The Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) dedicated its gleaming new mosque this past weekend at a celebration I was privileged to attend. It was a joyful, festive ocassion and as a Jew I was especially grateful to participate with my Muslim neighbors. There were a number of government representatives there including the mayor of Redmond, the jurisdiction which approved all the permits to build the mosque.
As you can imagine, the Muslim community (and perhaps local officials) were apprehensive lest a local Pam Geller-type be roused to action against the facility. Luckily no such opposition happened and the local Muslim community worked hand in glove with the city to bring this dream to reality.
Being based in Redmond, many mosque members are highly educated professionals a number of whom work on Microsoft’s international product initiatives. In this increasingly global environment, companies like this will need such a diverse work force. It’s wonderful to see such developments in Redmond.
Rob McKenna had the chutzpah to show up even after he joined a number of state attorneys general in proposing that Washington State should have a foreign policy position supporting Israel’s horrendous war on Gaza. I note that the local Jewish community and elected officials like McKenna who opposed the I-97 city BDS initiative, suggested it wasn’t the business of Seattle to take a position on foreign policy. They didn’t manage to maintain any consistency on McKenna’s signing of the attorneys general letter. I guess it depends which foreign policy a local official is advancing as to whether Jews and the pro-Israelists support local forays into foreign policy.
I had the opportunity to hear the MAPS Imam Joban, a native of Indonesia, whose address took a suitably joyful, yet serious tone with the audience of mixed Muslims and non-Muslims. I also appreciated that he included a short Muslim prayer in his homiliy sung in a style somewhat reminiscent of what a Jew might hear a cantor or rabbi sing in a synagogue.
The Episcopal bishop of western Washington warmly addressed the gathering. I note only one Jewish community leader, Rabbi Jim Mirel, attended the celebration. I was happy to see Rabbi Mirel there, and not surprised that I didn’t see any other leaders of the community there. There is very little effort made by my community to build bridges to the Muslim community. In fact, local Jews allow a group like Stand With Us, with its harsh anti-Arab, anti-Muslim rhetoric to set the tone for Jewish-Muslim relations or the lack thereof.
I’ve reported here that I attempted to organize a mosque-synagogue Twinning initiative between MAPS and my own synagogue, Beth Sholom, but my rabbi, Jill Borodin, under likely pressure from congregation members affiliated with Stand With Us, retreated from her own commitment to sponsor such an initiative. Rabbi Daniel Weiner last year tried to organize a Twinning, but his record of deep animosity for Iran including support for violent regime change, which I’ve written about here, and his strong pro-Israel positions didn’t endear him to the local Muslim community either.
A community in which there has been a horrible killing by a Muslim-American as happened at the Seattle Jewish federation offices several years ago ought to cause local Jews to make the strongest effort to reach out to the Muslim community to find common ground and discuss issues that unite and divide us. Except for Rabbi Mirel and his congregation, this isn’t happening. A far better job is being done by the Middle East Task Force of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, with whom I joined in a conference about Islamophobia. There I was able to address issues of Jewish-Muslim relations in ways that likely could never happen inside the local Jewish community.
Have you ever dedicated a new shul Richard?
Richard Silverstein says
I was the first child bar mitzvahed at the new New City Jewish Center building in 1965. So yes, I have. I’ve davened in scores of synagogues around the world in case that question is buzzing around yr brain as well. This was only the 2nd time in my life I’d set foot in a mosque (the first being the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem).
Besides, why & how is this relevant to anything? Indeed, it’s off topic & a total red herring.
What he means is that you must hate Jews if you have anything positive to say about Muslims or the building of a mosque.
That’s how right-wingers work. You’re a self-hating Jew or something like that.
Same old same old. But good on you, Richard. Nice article.
You are right on the mark Omar.
Ibrahim Soudy says
Many thanks, Richard and let’s all pray for people like Joel to get the help they need. They really need a lot of help.
Jeff Siddiqui says
MAPS is certainly the most engaged Muslim organization in Puget Sound area and it is quite progressive as well. I believe it will set the standard for what an involved, engaged Muslim organization should be.
I would love to have Jewish organizations and Synagogues engage with Muslim organizations such as MAPS and have discussion, not only about the similarities we share, but also other topics of interest, like Israel and Palestine on one side and pehaps, issues related with Muslim-majority countries, on another.
