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An Open Letter to The Nashville Jewish Observer

Why don’t peace loving Muslims publicly condemn Muslims killing Muslims, and “where is the same moral outrage by peace-loving Muslims when Jews are killed merely because we are Jews?”

TO: Dr. Frank,  Chairman of the Editorial Board , The Nashville Jewish Observer.

Dr. Frank Boehm, knowing of your concerns, we can appreciate your unease about dealing with a difficult subject, Jewish outreach to Muslim communities and clerics.  Imam Ossama Bahloul wrote a column, “I condemn With the Strongest Language Any Act of Terrorism”, as published in The Jewish  Observer.  This while Israel is surrounded with extremist Islamic Jihadist  threats on all of its borders and from afar; a nuclear Iran.  You recall that former President Ahmadinejad vowed to “wipe Israel off the map”.

Just after 9/11,  I attended a lecture by James Carroll, a former Paulist priest,  syndicated columnist and author of Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews – a History,  about two millennia of Christian anti-Semitism.  The venue was a Reform Temple in Westport, Connecticut.   Carroll responded to a question from a member of the large  interreligious audience about how we could understand what just happened ;  a Jihad killing thousands of innocents here in America.   With regard to how to understand Muslims he said: “let them define themselves”.  He meant that in both words and deeds.

Last fall, we published an open letter to  Rabbi Schiftan, spiritual leader of The Temple in Nashville on the blog  The Iconoclast. That was prior to the October 27, 2013 encounter between  you and your fellow congregants  of  The Nashville Temple with Imam Bahloul and the members of  the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM).  We advised Schiftan that little would emerge from such an encounter.  That  was confirmed in the public comments at the ICM encounter  in a November  2013 Iconoclast post.  We  suggested to Rabbi Schiftan in our open letter that he was likely to be presented with Da’wah (proselytizing) by Imam Ossama Bahloul.  He  is an expert in it, trained at al Azhar University in Cairo, a bastion of Sunni Supremacism with deep connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.  The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Hassan al Banna, was an Egyptian teacher from Ismailia and an early admirer of Adolf Hitler. The MB credo is:

Allah is our objective, the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.

Hardly peaceful, as attested to by the current violence in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East on the borders of Israel.

Colleagues on the West Coast visited several Mosques in Orange County California at virtually the same time as your visit to Murfreesboro. We published their review of those Mosque open house visits as illustrative of the problematic Islamic concept of taqiyyah  – religiously condoned acts of dissimilitude.  Note their discussion of this concept;

For those unfamiliar with this term, the Qur’anic reference to taqiyyah is Surah 3:28:  ‘’Let believers not make friends with infidels in preference to the faithful – he that does has nothing to hope for from Allah – except in self-defense.”  The Arabic word for self-defense here is tuqah which means to guard against. In Reliance of the Traveller, section r8.2 on Permissible Lying, it says, “When it is possible to achieve such an aim (as advancing Islam) by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible, and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory.  . . . But it is religiously more precautionary in all such cases to employ words that give a misleading impression, meaning to intend by one’s words something that is literally true, in respect to which one is not lying, while the outward purport of the words deceives the hearer . . . .”

You would  be well advised  to consult The Methodology of Da’wah, by Shamim Siddiqi:  – which closely reflects and  implements the original By-Laws of the MB, as written by Hassan al-Banna.   al-Banna promoted  a MB parallel society providing  social services such as health and welfare  as a means of infiltrating and challenging  his native Egypt and host countries in the West.  One example in the US is the network of more than 40  Al-Shifa health clinics providing free care to  residents in predominantly low income  communities promoted by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).  Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism in his book, American Jihad: The terrorists Living Among Us wrote, “The ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terror attacks, issues incendiary attacks on western values and policies, and supports the imposition of Sharia [Islamic law].”

