Interfaith Healing is Occurring – Slowly

In the past week, we have seen some signs that healing is starting to occur.

Following the apology by Imam Shahin, Bet Haverim released a statement.  “Imam Shahin’s words today are a beginning,” Bet Haverim Co-President Steve Cohan stated, on behalf of the synagogue’s 13 board members.  “It is through the integrity of this message, with the Imam’s and Muslim community’s words and actions, that healing will take place.”

A week later, Davis Muslim Hands wrote 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.”

They added that “when anti-Semitic or other violent words or actions occur, we do not stay silent, but rather speak up and stand for what is right, correct what is wrong, and reach out to each other to heal and strengthen the solid unity of our beloved Davis and its beautiful citizens.”

While yesterday’s column pointed out that there is still much to be done, I happened upon a Facebook post by Joy Cohan.  She gave me permission to re-print it, but to make it clear that these are her private thoughts posted on her personal Facebook account.

Last night, Steve Cohan, Aidan Cohan and I joined approximately 75 others (huge for an otherwise quiet Aug. evening) for Shabbat services at Bet Haverim to hear a message from our local Muslim community.  

These were not representatives of the Islamic Center of Davis per se, but rather Muslim community members, called Davis Muslim Hands, disgusted and outraged by the hateful, anti-Semitic words of the Imam’s recent sermons.   

Their words and gifts to us were heartfelt, and Rabbi Greg Wolfe’s words in response acknowledged how important and brave their visit was to our synagogue, while at the same time making very clear that all is not resolved, and it will take a lot of work – – such as this visit – – before the hurt caused in both the Jewish community and the community-at-large can be diminished and trust regained.  

After services, the opportunity to speak frankly, one-on-one with these visitors was enormously educational for me.  Many never had attended a Jewish worship service before, and were struck by the commonalities in the prayers, the shared themes of peace and justice.  

And, just as all Jews (or Christians) do not agree on a single and/or outdated interpretation of sacred texts, the same is true of the Muslim people.  

I came to understand that a disenchantment with the words and teachings of this Imam has for some time caused many local Muslims to practice their religion at other mosques away from Davis.  This, in part, explains the lack of outrage from worshipers at the Imam’s sermons.  

Our visitors were truly embarrassed and sickened by the words of those sermons, and felt as defeated as those in our local Jewish and Christian communities by the damage inflicted upon the years of interfaith work we have all shared.  

Gaining this honest insight into the struggles within the Muslim community, and the intentions of those among them who strive for a focus on peace, justice and understanding, is helping me to navigate my personal perspectives on this crisis.  

By sharing, I hope that others will find this to be helpful, too.  If not, that’s fine, I understand why it might not be helpful for everyone, and no need to fill up my comments.  

We all must search in our own hearts and minds to make sense of this and find a way to be a part of the light that will ease the darkness that we’re in.  Shabbat Shalom.

I encourage those in the community of all faiths to share their thoughts and concerns.  It is only through open and honest dialogue that change can take place.  Some of this dialogue is occurring behind the scenes, but there also needs to be a public component to it.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Interfaith Healing is Occurring – Slowly”

  1. Tia Will

    Some of this dialogue is occurring behind the scenes, but there also needs to be a public component to it.”

    As a spiritual person with no affiliation with any organized faith, I deeply appreciate the awareness of the need for a public component to the conversation. As a pacifist, I am often baffled by the attacks ( both verbal and physical) by members of one faith upon another, when from the outside, their various beliefs seem to hold so much in common as noted by Joy Cohan.

    I want to thank Joy for being willing to share her personal thoughts at this troubling time.

  2. John Hobbs

    Sadly, outlawing public expression of religious faith would violate the first amendment. It would certainly behoove those faithful who seek peace and fellowship with those of different faiths to be circumspect in their choice of topics for conversation.

  3. Roberta Millstein

    I came to understand that a disenchantment with the words and teachings of this Imam has for some time caused many local Muslims to practice their religion at other mosques away from Davis.  This, in part, explains the lack of outrage from worshipers at the Imam’s sermons.Our visitors were truly embarrassed and sickened by the words of those sermons, and felt as defeated as those in our local Jewish and Christian communities by the damage inflicted upon the years of interfaith work we have all shared.  

    …  

    By sharing, I hope that others will find this to be helpful, too.  If not, that’s fine, I understand why it might not be helpful for everyone, and no need to fill up my comments.  

    I did indeed find this helpful; thank you for sharing it.  Speaking for myself as a person of Jewish descent, I don’t need to “heal” and I don’t find this to be an issue of “spirituality” or even religion.  I need to know that the people around me aren’t advocating my death.  That isn’t something I “forgive.”

    Maybe folks should be advocating for a new imam.

