JCS Visit to a Masjid
Published on November 2, 2008 By Larry Kuperman In Current Events

As regular readers of my blog know, I teach 8th Grade and Adult Education classes at the Jewish Cultural Society (JCS) of Ann Arbor. Today the 8th Grade and the JCS Youth Group visited the Muslim Community Association (MCA) of Ann Arbor.

First, let me give the abbrobation due to the kids and their parents who attended. They gave up time on a beautiful Sunday morning, perhaps one of the last that we will see in Michigan this year, to learn about another faith. It should also be noted that during the process of setting up our visit NOT ONE PARENT OR MEMBER WAS LESS THAN ENTHUSIASTIC IN LENDING THEIR SUPPORT. (Capital letters intentional and deserved!)

We were met at the door by Kristine and Loretta, two teachers at the school. The MCA shares buiding space with the Islamic Center, a school and an active Sunni Islamic congregation. Our students were given a handout listing the Six Aricles of Faith of Islam and the Five Pillars of  Islam. The Five Pillars are Shahada (Witnessing of Faith), Salat (the five daily prayers), Zakat (charity), Seyyam (Fasting) and Hajj (pilgramage to Mecca).

Once the fundamenetals had been disccussed, our discussion expanded to a variety of topics, religous, political and personal. Both women had converted to Islam from Christian backgrounds and were willing to share their personal experiences.

Towards the end, we discussed the Middle East Peace process. This was not the forum for a discussion of political detaik, but we all agreed that the current situation is unbearable and that peace is a necessity.

The adults of the world can't seem to agree; perhaps the coming generation will be more successful.

It was a wonderful day and a step toward Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world.

Shalom/Salaam to all.


Comments (Page 1)
on Nov 02, 2008

we all agreed that the current situation is unbearable and that peace is a necessity.

It was a wonderful day and a step toward Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world.

Not only peace is a necessity .. it is very possible

and sure it is wonderful ... when reality actually is realized and bias and political agendas are dispensed with...

i always knew that ... i (as muslims) have been deeply involved (on business  and personal levels) with jews and christians all my life ... always knew that there is no fundamental reason to prevent a normal, and even friendly, partnership between the three Abrahamic religions ... nothing at all ... 

glad you saw it for yourself.

on Nov 03, 2008



Not only peace is a necessity .. it is very possible



How?

And I am not talking about a perceived emnity between Judaism and Islam because there is little friction between the religions.

But there is a large number of Arabs who want to see all Jews dead. That was the rallying cry in the wars against Israel. How is peace possible between Jews and those who want to kill Jews?

I don't see it.

I can see Judaism and Islam co-exist in peace, because I have physically seen it.

I can see Muslims and Jews live together as friends because I have seen it in Israel (but it is rare in Arab countries).

When I was in Iraqi Kurdistan in September people (Muslims) were VERY happy to meet a Jew. Those people are not the problem.

 

on Nov 03, 2008

But there is a large number of Arabs who want to see all Jews dead. That was the rallying cry in the wars against Israel. How is peace possible between Jews and those who want to kill Jews?

I personnally see the actual ennemity between Jews and Arabs not as a religious conflict, but a political conflict centered mainly around Israel's existence and military pro-eminence in the region. Too many arab state feel treathened by them, and since the oppressed people in the region happens to be muslims, the populists in the neighbouring countries are creating a false "Islam is under attack" pretence.

That, and the Palestinians are becoming more and more religious, since they are becoming more and more desperate, and they are turning to fanatism. If one of them looses his life to fight Israel, they hope that their food ration will be given to their families. No job in the Gaza Strip means no economy. No economy means no necessities. Overpopulation, no supplies, no trade.

I have a Moroccan friend - muslim - and she often told me that the couple she consider as her grandparents are Jews. And they have mixed schools between Muslims and Jews in Morocco. There is no religious war over there. Jews and Islam are perfectly compatible, except when the topic of Israel is mentionned.

on Nov 03, 2008

Too many arab state feel treathened by them,

That would tend to speak more on their own insecurity than on actual facts.  Israel did bomb the Iraqi Nuclear facility.  But they have not initiated a war with their neighbors, and definitely not with the majority of muslim states in the region.

If you are correct, the muslim perceptions appear to speak more to their own inadequacies than to any overt act Israel has performed.  And unfortunately that also goes to the core of the matter and the fact that they cannot abide the existance of Israel - and hence peace - in the region.

on Nov 03, 2008

"But there is a large number of Arabs who want to see all Jews dead." How large a number, what percentage, is a matter of debate.