In our letter to Rabbi Schiftan, we cited the dangers of Jewish Muslim dialog  as  evident  in the  experience with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center  (ISBCC) – the largest Mosque on the east coast  that nurtured  convicted  homegrown Islamic terrorists, the Boston Marathon Bombers, including  the Tsarneav brothers and an accomplice, the late Ibragim Todaschev. Tamerlan Tsarneav and Todaschev, who were admitted as Refugees and Asylees to this country have been suspected of also perpetrating murders of three men, two of them Jews on 9/11/11 in the Boston suburb of Waltham.

Dr. Charles Jacobs of the Boston –based Americans for Peace and Tolerance had warned the Boston Jewish community and rabbinate of dialogue with the ISBCC.  He referred to  given trustee Abdulrahman Alamoudi currently serving a 23 year term in a federal prison who laundered funds via the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.  Then there is  Muslim televangelist  Yusuf al Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian Islamic theologian,  Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian preacher and  former Al Azhar University governing board member. He said upon his return from to Egypt exile in Qatar in 2011,  “Islam is in Cairo, you must kill every Jew on the planet.”  Jacobs has also been pro-active in investigating and uncovering the duplicity of Imams in Buffalo, New York in a mosque –synagogue  “twinning” program.   This was one of more than 100  annually sponsored by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding founded by Orthodox rabbi Marc Schneier of New York.  Schneier is the co-author with Imam Shamsi Ali of  Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and MuslimsAli, an Indonesian born Imam was ejected by conservative elements at the Islamic Cultural Center on Manhattan’s upper east side who objected to interfaith dialogue.  In the Buffalo case, the local rabbinate, as a result of Jacobs and the APT investigation stopped the “twinning” program in their community. 

When Imam Bahloul categorically states that he “Condemns With the Strongest Language Any Act of Terrorism”, we refer to several incidents that involved the ICM.  In January 2009, Imam Bahloul and his board organized a community rally protesting the IDF Operation Cast Lead against the rocket war perpetrated by  Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad against communities in Southern Israel and the Western Negev. We didn’t see any outcry by Bahloul nor his board members about a clear attempt to wreak death and destruction against  Jews.  Hamas, an Arabic acronym meaning “Islamic Resistance Movement” is the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate that overthrew the PLO-Fatah in 2007 establishing an Islamist theocratic regime in Gaza. The 1988 Hamas Charter proclaims as one of its principal objectives, “Israel will exist and  will  continue  to  exist  until  Islam  will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”. During the controversy over the building of the ICM, we found with the assistance of Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism screenshots on the Facebook pages of a board member of the ICM, Mosaad Rawash. They contained  tributes to leaders of Hamas, the late blind Sheik Yassin and Dr. Rantisi, both assassinated by the IDF.  Further, when we sent Imam Bahloul and the ICM board in February 2010, a Freedom Pledge abjuring Shariah death fatwas for apostates, former Muslims, he refused to acknowledge it.  When approached by a local group in Murfreesboro in the fall of 2010 to consider a similar pledge  regarding Sharia Islamic law concerning apostasy, treatment of women and gays he once again refused an opportunity to sign it.

Let us examine  the Qur’an citations that Imam Bahloul used in his  Jewish Observer column to illustrate  the taqiyyah doctrine.

Bahloul cites Sura 8:61:

But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

This Sura is abrogated by a later Sura 9:5, the so-called Sword Sura:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Bahloul does not  place Sura  8:61 in the context of the immediately preceding Sura 8:60 which when translated in English by several sources conveys Jihad.

Sahih International: And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.

Yusuf Ali: Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.

The verb “To Prepare” or “To Make Ready” found in Sura 8:60  is the same word in Arabic  – “waidu” – that is found on the bottom of the Muslim Brotherhood shield-see below.

Later in his column he cites Qur’anic  Sura 5:32 which appears to follow closely Jewish precepts, “the killing of one is as the killing of all mankind”.  The  full translation of Sura 5:32 reads:

On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

Notice that it refers to Jews, but not to Muslims.  Sura 5:33 explains who Muslim can kill:

The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.

