Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In the piles of hatred around us, glimpses of tolerance and friendship still show every now and then.

Richard Silverstein is probably one of the last Jews on the planet that should receive hate mail from a Muslim or an Arab. If you do not believe me, check his web site or his contribution to the British Guardian.

Of course he gets a lot of hate mail, but almost exclusively from right wing Jews or ardent pro-Israel fundamentalist Christian. Over the years, he stopped taking it personally. And with his political knowledge and religious background as a practicing Jew he knows how to handle that kind of hate.

Yesterday he got something of a rarit for him - hate mail from someone with an Arab Muslim name. The letter was profane, abusive and full of flawed logic, but above all spewed a tremendous amount of hatred. And rather than post the hateful letter as an example of how bad an Arab and a Muslim can be, he did not publish it but shared it with some of his Muslim friends, even suggesting that it may be form a radical anti-Arab who wanted to smear Arabs and Muslims by using a pseudonym.

Some of his eloquent Muslim friends wrote a beautiful reply to the stupid letter, and only then, Richard Silverstein was able to publish both: the ugly letter, followed by a most beautiful and eloquent reply from Jafar Siddiqqi, Richard's Muslim friend, to the angry hateful person.

Few hours later, I came across an article that puts an Israeli military Rabbi into awful (but well-deserved) light. This hateful 'man-of-God' was inciting Israeli troops to violate their own code of conduct, show disrespect for civilian safety, and was promoting the worst kind of racist violent attitudes toward Gaza Arabs during the last Israeli Massacre. This was an extreme example of Jewish radicalism using scripture and religious authority, encouraging young soldiers to commit unspeakable crimes.

While I know things like that exist, highlighting them carries the inherent risk of inciting equally hateful attitudes towards all Jews, not only those involved in a particular situation. I did not feel comfortable using that extreme example on my blog, and I communicated my feelings to Richard Silverstein. His response was almost instantaneous. He sat down, and wrote a scathingly critical posting about the horrible Rabbi and his hateful message, with the same eloquence and enthusiasm that his Muslim friend used in responding to the hateful Muslim Arab that insulted Silverstein and Jews in General.

I did not mention that as an example of a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours type of relationship, but rather as an example of friendship and mutual respect between smart, fair-minded and well-informed people of different faiths and political affiliation realizing that what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong, regardless of who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

Our Muslim community in St. Louis should remember that lesson very well. I this city, and soon after September 11, 2001 when Muslims and Muslim institutions and buildings were subject to threats by zealous brainless angry mob, Jewish and Christian interfaith partners of the Muslim community in St. Louis came to the Mosque on Weidmann road, to show support, and offer help protecting our mosque.

During the same difficult times, a Christian neighbor and a Jewish colleague of mine offered, independently, to take care of my children after school until the end of workday of myself and my wife's. My children were old enough to stay by themselves at home, but our friends felt that it may give us more peace of mind they took care of them while we were not at home. Our Christian neighbor also asked his son, who went to the same school with my older son, to keep an eye on my son during recess in case other students harass him in the school yard.

What I mentioned above is not just one or two feel-good examples. Behavior like that SHOULD be the norm expected from people who are civilized, honest and have faith of any kind.

Respecting, befriending and protecting people of other faith is not just a practical short-term tactic, it is not even just a long term strategy; it is simply what God mandates.
"As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably." (Chapter 60:8)
God was very clear in the Quran, that even though there would be conflicts with the people of the Book (Christians and Jew), it has to remain clear in the minds of Muslims that generalizing to all Jews and Christians is NOT the what He enjoins since He know that among them would be the righteous that deserve kindness and friendship.
"[But] they are not all alike: among the followers of earlier revelation there are upright people, who recite God's messages throughout the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him]. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous." (Chapter 3:113 & 114)
The nut cases on all sides are small in number, but they are loud, obnoxious and hateful to the rest of us no matter what our religion is. We need each other, moderates, from all faiths, or we, moderates, are doomed to extinction, or total submission.



You may want to take a look at an earlier post of mine:


  1. Hello Khaled,

    I'm an Israeli born Jewish American living in Maryland. I started a blog recently and I'd like on occasion to bounce of questions at you to get a Muslim/Arab opinion/perspective on current affairs, especially about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and other issues in the Arab world.

    I'm somewhat familiar with Richard Silverstein. I'm not dovish like him but I think mutual understanding is important to peace and mending of conflicts. That's why I'm interested in your and other Muslims' views. I don't know any Muslims or Arabs personally.

    If you know of any other blogs by Muslims, Jews, Israelis, Palestinians or Americans that talk regularly about Middle East issues, please share.

    To contact me, just leave a message on the most recent post on my blog, or just leave a response here and I'll check here later. If you agree to correspond, we'll share email (I don't want everybody to see my email).

    My blog is:

  2. Hello Michael:
    I am very happy to get your comment, and I look forward to heated but healthy discussion on politics and religion with you. When i started this blog a little over a year ago, I used the word 'forum' in the name because I hoped to have more interactive debates, and active dialogue. This, unfortunately, has not been the case. But life is busy for every one and we all are flooded with links to check and emails to reply to. So, I am really excited about getting some discussion going. It about time.
    I checked you blog, and I like it. Your are so prolific and I hope you can keep that pace. It has been added to my 'regular follow up list'. As far as some of the sites/blogs that I like to follow, I will compile my list and post it as a comment here soon.
    thanks for taking the initiative, and hope to keep the communication going.

  3. I'm happy that you are happy to get my comment. I too created my blog in order to have debates and to interact with other people. Only this January have I started to write more. I sort of stopped in the beginning of December but then ideas started to build up so I just had to release them. Perhaps our correspondence would help us both write more often. Perhaps this interaction is the start of a real forum.

    I don't think I ever wrote about "religion" on my blog per se, but I am interested in the topic. Feel free to discuss anything with me.