It is widely cited and something validated by my personal experience that the majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis would accept the Geneva Accord. "According to a public opinion poll jointly sponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston and the International Crisis Group in Washington, DC , 53.3 percent of Israelis polled said they would support such a proposal while 43.9 percent said they would oppose it. On the Palestinian side, 55.6 percent expressed support." (Source: http://www.mideastweb.org/peaceplans.htm) The proposal under discussion was a two-state solution, including a divided Jerusalem.

The two greatest obstacles cited are: Distrust on both sides and forces which see the current situation as necessary for them to maintain power. (i would offer the government of Saudi Arabia as a prime example of the latter.)

Steps necessary to move forward include: breaking down the barriers between people (which is what we, in our humble  way began to address, and which are also being addressed by groups such as One Voice and Children In War.)

We need to identify and support moderate voices within the Muslim world. We need to tie US Aid the region (On Oct. 22nd the US government just gave the Palestinian Authority $150 million) to specific tasks, not just throw money at the problem. Quoting from the Lebanese Daily Star "The willingness to provide aid is not accompanied by any vigorous intervention in the political process that might bring results." But there are groups, not being supported, which are attempting to address the situation. This morning the International Humanitarian Conference on Assistantship for Victims of Occupation (IHCAVO) established a commission comprised of businesses dedicated to providing fundamental sevices to Gaza. "A business forum is necessary to encourage Palestinians to manage their own economy, which later will improve their welfare and make Palestine a strong country." (See http://old.thejakartapost.com/detailheadlines.asp?fileid=20081103.B10&irec=9)

The Israeli government needs to realize that the tactic of closing the borders in response to rocket attacks, or even turning off the lights and water, simply isn't working. All that it does is create new generations of terrorists. Doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result is both insanity and a fair description of the current policy.

Not to inject politics into this discussion, but the McCain camp has taken the position that the US should not be directly involved in peace discussions between Israel and Palestine and Israel and Syria. There are voices in the Arab world asking the US to be involved (because we hold Israel's purse strings, of course.) But if we know that the security of the US is tied to the Middle East to the degree that US soldiers are justified to be in Afganistan and Iraq, don't we think that a US presence at peace talks is also justified? The only real progress toward peace, such as the Camp David Accords, has come when the US was involved.

As it stands now, you can almost follow the money trail: US aid to Saudi Arabia ($295.9 million annually, because after all Saudi Arabia doesn't have enough money....) then funneled to Sunni militias in Iraq and Palestinian terrorist organizations, who buy left-over Russian military hardware.

I could add also that the US bombing of suspected terrorist sites within the national borders of Syria and Pakistan as heppened last week, may or may not kill a few terrorists (with potentially some "collateral damage" since these are long-range missions) but again galvanize thousands to support the Jihadists.

It took decades for us to get into the mess that we are in and getting out of it will take time, but we need to stop doing things that make our enemies stronger and weaken our friends.

Don't underestimate the power of grassroots movements. I would offer that such movements are largely reasonable for the current peace in Ireland.

"I can see Judaism and Islam co-exist in peace, because I have physically seen it." Thank you (toda rabbah) for saying that. As was said yesterday, by both Muslims and Jews at the meeting, we have no choice but to believe in progress, because the alternative is unacceptable.

on Nov 03, 2008

If you are correct, the muslim perceptions appear to speak more to their own inadequacies than to any overt act Israel has performed. And unfortunately that also goes to the core of the matter and the fact that they cannot abide the existance of Israel - and hence peace - in the region.

But on the other hand, they see Israel as the only country that military enforce the occupation of another territory. It's been quite some time since this occupation began, 2 generations. The peoples now never saw the attacks from the Arab countries on Israel. They just see the current occupation, and the death toll on both sides. And they clearly see that the Palestinians are a raped and oppressed people that merely struggle to defend themselves against a military supreme opponent.

They don't care what happened 50 years ago. They care what happened 20 years ago. 5 years ago. 1 day ago. The boy born in Gaza 25 years ago never took part of the attack on Israel. The only thing he saw of Israel was the bomb falling near his home - or the deads in the street. What do you think he will believe on the long run?

