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Archive for the ‘islamophobia’ tag

Rebranding Interfaith

NewGroundby Rabbi Sarah Bassin

Inspired. Energized. Confused. Naïve.  I had asked a Jewish audience to share a single word to capture their thoughts of my presentation on Muslim-Jewish relations.  I had spent the last hour painting a picture of the broken communication between Jews and Muslims over the last 20 years – the public spats, the failed dialogues and the wounded relationships.  I devoted the last portion of the session to envisioning a more positive paradigm and cultivating the tools to get us there.

Some people entered the session eager to acquire the skills needed to strengthen relationships with the Muslims who share their city.  They had witnessed the breakdowns but refused to think of “Muslim-Jewish” as synonymous with “conflict.” They walked away from the session recharged.  Inspired.  Energized.

Others entered as skeptics, poised to dismiss interfaith work as a charming but ineffective effort to bridge an unbridgeable chasm of differences.   The cycle of conflict exists for a reason and those who champion engagement with the other don’t understand the threat to their own community.  Openness and vulnerability lead to exploitation.  Interfaith activists are unrooted. Confused. Naïve.

Those words may have felt cutting in the moment but they were also a gift.  It was early in my work as the Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change though I had long been devoted to interfaith relations.  As someone who grew up with a mixed religious background, the importance of interfaith was engrained in my Jewish identity.  But my own experience blinded me to the experience of those for whom interfaith was not a self-evident good.  It was beyond my worldview that someone could see interfaith engagement not only as superfluous but as threatening.  I realized that I needed to take a step back and explain why the work matters in the first place.  More specifically, I needed to make a compelling case for why the work matters to them.

There is something that feels base about using the language of self-interest to undergird interfaith work.  I imagine that many of us find ourselves committed to interfaith activism because our highest ideals have led us down this path.  As someone who chose to become a rabbi to pursue a career in interfaith relations, I certainly felt compelled by the holiness of the endeavor.  My tradition demands it of me.  The Jewish philosopher Emanuel Levinas captures my deeply held belief with his claim that we experience divine commandment through the face of the other.

But I am also in this line of work because I believe wholeheartedly that a commitment to interfaith relations and Muslim-Jewish relations in particular tangibly benefits the Jewish people.  This work is, as they say, “good for the Jews.”

As a teenager and young adult, I despised the “good for the Jews” cliché.  It seemed to be an excuse for isolation, a justification for turning a blind eye to the plight of others.  But those excuses represent a narrow interpretation of what is good.  Those justifications conflate that which is in our self-interest with that which is self-serving.

Asking whether something is “good for the Jews?” is actually a useful question.  As my colleagues in community organizing assert, acknowledging one’s self interest is the first important step to social change.

When I engage Jewish audiences now, I open by speaking to that self-interest.  I lay out the vast overlapping domestic agendas between the American Muslim and Jewish communities and spell out the missed opportunities for collaboration.  I articulate how changing demographics will impact Jewish community relations.  Jews are becoming a smaller proportion of the American population and we will need to rely more heavily on coalitions.  I cite how the younger generations of Jews understand “Jewish values” more universally than their parents did.  Interfaith activism thus has a role in engaging these generations’ Jewish identity.

No part of me imagines that I will transform every skeptic in an hour by framing Muslim-Jewish relations in terms of Jewish self-interest.  But I often see something click for Jewish audiences when I cite the 2010 Gallup poll that directly links anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.  The single greatest predictor for whether someone holds Islamophobic beliefs is whether they also hold anti-Semitic beliefs.  This simple statistic reframes the issue from an abstract good to a concrete need.  Combating Islamophobia is not some altruistic endeavor for Jews rooted in the collective memory of our own historical persecution.  It is a strategic approach to prevent latent anti-Semitism from resurfacing today.