I believe that is the only way Jews and Muslims can ever come closer together.
Ray in Seattle says
Richard, your response is puzzling. A Muslim shoots six Jewish women killing one of them. And you suggest this should ” . . cause local Jews to make the strongest effort to reach out to the Muslim community to find common ground and discuss issues that unite and divide us.”
Wouldn’t the community associated with the murderer normally be expected to take the greater responsibility toward reassuring the community of the victims in such a case? Especially since stories and YouTube clips of Muslim clerics calling on their followers to kill Jews are all over the internet. Who do you think needs reassuring here?
Similarly, Jeff says he ” . . would love to have Jewish organizations and Synagogues engage with Muslim organizations such as MAPS and have discussion, not only about the similarities we share, but also other topics of interest, like Israel and Palestine on one side and pehaps, issues related with Muslim-majority countries, on another.
I believe that is the only way Jews and Muslims can ever come closer together.”
I would remind Jeff that it is the Arab states and Muslims of the world who reject the state of Israel and whose doctrines call for Israel’s annihilation and espouse blatant anti-semitism similar to that which came from Nazi Germany . . not the other way around.
Perhaps I am just ignorant on this issue but I would wonder what has the Muslim community in Seattle done to reach out to Seattle’s Jews to assure them of their friendship and good intentions toward the Jews of the area and of the world.
Richard Silverstein says
First, the local Muslim community didn’t attack the federation building. One mentally ill Muslim American who isn’t even from Seattle, did. In fact, his family communicated directly with the community & victims & expressed their horror at what their son did.
Second, did you not read that MAPS was eager to participate in a twinning project with Beth Sholom, whose rabbi deliberately let the ball drop? MAPS has also done programs with Rabbi Mirel & his shul as well. His is the only one I know that has done so. If the Jewish community as a whole wishes to promote good will & relations with the Muslim community it should be able to do so. THe Jewish community here is much larger & much wealthier & has many more resources to devote to this if it wished. It simply doesn’t wish to do so.
As for the other nonsense you published about the Arab states it is OFF TOPIC. COmments much be related to the post & not introduce extraneous topics or arguments that enable you to imagine that you’re scoring pts. against the other side.
The further nonsense about blatant anti Semitism & Nazi Germany is another major comment rule violation. Read the rules if you want to continue commenting.
A lovely piece, Richard – thank you for the adhan/ video as well as speaking up for justice and community unity. Despite the size wealth and capability of region, it seems that many in the organized Jewish community persist in dwelling on an identity of victimhood- as if no other people have been persecuted, and in the midst of ethnic cleansing and calls for killing fields in the West Bank.
Avigail Abarbanel has written on the undifferentiated individual for the “Australian & NZ Journal of Fam Therapy” (3/03).
She wrote about this characteristic specifically in relation to Israeli ideation of persecution & victimization, which is drummed into each successive generation starting at very early ages (5 and up).
So my next thought is how to get all of Israel to deal with /get past their trauma fixation in order to move forward to Peace with all its neighbors instead of blaming the neighbors for not taking the first steps.
I’d like to put in a request for a gigantic INTERVENTION to rehabilitate this criminal state; does Dr. Drew do state interventions???
Gali’s book will be coming out in 2012 on this and related & here’s a link to the article:
Rich doesn’t do synagogues. But any opportunity to go to a mosque and prostrate hinmself. That he kvells over
Richard Silverstein says
Really? I enjoyed Rosh Hashanah services at the local synagogue I belong to where my son had the honor reciting Ashrey. Be there for Yom Kippur too. Been a High Holiday chazan in the past as well. I’ve been in more synagogues in my life in more countries & on more continents than you, no doubt.
Mostafa M. says
If most Jews, Christians and Muslims had the same view as yours, we would live in a much better world. Keep it up.
שָׁלוֹם Richard. May God give you patience in dealing with those who would otherwise have you join in their hatred. It’s beautiful that you not only attended the opening of the Redmond Masjid but that you took the time to share your experience with others. Our peoples have a long way to travel on the road to reconciliation but with people of Taqwa (God consciousness) there is hope. A lot has changed in the last century but that only indicates how much change can occur in this one. We lived in peace through most of our history−let no one say we’ve gone too far to return. Thank you.