Same with the other countries. Israel don't seem to actually want to make any peace offering, or compromises. They simply roll over their muslim population's opinion when they are bent on doing something. What do you really think the arab countries will see that country on the long run?

I think the key is Israel's attitude toward it's neighbour, and Israel's attitude toward the Palestinians. If Israel acted with a little less aggressiveness and arrogance in their dealing with both, and didn't purposely blew every peace initiative when a fanatic uncontrollable zealot makes a blunder, it would be quite a large step.

Knows when to answer them, know when to take them. America has accepted some attacks during the year without answering, because it thought of the large picture. Same with a lot of other countries. Israel seems hell-bent on a "Retribution x 20" policy, which.. is simply leading the Palestinian even more toward fanatism, and the Arab countries around them toward more antagonism.

Which draws appart the two religions.

on Nov 03, 2008

I personnally see the actual ennemity between Jews and Arabs not as a religious conflict, but a political conflict centered mainly around Israel's existence and military pro-eminence in the region.

Yes, in a way. Of course Israel's military pro-eminence in the region is the reason why Israel (and Jews in the middle east) still exist.

It is no religious conflict since both Hebrew Bible and Quran agree that G-d gave the land of Israel to the children of Israel and ordered them to live there (and not turn back).

The conflict was caused purely by secular nationalism introduced by Europeans to the Arab world in the late 19th century and especially during the 1930s when Germany started making alliances with Arab nationalist leaders in Iraq and Egypt (Nasser) as well as Israel (Husayni family).

 

Too many arab state feel treathened by them, and since the oppressed people in the region happens to be muslims, the populists in the neighbouring countries are creating a false "Islam is under attack" pretence.

The oppressed people in the region are Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Most Jews are no longer oppressed since they either died or fled to Israel. The remaining oppressed people are mostly Muslims. The Christians have powerful protection (except in Egypt) but Muslims are common targets (see Sudan).

Despite the fact that Arabs in Gaza and the West-Bank have a higher standard of living than people in Jordan and Egypt, they still count as "oppressed", I suppose. It's difficult for Israelis to understand that given that Israel would love these people to stop the war and live in their stupid country already, if they find time to found it.

Islam has been under attack ever since the Wahabis took Mecca from the rightful owners (the Hashemite clan, i.e. Muhammed's family) and since the Khomeini idolaters (and that's the only word I have for people who have gigantic posters of a political leader) destroyed the Iranian empire which, in Islamic and Jewish tradition, onces restored the children of Israel to the land of Israel.

 

That, and the Palestinians are becoming more and more religious, since they are becoming more and more desperate, and they are turning to fanatism. If one of them looses his life to fight Israel, they hope that their food ration will be given to their families. No job in the Gaza Strip means no economy. No economy means no necessities. Overpopulation, no supplies, no trade.

That's another thing I don't understand. There are millions of people in Africa who are actually starving. They don't have supermarkets filled with food and they cannot just transfer difficult patients to Israeli hospitals, yet they do not murder and do not scream death to anybody.

I don't think fanaticism is a result of poverty, since it almost never appears among the poor. Palestinian Arabs have for the last 100 years been among the richest people in the Arab world (except for the oil countries). And extremism was particularly rampant not among their poor but among the rich and powerful al-Husayni family.

The perhaps truly poor in the region, the bedouins, were not among the extremists and often (and in the majority) supported Israel and the Zionists. Many Israelis can tell war stories from their days in the army fighting with highly respected bedouins. In fact one of Israel's three most famous war heroes was a bedouin (Amos Yarkoni, he took a Jewish name; the other two were an Iraqi Jew and a native Jew born to European immigrants.).

In order to understand the conflict I think it is important to get rid of old but false principles like "poverty leads to extremism leads to terrorism". The terrorists are found among those rich enough to buy weapons. They are not the poor.

 

 

I have a Moroccan friend - muslim - and she often told me that the couple she consider as her grandparents are Jews. And they have mixed schools between Muslims and Jews in Morocco.

Morocco is the only country outside Israel in the middle east that has schools attended by Jews and Muslims/Arabs. Morocco is also the only Arab country that withstood Arab nationalism. The Moroccon king refused German and (Vichy) French orders to deport Moroccon Jews to the death camps (unlike the leaders of Syrian and Egyptian nationalists, including the al-Husayni family of Yasser Arafat, who cooperated with the Germans and recruited Muslims for the SS).

