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February 10, 2022 2:23 pm

Muslims and Jews Unite to Speak Uncomfortable Truths

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avatar by Zainab Zeb Khan and Jason Guberman


Law enforcement vehicles are seen outside Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. Photo: Reuters/Shelby Tauber

What does it say about America when members of the media and public figures have an acute allergy to speaking the unabashed truth about antisemitism? At least a certain kind of antisemitism.

If the hostage-taking Colleyville terrorist had been a card-carrying Klan member, so many people would have been quick to publicize this fact. Instead, these same people rushed over themselves to deny the Islamist antisemitism of Malik Faisal Akram, who took Jews hostage in a synagogue on Shabbat.

If the Jewish venue and victims were not big enough clues to his motivation, consider Akram’s plan was itself an antisemitic trope. There is nothing as antisemitic as the belief that every Jew, no matter who or where they are, is part of a powerful conspiracy capable of springing Aafia Siddiqui (known as “Lady Al-Qaeda”) from her well-deserved 86-year prison sentence.

Siddiqui, an alumna of MIT (BS) and Brandeis (PhD), as well as the niece-in-law of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was caught in Afghanistan in possession of notes in her own handwriting that listed possible American targets for a “mass casualty attack.” During her interrogation, she grabbed a gun, and attempted to murder US personnel.

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An “icon” of ISIS, “[h]er release has long been sought by militant Islamists,” according to NBC News, “and even mainstream U.S. Muslim groups have said she is innocent and should be freed.”

To be clear, any US Muslim group or individual (like CAIR, or disgraced ex-Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour), who considers Siddiqui “innocent” is not mainstream; they are self-identifying extremists and need to be treated accordingly.

It is disingenuous for CAIR to claim to care about the Colleyville terror attack while campaigning to release a convicted terrorist and vicious Jew-hater. Furthermore, some have claimed that the campaigns to release Siddiqui may have helped inspire the hostage taker in Texas to commit his crime.

For too long, parts of the Muslim American community have tolerated or even promoted antisemitism — sometimes in overt denunciations of Jews, and sometimes under the cover of attacking supporters of Israel.

Muslim Americans are ill-served by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) celebrating the removal of Israel from a map in her office; Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN)’s antisemitic rhetoric on Twitter; and CAIR’s leadership, such as Zahra Billoo, declaring “polite Zionists” are the enemy. Less than two months before Akram’s attack, Billoo, CAIR’s Bay Area Executive Director, publicly condemned “Zionist synagogues.” This kind of dangerous hate speech has festered, spread antisemitism, and sowed seeds of distrust between Muslims and their fellow Americans.

And that is exactly what the Islamists want. Portraying themselves as the majority of Muslims, Islamists are making common cause with Islamophobes to isolate and indoctrinate Muslims. Both groups feed off each other to advance their agendas; it is a double-edged sword that dis-empowers mainstream Muslim Americans, regardless of their political leanings, or religious observance.

Therefore, it’s time to call out this bigotry, unequivocally. The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) and American Sephardi Federation (ASF)’s partnership proves there is a better way, rooted in shared culture, creativity, solidarity, and shared interests. Together, we have long promoted grassroots efforts to strengthen relations between Muslims and Jews.

Our work together challenges the narrative of sowing seeds of distrust by lifting voices from a generation that yearns for collaboration and co-existence. ASF and MALA have bought together hundreds of Muslim and Jewish young professionals, and undertaken countless initiatives to benefit Jews and Muslims alike, including serving Kosher and Halal meals to Ronald McDonald House, and cherishing the shared heritages of both communities, from Holocaust commemorations to Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy classes.

Our children deserve a future of peace and prosperity — one that can only be gained through breaking the cycle of hate, violence, and prejudices. They should not inherit the mistakes of our current generation, one that clearly still has not learned its lessons on combating hate.

We cannot stay silent when the mainstream is being defined by extremists whose hateful ideology cannot be ignored, explained away, or appeased. We must oppose these efforts, and our message of unconditional unity and support must remain strong. We invite you to be a part of it.

Zainab Zeb Kahn is the Chair & Executive Director of the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), and Jason Guberman is the Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation (ASF). Both are part of “Combating Racism and Antisemitism Together: Shaping an Omni-American Future.”

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