Earlier this week, Steve Cohan of Bet Haverim put out a perfectly reasonable statement asking, I think, a question that increasingly needs to be asked, given the Imam’s apology in late July – why are things still a problem?
He writes: “These are welcome positive statements, so why is it then that many of us in the Jewish community and beyond are not satisfied?”
He answers that very clearly: “It is because in his response, we did not hear a clear rejection of bigotry and anti-Semitism, unconditioned by explanations of what he meant versus what we heard. We categorically and unequivocally reject these anti-Semitic statements.”
I think the Imam needs to do more and I am critical that he has let the ball drop in that regard, even though I am supportive of Bet Haverim’s thrust. Many are frustrated by the lack of a more clear apology and by the lack of publicly visible follow-up on the part of the Imam.
As I have pointed out numerous times since August, this is largely self-inflicted.
In her Saturday response to the Bet Haverim piece, Gail Rubin quotes Steve Cohan stating, “He has publicly taken a clear anti-violence stance, and has rejected genocide against any people.”
Here she takes his comment out of context, by failing to note the second paragraph which posits why the Jewish community is not satisfied with the lack of clear rejection.
Thus taking only the first comment and ignoring the second part of the statement, she then builds on the out-of-context quote with an Alice in Wonderland reference.
Ms. Ruben continued: “The statement issued by Bet Haverim is based on magical thinking. What Imam Shahin has said publicly (taqiyya) does not match the facts. He has called for genocide. He has called for incitement against the Jewish people.”
But the statement by Bet Haverim did not claim otherwise. Instead, Mr. Cohan builds on the apology and talks about the work that has been done in the community – often outside of the public limelight – that it views as positive. Nowhere in the statement is a defense of the Imam’s words.
Ms. Rubin goes too far when she attacks the Muslim Hands group. She writes: “Well-meaning people speak highly of the ‘Muslim Hands’ group that embraced the congregants at Bet Haverim. But who are they? Do they embrace pluralism and democratic values? Muslim Hands is a Hamas-front charity raising money for Jihad. Hamas seeks to eliminate secular democracies and replace them with a radical Islamic state.”
But the evidence for that is at best indirect. Indeed, the two sites she refers to (moneyjihad and discoverthenetworks) are not evidence that Muslim Hands is a Hamas-front charity, but they are instead right-wing conspiracy groups.
Moreover, there is no necessary nexus between Muslim Hands and the group Davis Muslim Hands. The group describes itself: “Davis Muslim Hands is an independent organization of Muslims in Davis.”
So even if Muslim Hands is as the site claims, there is no necessary connection between Muslim Hands and Davis Muslim Hands.
This is a disgraceful attack on Hamza El-Nakhal, a man who many in this community deeply admire. In fact, it was Hamza who was the first person in the Muslim community to condemn the Imam’s words. He has been a longtime resident in our community and did not deserve such vile words of hatred directed towards him.
Ironically, while the Imam has been criticized for his tepid response, Davis Muslim Hands in early August completely repudiated the statement from the Imam.
They stated in a letter to “Our Jewish Friends”: “Davis Muslim Hands publicly states that we strongly repudiate the hurtful and inexcusable anti-Semitic words that were delivered July 21 in the sermon at the Islamic Center of Davis. Our hearts go out to the Jewish community here and worldwide for the deep pain this sermon has caused you, your family, and your friends. We can only imagine how terrifying it must feel for a community that faced genocide to hear such vitriolic and dangerous words.”
Isn’t that the statement we want to hear? Is Ms. Rubin arguing that this is a ploy by the local group to somehow trick us into complacence?
Unfortunately, Ms. Rubin’s piece does little but serve to divide us with hateful rhetoric, and is ironically little better than the sermon that she rightly condemns.
This the problem that we face, as we are so divided – the Imam said horrible things and I agree with many that he has not done nearly enough to rectify them or even repudiate them. However, at the same time, dividing the community does not serve any of us well.
A lot of people in this community remain deeply upset by the Imam’s words. That is perfectly understandable. But the question really at this point is how we can move forward.
Again – I would like to see more publicly from the Imam and I cannot state that more clearly.
At the same time, I think we have to put our faith in the work of community leaders who have been looking to forge unity out of a moment of hatred, anger and distrust.
I support the work of Davis Muslim Hands, of Bet Haverim, and of the Interfaith community. I will put my faith, so to speak, in their hands to lead us in the right direction.
—David M. Greenwald reporting