I would exclude Morocco from the conflict as the few soldiers they ever sent to the war against Israel never even arrived in time. And the king of Morocco never seemed very eager to fight Israel (or kill any Jews at all for that matter).

 

There is no religious war over there. Jews and Islam are perfectly compatible, except when the topic of Israel is mentionned.

I woiuld say "especially when the topic of Israel is mentioned".

This is what _I_ believe about the Jewish right to the land of Israel (note that "We" is G-d):

To Moses We gave nine clear signs. Ask the Israelites how he first appeared amongst them. Pharoah said to him: 'Moses, I can see that you are bewitched.' 'You know full well,' he replied, 'that none but the Lord of the heavens and the earth has revealed these visible signs. Pharoah, you are doomed.'

Pharoah sought to scare them out of the land: but We drowned him together with all who were with him. Then We said to the Israelites: 'Dwell in this land. When the promise of the hereafter comes to be fulfilled, We [shall assemble you all together.

And when Moses said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'

A religious Jew might say this:

I truly believe that G-d gave the land of Israel to the children of Israel. It's the foundation of Judaism. I also believe that Israel was occasionally overran py pagans (Babylonians, Romans) and restored by believers (like Zoroastrian Iranians).

I also believe that whoever attacks Israel will either be defeated (because G-d protects His people) is on Israel's side or will win if G-d has planned a third exile. In that case Israel will be overrun again by an army of non-believers. But I do not believe that a third exile is planned.

I don't see how a Muslim, who allegedly "submits to G-d's will" can see it any different.

 

on Nov 03, 2008

I find most of your arguments very enlightening. But I have to answer to:

I truly believe that G-d gave the land of Israel to the children of Israel. It's the foundation of Judaism. I also believe that Israel was occasionally overran py pagans (Babylonians, Romans) and restored by believers (like Zoroastrian Iranians).

I will never accept a biblical argument for something as important. It's ludicrous to actually base your argumentation on anything religion-related when you are treating about a Religion Vs Religion conflict. Specially if your argument is originating from the Jewish/Christian holy books.

You could also believe that Muslim is the True Faith, and that God intented the Jews to become Muslim, in order to center His Kingdom around the land we know as Israel. As you can see, all argument that is based on anything religion is pure theoratical bullshit.

That's another thing I don't understand. There are millions of people in Africa who are actually starving. They don't have supermarkets filled with food and they cannot just transfer difficult patients to Israeli hospitals, yet they do not murder and do not scream death to anybody.

Ahh... But there is a huge difference: a clear and material ennemy upon which to unleash your fanatism. Specially if he is of another religion!

on Nov 03, 2008

Israel seems hell-bent on a "Retribution x 20" policy, which.. is simply leading the Palestinian even more toward fanatism, and the Arab countries around them toward more antagonism.

Israel's policy is that of making it prohibitively expensive to kill Jews. That has worked very well. All the really big wars are behind us. The individual battles get smaller and smaller.

Palestinian Arabs were a lot more fanatic in the 1930s and 1940s than they are today. You think their anti-Israel statements are bad? Have a look at their statements regarding Jewish lives in the past. The threats before the Six Day War were mild compared to the threats during the Nazi era (coming from Iraq and Syrian/Palestinian supporters of the Nazis) but sound very aggressive compared to what the PLO has to say today. (Hamas are still like rather extreme, but their public support is very much due to fear of Hamas' reprisals I have been told.)

Israel has never had better connections with Arab countries than today. There is open trade with Gulf countries and Morocco and many Arab countries today accept Israeli passports. Even Tunisia does now and only 30 years ago they were still a PLO base.

I think criticisms of Israel's brutality are valid, but must be made with the knowledge of why Israel's uses that strategy (and what Israel's situation was like before that strategy started working). If Israel shows weakness and an inability to fight (for moral reasons or whatever) we might very well be on the way back to the old days when Israel had to defend its existence rather than its border towns in terrible wars that cost many more lives than the rest of the conflict does today.

I also think that we should forget about urban legends that sound nice but have never been true.

1. Poverty does not cause fanaticism and terrorism. There is no obvious correlation between poverty and violence in the world. The really poor populations in Africa are not nearly as violent as comparatively rich Arabs in Sudan and elsewhere. It is perhaps true within the western world and within cities, but it doesn't seem to work for large populations. The poor are easier to recruit, I am sure. But nevertheless terrorism requires money the poor don't have. Terrorism is caused by hatred and hatred is caused by propaganda. (And propaganda is expensive.)