The rhetoric that we use to describe our work serves to undermine or enhance the power of our impact.  Early on, a supporter once described NewGround as “the ones getting everyone to love each other.”  She soon learned that this does not begin to capture what NewGround does.  We equip Jews and Muslims with the tools, space, and relationships to identify what matters to people in both communities– our fears, our values, our narratives and aspirations.  Sometimes, the conversation feels uncomfortable because interests do not always align (for example, we do not expect everyone to agree about how to handle the conflict in the Middle East). But the willingness to articulate what is at one’s core creates the foundation for a more honest and trusting partnership when there is alignment.  At NewGround, we are not the ones getting everyone to love each other.  We are the ones transforming intergroup relations in Los Angeles from a civic liability into a communal asset.

There will always be a core of people drawn to interfaith work for its more abstract ideals – people who need no convincing of interfaith’s inherent value.  But our goal ought to include preaching beyond the choir.  There is no shame in rebranding interfaith as savvy and strategic, substantive and smart.  Interfaith is all of these things and there is much to be gained by speaking of our work from this angle.  Those poised to call us naïve may instead walk away energized.  And those who thought us confused may instead find themselves inspired.

Rabbi Sarah Bassin is the Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change.

 

Interfaith Effort Boosts Latin Ties: Jews and Muslims Meet to Work Out Differences

by Nathan Guttman
from The Jewish Daily Forward

WASHINGTON — While international attention is focused on relations between Jews and Muslims in Europe, following the Toulouse shooting, attempts are under way to strengthen ties between the two religious communities in another region: Latin America.

A group of Muslim and Jewish leaders from Latin American and Caribbean nations came to Washington on March 26 as a first step in an effort to forge partnerships between the communities.

The program is an initiative of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has been organizing Muslim–Jewish dialogue events in the United States and in Europe in which synagogues twin with mosques, and leaders of the two faith communities work together on issues relating to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Middle East peace.

Click here to read the full article.

Jewish and Muslim Students Can Work Together Against Prejudice

By Nabil Ahmed
From the Guardian

There are more than 110,000 Jewish and Muslim students in Britain, but it’s not often their shared experiences are considered. Globally, Muslim-Jewish relations are a touchy topic, with the focus on political divisions (such as Palestine-Israel), and an assumption of historical enmity. I have felt this cold, polarising air from both communities, whose leaders seem unwilling to address it.

But born and raised in Alwoodley, Leeds, I grew up with more Jewish than Muslim friends, and realised our startling similarities. The National Jewish Student Survey in 2011 showed the day-to-day issues facing Jewish students. In the main these concerned passing exams and finding a job, but Judaism also played a strong role in encouraging them to support and give to ethical causes. Two out of five had experienced an antisemitic incident in the last year, although just 4% were “very worried” about antisemitism at university.

The Greater London Authority research into the experiences of Muslim students in 2009 suggested a similar experience, both of Islamophobia and of getting the best out of life on campus. Muslim students are engaging in social activism and are concerned about welfare needs, but have the same day-to-day concerns as other students. In summary, young Muslims and Jews want to enjoy their university years, get good jobs and make a difference.

But in 2012, there are troubled waters ahead. Internationally there is the threat of a war with Iran, which could stoke inter-community tensions – and antisemitism and Islamophobia have not gone away. January saw a vile Nazi-themed drinking game, on a ski trip organised by the LSE athletics union, which was rightly condemned. Also at LSE there was the Islamophobic harassment of a Muslim student after religious sensitivities were provoked by the Atheist Secular and Humanist Society and in Stoke – a place where Muslim students have been harassed by the BNP – an ex-soldier, Simon Beech, was recently convicted of setting fire to a mosque.

Click here to read the full article

CPWR Chair Named One of the World’s Most Influential Muslims

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, was cited in the latest issue of “The Muslim 500: The World’s Most Influential Muslims” for his efforts to raise awareness and understanding about faith and social issues.

The widely viewed publication from the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, an independent research entity based in Amman, is a comprehensive study of global Muslim leadership in 14 categories including politics, religion, business, science, arts, media, sports, philanthropy and social issues. Imam Mujahid was included on the list for the first time. He is one of eight Americans identified as leaders in the category of Social Issues.

The report credited Imam Mujahid with a range of contributions including his work with broadcast media and his organizing efforts as the former chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and his current role as chairman of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Imam Mujahid, an award-winning author, is the president of Sound Vision in Chicago, which offers multimedia Islamic teaching materials. He is also the executive producer of Chicago’s Radioislam.com and the host of a daily one hour talk program on WCEV 1450 AM.

