at combating Islamophobia and criticizing those who are ready to brand all manifestations of Islam as a dangerous religion. I have urged Jews to reject the anti-intellectual temptation of essentializing Islam and writing off an entire religion as a terrorist operation. Maimonides, a victim of Muslim radicalism, had every reason to hate Islam and didn’t.

But if Rauf is the man who is the religious leader of the controversial mosque, then you might understand why Jews are permitted to worry. This says nothing about the rights of that institution to exist. It says nothing about privileging the feelings of the bereaved families of 9/11 over other American values of pluralism, which itself is debatable.

I am merely saying that we should not expect a “kumbaya-fest” with this gentleman. Of course, I would rejoice at the possibility that I will be wrong. I would rejoice in hearing, from his lips, an affirmation of the right of the Jewish state to exist, even in what he believes to be his Middle Eastern ’hood.

And so I would hope that as the board of the Islamic center starts to prepare the guest list for the inevitable opening event that it might invite Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, to speak.

Now that would be a grand gesture that would help many Jews, and many Americans, sleep better at night. 

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
is the spiritual leader of Temple Israel in Columbus, Ga., and the president of Kol Echad: Making Judaism Matter. He wrote this piece for JTA.


NOTE: This is one of Two Views. To read the opposing viewpoint from Walter Ruby of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding,  <Click here>


Posted by Joshua
08/19/2010  at  10:16 PM
Then What Will You Do?

Rabbi Salkin: If Imam Rauf does NOT invite Israeli Ambassador Oren to speak at the opening ceremony of the Cordoba Center, then what will you do?  When the Palestinian activitist begin passing out literature in front of the Center demonizing “the Nazi, genocidal, apartheid Zionist entity” and Imam Rauf does nothing to stop them, then what will you do?  When we learn that the Center is teaching Quran and not reforming passages that implore Muslims to murder Jews, then what will you do?
The issue is not about religious freedom and political rights, it is about sensitivities. If Imam Rauf wants to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, how many of us non-Muslims need to shout (now 70%) that the location is an insult, before his sensitivity toward us convince him to select a different location?  Or does his effort to push on anyway reveal the true intention: Cordoba was the northern-most advance of the invading Muslim armies into Christian Spain.

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Posted by awake
09/03/2010  at  04:32 PM
don't forget this

The Koran gives a Muslim permission to lie. In fact it encourages Muslims to lie, there is no moral code to be honorable. He is expected to “lie to the enemy” and trust me, the Jews, Americans and yes, all who are not Muslims are the enemy. Let’s also not forget that this Imam already has a Mosque a couple blocks away, the site near the 9/11 attack is the financial district, not residential and there are NO Muslims in this neighborhood. So, we MUST ask, WHY HERE? And if they are the religion of peace as they claim they are, why have they refused to defuse the concern by not negotiating for a new site? Consider his attachment to Wahabism! ALL of America should be concerned. He says in chapter 3 he is in favor of Sharia Law practiced in America! Does THAT not concern anyone? Pick up a book, “Sharia Law For Non-Muslims”, it’s a thin red book and is quite close to the interpretations sanctioned by many Imams. I’m NOT a Jew, I’m an atheist former Christian. I’m appalled that there is such a blind support for this man among other atheists! Quite clear, they’re all ignorant sheep. You are a brave bunch of people and I will continue to fight along side you. Remember that in the Koran, peace to a Muslim is when all of the Earth, coverts to Islam by force or voluntary.  Remember your history, Thomas Jefferson read the Koran, often because he wanted to know what he was up against at the time the Muslim pirates were attacking trade ships along the Barbary Coast. Of course Obama twists history to suit his needs and claimed Jefferson held a Ramadan dinner for the Islamic Ambassador in the White House. THAT NEVER HAPPENED! At the time all of this occurred, Jefferson was Ambassador to France, he traveled to England to meet with John Adams and the Islamic Ambassador (from Tripoli) in the Spring not during Ramadan, not in America. This Islamic Ambassador told Jefferson he wanted $66,000/year and 10% of cargo for safe passage. Jefferson said that if we gave in they wouldn’t stop at $66,000 and it would encourage more attacks. By 1801 we began to fight back. They were defeated by 1805. Again, they attacked our ships in 1807 but we were unable to defend ourselves and defeat them until 1815. Does anyone know the Marine Corps song?

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Posted by Jack Kessler
08/20/2010  at  10:19 AM
A Fair Inference?

One never truly knows what someone else is thinking or intends. So we use their words and deeds to infer them.  If one shoots rockets at the Jews one can infer an intention to harm and ignore the accompanying “religion of peace” speeches.

Similarly, if it is not intended as a victory monument, why build it near Ground Zero?  If it is not intended as a victory monument why refuse Governor Paterson’s offer of land elsewhere in Manhattan?

Anywhere else a mosque is just a mosque.  Near Ground Zero it may be a fair inference that it is intended as a monument to a Muslim victory over the United States.

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Posted by gzuckier
08/20/2010  at  11:20 AM
and if

There are undoubtedly any number of Americans who would complain bitterly should “the Jews” attempt to open anything in the area, using similar language. In such a case, should we bow to their sensitivities? (Not entirely a rhetorical question, maybe we should discuss)

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Posted by grf
08/20/2010  at  11:36 AM
More Islamaphobia

Before 9/11 the largest single act of terrorism on American soil was that committed in Oklahoma City by two fanatic Christians. Yet, neither JWeekly, or anyone else, demanded that Christians in general be banned from the general area of the crime, or that Christians in the future jump through a series of hoops proving their nonviolent, pro-Israel credentials before being allowed to build a community center. No, this blind ignorant prejudice we reserve for Islam.

Salkin’s head is firmly shoved into his navel (or some other part of his anatomy) when he asks “Is this good for the Jews?” and then quotes Rauf out of context to prove that it is not. Yes, after all, everything, even this, is all about Israel, nor is this a symbol of Islam’s victory over the USA. We’re the ones who believe in religious freedom, remember?

For the enlightenment of the general American idiot, including the authors of the above and that of the article, the Muslims sponsoring the center are SUFIS. Look them up, educate yourself. They are about as prone to violence as Quakers, place love for fellow man at the center of their teachings, and are soundly hated by the Wahabist fanatics who make up Al Queda, etc., who consider Sufis to be apostates lower than Jews and Christians and would kill them even quicker.

Is this good for the Jews? Is not human understanding and love for one’s fellow man good for us all?

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Posted by awake
09/03/2010  at  04:57 PM
ignorance and knee jerk responses

FYI, Timothy did NOT blow up the Murrah building in the name of Christianity. You cretins always strike beck with this one and it’s lame. Rauf has written in his own book that Sharia Law can and will be practiced in America and that it is compatible to our Constitution. I’m sorry but Sharia Law is the antithesis of our founding documents! So, GRF you are showing support for an anti-American religion. There are several Muslims who would disagree with you, may who have written books about Islam. I don’t think you get it.  This isn’t a Christians and Jews against Muslims. It’s doing what is decent. If he were all about peace, he would have agreed to build elsewhere. He already has a Mosque a couple of blocks away and there are NO Muslims in this area. This neighborhood is the financial district which, in case you aren’t aware, is the symbol of capitalism which they despise. This building was abandoned because it was damaged by debris from the attack therefore, it is INDEED a “ground zero mosque” in other words, a Victory Mosque” and this atheist is not going to lie on my back and submit like a dog to this bunch.

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