2. Palestinian Arabs are neither "poor" nor "desperate". They have a higher standarf of living than Egyptians and Jordanians plus they have access to Israeli hospitals (as do Iraqi heart patients nowadays).

3. Disproportional violence as a defence does not cause an increase in total violence. Israel has used that strategy since 1967 and since then the individual wars have become smaller and smaller. Ever since the Arabs thought they didn't have a chance to overrun Israel they didn't really try any more. And the reason they though they don't have a chance is because of the devastating losses infliced on them by Israel. Israel's relations with the Arab world are now better than they ever were (seen over decades). And the conflict seems to flame up whenever Israel retreats rather than use disproportional violence. Hizbullah started shelling Israel after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Hamas won elections in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Hamas' and Hizbullah's successed did not result from Israel's violence, they resulted from Israel's retreats.

 

 

on Nov 03, 2008

I will never accept a biblical argument for something as important. It's ludicrous to actually base your argumentation on anything religion-related when you are treating about a Religion Vs Religion conflict. Specially if your argument is originating from the Jewish/Christian holy books.

I was quoting the Quran.

 

You could also believe that Muslim is the True Faith, and that God intented the Jews to become Muslim, in order to center His Kingdom around the land we know as Israel.

The Quran and Muhammed's Islamic constitution for Medina (the first Islamic state) specifically say that Judaism is a true religion and that Jews (and Christians) do not have to convert to Islam.

Islam is the true faith (that's what the word means). But Christianity and Judaism are both instances of Islam. According to Muhammed both are faulty in as much as they changed the message (for example, Jesus was a prophet, not a son of G-d), but insofar as those religions are not contradicted by the Quran, they are true.

 

 

on Nov 03, 2008

Linguistic nitpicking:

"Islam" is based on the root Sin Lamed Mem SLM (in Hebrew Shin Lamed Mem ShLM as in "shalom"), which means "peace" or "submission".

If you prefix a Mem (/m/) to a Semitic word you get the passive noun of the root (ignore the vowels, I don't know them for Arabic). A "Muslim" is someone who submits [to G-d's will], technically someone who ist being submitted.

If you prefix an Alef (glottal stop) to a root you get (in ancient Semitic languages, not necessarily current modern Arabic where Alef has a different role) a future tense version of the root, in this case 'SLM, the verb of which means "submit" (the thing to do to have "submission" or "peace" in the future). The active noun "submission" is derived by changing the vowels (first vowel becomes an /i/). And that's what "Islam" means.

None of these words mean exactly what the English translations mean. For example I don't think "aslama" ("submit") uses an indirect object like the English version does.

 

But Islam does tolerate other religions if they are based on the same truth.

http://forums.joeuser.com/328756

Unfortunately it is in Arabic.

 

on Nov 03, 2008

Israel has never had better connections with Arab countries than today. There is open trade with Gulf countries and Morocco and many Arab countries today accept Israeli passports. Even Tunisia does now and only 30 years ago they were still a PLO base.

Still strange that if you have a stamp of Israel on your passport, you may be refused entry into many GCC Countries. How can it be described as "good"?

on Nov 03, 2008

Still strange that if you have a stamp of Israel on your passport, you may be refused entry into many GCC Countries. How can it be described as "good"?

It's a lot better than in the past.

I have two passports because of that. (Although Iraq accepts both Israeli stamps and Israeli passports; but I wanted to make sure.)

I don't expect Israel's self-proclaimed proud enemies to give up their delusions of Israel's non-existance. But I do enjoy the fact that Israel's military successes have made them give up their delusions of being able to bring about a reality of Israel's non-existance.

 

on Nov 03, 2008

Jordan gives temporary Jordanian passports to Israel citizens visiting Mecca.

on Nov 03, 2008

Larry, great story. Positive and hopeful that the situation can be overcome, I agree that's the direction this should be heading although I'm neither Jewish or Muslim. What I personally find is a lack of this type of dialog via the media. IMO I feel, unfortunately, there are just as many tales of hate mongering between the two religions here in the US. I hope I'm wrong, but I get a gut feeling about it, especially when guys like this Rashid Khalidi are in the news. I think if Obama is elected president, this man will get some measure of credibility from radicals and give hope to other extremists that politically things might turn their way (whether it's true or not).