“His development of the Radio Islam nightly talk show in Chicago is not only a source of support for Muslims, but an important educational link to non-Muslims in the greater Chicago area,” according to “The Muslim 500” publication. “Mujahid speaks with eloquence not only about the destructiveness of Islamophobia but also of the need for all people to come together in a spirit of justice and peace.”

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, based in Chicago, is an international, non-sectarian, non-profit organization, established in 1988 to host the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Since the historic 1893 Parliament in Chicago, modern Parliaments have been held in Chicago (1993), Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004) and Melbourne (2009). These periodic Parliament events are the world’s oldest and largest interreligious gatherings. The next Parliament is expected to draw more than 10,000 religious leaders, scholars, theologians, worshippers, observers and journalists to the city of Brussels in 2014.

Islamophobic Bullying in Our Schools

Engy Abdelkader
from Huffington Post

“You boys were so much fun on the 8th grade trip! Thanks for not bombing anything while we were there!” read the yearbook inscription penned by the middle school teacher.

The eighth grade yearbook was littered with similar remarks by classmates linking Omar to a “bomb.”

“To my bomb man!” read one note. “Come wire my bomb,” read another.

“What is this?” asked Omar’s mother incredulously. He had handed the yearbook over to her moments earlier when he arrived home that afternoon.

Omar answered quietly, “I know, Mom, I know.” He stared down at the kitchen floor. His eyes could not meet his mother’s but he began to tell her what had happened just one month earlier.

In May 2009, Omar joined his classmates on a school trip to Washington, D.C. As they toured the Washington Monument, visited area museums and passed by the White House, the kids repeatedly told Omar they hoped he wouldn’t “bomb” any of the sites. A teacher chaperoned the children, heard the comments and responded by doing… well, nothing, except leave a denigrating remark in Omar’s yearbook a month later.

It was clear to Omar’s mother that her American born and raised son was harassed because of his Muslim faith and Arab ancestry.

Unfortunately, this was not the first bias-based bullying incident involving Omar that school year. Only several months earlier a peer was intimidating Omar, calling him a “terrorist,” during an elective trade course. Omar finally told his mother about the bullying when his report card indicated that he was failing that same class, while acing the others where he was not subjected to such humiliating treatment.

Omar’s mother had addressed the bullying with the school Vice-Principal immediately afterwards.

But, when she spoke to her son’s school Principal regarding the D.C. trip and subsequent offensive yearbook comments (by a school teacher), the Principal was shocked to learn that Omar had been a prior victim of bullying earlier in the academic year. He had no knowledge of that incident in his school.

While the Principal assured her that he would take proper action against the offending teacher, nothing actually happened. The teacher denied hearing the bomb-related comments during the field trip to D.C. and excused her yearbook note as a “joke.”

Click here to read the full article

Why Catholics must speak out against Islamophobia

by Jeanne Clark
from the National Catholic Reporter

Political spectacles and demagoguery are all too common in Washington. My Congressman, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), continues this shameful tradition by sponsoring hearings on Capitol Hill this week that will demonize Muslim Americans, undermine interfaith dialogue and distract us from practical efforts to confront violent extremism.

As a Catholic sister from Long Island, I stand with a broad spectrum of faith leaders who believe that fighting terrorism must never mean compromising our nation’s core values and highest ideals.

King’s sweeping investigation of “radicalization” in the American Muslim community should be especially denounced by Catholics, whose ancestors here battled vile stereotypes and even charges of disloyalty.

While it may seem like ancient history these days, natavist mobs once burned Catholic churches. Political cartoons such as Thomas Nast’s “The American River Ganges” savaged Catholic bishops as suspicious pawns of Rome. Signs in shop windows reminding Irish that they need not apply for work were a visible reminder of Catholic immigrants’ second-class status.

Today, a toxic climate of Islamophobia stigmatizes Muslims. Many women on Long Island who because of their faith wear the hijab (head covering) are afraid to go to the grocery store alone.