Therefore an unbeliever, Christians, Jews  or others, rejecting the  Prophet Mohammed or who do not  convert to Islam are considered engaged in  “mischief” and thus can be put to death. The Muslim concept of peace, equality and justice only  extends to the Muslim community or Ummah  excluding all unbelievers who dwell among them. Under Islamic law or Sharia the witness testimony of unbelievers, Christian, Jews and others is not recognized before an Islamic court.

What Imam Bahloul did in Murfreesboro during your visit to the ICM was to lull you  and your fellow congregants into believing  that Islam and Judaism were peas in the same pod of the Abrahamic Religions. Dr. Mark Durie, an internationally renowned Australian Anglican theologian, scholar and author has highlighted  that fallacy in a recent essay we published at the (NER), “The Abrahamic Fallacy”.  Durie noted:

It is simply a cover term for the grouping of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, a kind of functional shorthand without any intended theological content. Others – perhaps the majority of writers – use the phrase to imply some degree of “historical and theological commonality,” perhaps unspecified. For still others the term implies an intimate unity, namely that it is one and the same God who has authored the Bible and the Qur’an, and the same eternal message is presented in both books.

His conclusion:

The concept of “Abrahamic faiths” is a fallacy. Its contemporary influence was, tragically, born out of a century of Christian suffering in the Middle East and foisted upon the unsuspecting West. It is reasonable to ask whether this is a theological Trojan horse designed to promote an Islamic worldview of relations between faiths.

By all means, let us discuss Abraham and what he stands for in different faiths, and note that the narratives of the three monotheistic faiths refer to Abraham. But it is unwise to take Abraham as a touchstone of unity and theological continuity. On the contrary, the name of Abraham stands for the profound divisions between the three monotheistic faiths.

In a companion  NER essay, “Jewish Myopia towards Islam”, both this writer and Dr. Jacobs of APT engaged in a discussion of this phenomenon.  We cited this advice written nearly a millennium ago by Maimonides, a multi-faceted Jewish sage, physician, midrash interpreter.  A letter was later found in the Cairo Genizah, the archives of the ancient Jewish community in Egypt in the 19th Century:

They found correspondence by Maimonides with the Jews of Yemen who were actually threatened by Islam. They were threatened with both death and conversion. They asked Maimonides why don’t we convert because after all Islam is sort of a monotheistic faith? So he came back with an answer paraphrased in a Wall Street Journal review of a new book on his legacy. The reviewer cited Maimonides writing these Jews in Yemen, saying “that if the Torah, the five books of Moses, was a public divine revelation then any subsequent revised revelation, particularly one received in private wouldn’t merely suggest an imperfect Torah. It would be worse. It would suggest an imperfect God; hence Jews could not convert to Islam”.

Heed this warning by Dr. Jacobs in the same NER article on the dangers of Jewish Muslim dialogue:

Islam is a religion, a political and an economic system. In it there is a demand for worldwide supremacy. When Islam conquers the land, the people on the land have a choice. If they are Jews or Christians, they can choose not to be killed if they accept the status of dhimmitude. Being a dhimmi is lower than second class status where you may not have political independence. You may not have freedom. You are subjugated. However, if you allow yourself to be subjugated and you follow their rules you can still be a Jew or a Christian. Now if you don’t, however, if you rebel against that, then the entire theological house of Islam with sword behind it comes after you and that is what happened with Israel. Israel is a rebellious dhimmi state. The Jews were never supposed to have self-rule just like the Christians.   A theological Israel is a theological catastrophe for Islam. It is not a border war. If it was that, then, you could make concessions and you could make compromises with two people living in peace. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

The prevailing view of tikkun olam,  , repairing the world , in liberal Jewish denominations nurtured the October 2013 encounter between the Nashville Temple and ICM. While well intended, it was unfortunately one-sided and misguided.  While the information we have conveyed  to you may be discomforting,  it hopefully should give pause and incentive you to educate yourself about what lies behind Islamic doctrine.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.