defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...
Jews On First!
... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind
by Robin Podolsky with Rabbi Dov Beliak, JewsOnFirst.org, September 7, 2010
(Page 3 of 8) Print version
In an article for Salon.com, Osman Adnan writes,
I am a lifelong resident of Middletown, N.J., the town that lost more victims per
capita on 9/11 than anyplace in the state, and the second hardest hit city after
New York. Almost 50 of our neighbors died that day, in a town of 60,000. Most of
those who died worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. Although I was only 18, I was an enlisted
medic with the New Jersey National Guard on that day, and I wound up on many Homeland
Security missions in my four-year stint after the attack. My older brother commissioned
as a U.S. Army officer after Sept. 11, and was awarded a Purple Heart during his
service in Iraq. To this day he has shrapnel lodged in his body from the IED that
blew up his convoy.
Adnan, who has served as an American aid worker in the Middle East and is well-informed
about actual extremists, is convinced that the Cordoba Institute is dedicated to
articulating an American Islam and wants to establish the center to celebrate our
democracy's religious freedom—thus denying violent Islamic fundamentalists a victory.
On September 11, 2010, Christians at the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida will ceremoniously
burn Qurans. According to Pastor Terry Jones, Islam is "of the devil." (The same group
plans to protest Gainesville's openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe.) Mosques and construction
sites for mosques in Texas, in northern and southern California, Tennessee, Connecticut, Washington
DC and in New York, where an attacker yelled "terrorist" and urinated on a prayer
rug, have been vandalized and subject to ongoing harassment. In New York a cab driver
was slashed across the neck and face by a customer who asked his religion and attacked
when the driver said that he is Muslim.
From Pat Robertson, television pastor to millions, and anonymous internet trolls
alike, we hear the same accusations: Islam is not a "real" religion. It is an international conspiracy
of conquest. The center was only going to be called Cordoba House in order to signal
a victory over those Westerners too ignorant to realize it. Muslims will smile at
your face and lie behind your back. (Where have we heard this before?) For a grass
roots movement, this grouping is astonishingly on-message.
If the details of this conspiracy theory aimed at all Muslims seem familiar to Jewish
readers, they should. We have heard this before and we know where it leads.
We too have been painted as alien, a fifth column, a conspiracy. The Protocols of
the Elders of Zion, a fantasy concocted by Czar Nicholas II's secret police,
portrays Jews as a worldwide, secretive cabal, owing loyalty only to one another,
no matter what nation, class, social movement or other outside group they may situate
themselves in. According to the Protocols, Jews are simultaneously behind
all capitalist and all communist conspiracies; and the more patriotic they seem,
the more blatant is their perfidy. In this perfectly closed system, there is no
way for Jews to escape categorical suspicion. Now this trap is being woven for Muslim
We have been told that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology because
it has a holistic system of laws for daily living. Shall we then call Judaism a
political ideology because of the system of Halachah? Daniel Pipes, a conservative
academic specialist in Islam, asserts that the comparison is unfair, because "Islamists
aspire to apply Islamic law to everyone, while observant Jews seek only to live
by Jewish law themselves." Indeed. Perhaps Dr. Pipes has not been to Jerusalem lately.
There he could find Jews who are willing to throw stones at anyone who drives within
their neighborhoods on the Sabbath, physically assault other Jews whom they deem
to be immodestly dressed and stab, bomb and shoot (without inquiring about their
religion) people they encounter at gay pride events. On the other hand, the vast
majority of religious Jews are indeed observant without compelling other people
to join with them. The same is true of Muslim communities.
There are countries where Islamic law is threaded through the system, some of which
are very exacting and some of which are relatively laissez-faire. Like the
State of Israel, such countries are laboratories where new forms of government,
accountable to worship and enjoy common
to religious and to parliamentary law, are being grown.
In the United States, observant Muslims, like observant Jews, often live close to
one another in neighborhoods where they can enjoy the food at restaurants in which
their rules regarding food will be observed (uh-oh--creeping Halachah!), find places
recreation. Are such people "clannish?" On the left,
right and center, American Jews who participate in elections and social movements
are often motivated by values and imperatives they derive from Judaism. Are such
people attempting to "impose" Jewish law?
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