Recently, in an affluent Long Island community, an email circulated throughout the neighborhood warning people that a terrorist had moved into the area. Muslim children in a local school were shunned by students. Across the country, hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise and many communities have opposed mosques.

This prejudice diminishes us all and undermines our nation’s commitment to equality and religious pluralism. In my experience relating to and working with Muslims on Long Island, I’m inspired by my neighbors’ commitment to worship in peace and teach their children to love America. I have seen their dedication to serve others, especially those with few resources, and a desire to work in solidarity with Christians and Jews for nonviolent solutions to conflicts.

Click here to read the full article

The Greater Jihad of Friendship

The Rev. Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, addresses the current climate of Islamophobia at a recent Friendship and Dialogue Iftar dinner hosted by the Niagara Foundation.

Rev. Dr. Dirk Ficca from Niagara Foundation.

October 8th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Conference on Religion, Conflict and Peace

2nd Annual International Conference onimages

“Religion, Conflict and Peace”

Walking The Talk to Compassion and Harmony

Featuring live virtual addresses by

Huston Smith, Rabbi David Rosen,

and Karen Armstrong

To Be Confirmed: Tariq Ramadan

June 11-13, 2010

Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, Michigan USA

A Multi-disciplinary, Multi-cultural Conference
that is
an Official Partner and Event of

the Charter For Compassion

and

the Parliament of World Religions

Sponsored by:
Common Bond Institute,
Co-Sponsored by:
International Humanistic Psychology Association (IHPA), Henry Ford Community College, Parashakthi Temple, Pathways To Peace, Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, Muslim Presence Ottawa
Endorsed by over 100 universities and organizations internationally

Full Conference Details at:
www.cbiworld.org/Pages/Conferences_RCP.htm

~ Registration is Open All ~

We Invite You To:
an inclusive, highly interactive 3-day public forum promoting Inter-religious and Intra-religious dialogue to explore the challenges of Extremism, Intolerance, Scapegoating, and Islamophobia, and the promise of Reason, Understanding, Compassion, and Cultural Harmony.

Join 45 Presenters and Facilitators as we explore:
1) The mutual dilemmas of religious ignorance, extremism, intolerance, negative stereotypes, prejudice, demonization and dehumanization, scapegoating, and fear of “the other,” that lead to toxic divisiveness, polarization, and social paranoia, including the current example of Islamophobia and it’s impact on the Muslim community,
and
2) The promise of personal engagement through dialogue in nurturing a shared consciousness of peace – and in doing so promoting the religious experience as a healing remedy rather than problem.

Geshe Gendun Gyatso, Sonya Friedman, Najah Bazzy, Brenda Rosenberg, Gail Katz, Padma Kuppa, Shahina Begg, Patricia Harris, Victor Begg, Saeed Khan, Bill Secrest, Ventra Assana, Lily Mendoza, Jim Perkinson, Manveen Saluja, Robert Cohen, Kari Alterman, Imad Hamad, Steve Spreitzer, Daniel Tutt, Steve Olweean, Farha Abbasi, Rene Lichtman, Sheri Schiff, Mike Whitty, Myron Eshowsky, Nettie Kingsley, Betty Kingsley, Mohammed Dajani, Zeina Barakat, Shari Rogers, Jackie Teunessen, Shelina Merani, Mary Assel, Mouhanad Hammami, Jehan Olweean, Betsy Kellman, Venkat Hari, Maida Besic, Susan Lebold

FORMAT:
An outstanding, diverse gathering of presenters for 3 Days of keynotes, workshops, panels, dialogue groups, exhibits, social/cultural events, multicultural community, and rich networking for collaborative application beyond the conference.

“It does not require that we be the same to be appreciative of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.”

Location: Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. USA
Schedule: Fri. June 11, 10:00 am -to- Sun. June 13, 2:30 pm
(On-site Registration opens 8:30 am)

FOR FULL DETAILS on the 3 Day Program, Registration, Fees, Program Ads, and Exhibits CONTACT:

Common Bond Institute
Details at Website: www.cbiworld.org
Steve Olweean, Conference Coordinator
12170 S. Pine Ayr Drive, Climax, MI 49034 USA
Ph/Fax: 269-665-9393 Email: SOlweean@aol.com