  4. Tia Will

    Hi Roberta,

    While I do not want to open a national political discussion,however,  I also believe that context is both important and pertinent to the current conversation. I am wondering if, and how you see the president’s frequently stated call for a complete ban on Muslims as influencing the current environment ?

     

  5. Roberta Millstein

    While I do not want to open a national political discussion,however,  I also believe that context is both important and pertinent to the current conversation. I am wondering if, and how you see the president’s frequently stated call for a complete ban on Muslims as influencing the current environment ?

    Of course it does.  Trump’s words and actions have made life very difficult for Muslims in this country.  But I had hoped that Muslims and Jews would find common cause on this issue.  Some have.  But apparently some others would prefer to hold onto ancient animosities.

  6. aaahirsch8

    REFRAMING NEEDED: ALL MUSLIMS AND MOSQUES ARE NOT THE SAME

    It would be a service if Vanguard would unpack the great diversity in the Muslim community.

    With 1 billion followers across many nations across many cultures, it is even more diverse than Western Christianity.

    The media tends to broad brush all Muslim as one and the same….and there is an implied assumption in the news coverage that  Imam and “The Davis Mosque” is exemplar of something “core” to Islam that must be repudiated.   No where are the difference in sects, belief, or national origin described.

    What we are seeing is similar to an assumption that beliefs of the Priest at St James Church Catholic Church is examplar of all Christians in Davis…or even his congregation.

    And would it not be strange if Lutherans were expected to apologize for pedopillia of a local Catholic priest ..or the Southern Baptists voluntarily apologize for the Unitarians posting “Love your Neighbor” signs welcoming everyone  — even LGBTQ— into the neighborhood…or Unitarians apologizing for the Southern Baptists Homophobia….

    What is happening here is the media —including the Vanguard– by giving no background, implies all Muslims Mosques…and believers…. are a homogeneous groups with similar beliefs and affiliation and organization.

    This is how antisemiticism got its start: One Jew did a highly publicized financial crime so ALL Jews control the money. OR one Jews was a visible labor organizer  (or was Marx himself!) — so
    “ALL Jews are communists”.

    Take your pick to fit your pre-existing boogyman.

    Vanguard would do a public service to unpack the diversity in Muslim community in Davis and the Region.

     

     

     

  7. Alan Miller

    I came to understand that a disenchantment with the words and teachings of this Imam has for some time caused many local Muslims to practice their religion at other mosques away from Davis.  This, in part, explains the lack of outrage from worshipers at the Imam’s sermons.

    The above tells us two things, and we as a community seem to be focusing on only one of those things.

    The thing we are focusing on is those people who were turned off by the Imam’s message, those that left to practice elsewhere, those who are looking to heal with other religious communities, to find common ground and common humanness.  These are good things.

    But these good things should not blind us to the other message in the above quote that seems hidden from sight because many do not want to see:  an unknown number also stayed in Davis to practice, and likely others came from outside of Davis to practice here — because they related to the Imam’s words and teachings.   The flip side of the message is that “the lack of outrage from worshipers at the Imam’s sermons” was also due to the fact that many of those who stayed in Davis did not find the Imam’s words reprehensible.

    The Imam’s apology is of no concern to me one way or the other.  Those attracted to his words and find them acceptable — I doubt they are the ones out there seeking to heal or apologize.  Many may be attracted to the anger the Imam expressed because they themselves have been been directly hurt by the politics in the Middle East, or have had relatives that have been.  I am empathetic to that.  The anger is understandable.

    Fueling that anger with talk of genocide is freedom of speech — and is morally reprehensible, because all it takes is one ultra-angry person to take such words into action.  It’s like calling for the killing of abortion doctors — most people will never act on that.  But a few — seeking the selfish, righteous attention of their pastor and congregation — have in fact done so.  Again, the anger is understandable;  anyone stewing in that anger or seeking to act on that anger is of concern.

    Those that wish to heal, those that left the mosque, those that are creating dialogue, they are probably beautiful people, they are not of concern.   Those that stayed, those that related to the Imam’s message, those that heard the call for the genocide of the Jews, and did not find those words reprehensible, what of them?

    People are so focused on the leader, but he is not the concern.  People are so focused on healing, but that is not the concern.  The Imam is a reflection of something deeper.  In his carefully-worded apology, the Imam only spoke for himself, not for his followers.  The Imam cannot speak for his followers; did not speak for his followers.  More importantly, he cannot control every one of them.

    Healing is nice — awareness is paramount.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      But these good things should not blind us to the other message in the above quote that seems hidden from sight because many do not want to see:  an unknown number also stayed in Davis to practice, and likely others came from outside of Davis to practice here — because they related to the Imam’s words and teachings.   The flip side of the message is that “the lack of outrage from worshipers at the Imam’s sermons” was also due to the fact that many of those who stayed in Davis did not find the Imam’s words reprehensible.

      Indeed.

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