Jews and Muslims are natural allies against religious discrimination


On Wednesday, a new month began in the lunar calendars of Jews and Muslims. And it couldn’t have come soon enough.

In this past month, white-supremacist, neo-nazis marched in Charlottesville, Va. One of the counter-protesters was killed in an act of terrorism. And rather than hearing a fierce and immediate condemnation from the White House, we instead witnessed a flailing president offering moral equivalencies between the two sides, condoning the neo-nazis, and effectively excusing hate. This is the hate of the immigrant, the hate of the Hispanic, the hate of the African American, and inevitably, the hate of the Muslim and the Jew. Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism are but two sides of the same coin of hatred.

{mosads}In the Muslim calendar, the new lunar month is the season of Hajj, during which Muslims perform their duty of pilgrimage to Mecca, to the house that father Abraham built with his son Ishmael. Immediately following the Hajj, the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Adha celebrates Abraham and his son’s submission to Allah – defining Islam, as an act of surrender to God’s will. Today, Muslims continue to emulate Abraham by serving something greater, a beneficent and loving God.

In the Jewish calendar, the new moon ushers in the month of Elul. It is a month of reflection and penitence, in preparation for God’s judgment on the New Year (Rosh HaShanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is a time to ask forgiveness and to make sure that one is right with one’s fellow humans, as well as with God. On Rosh HaShanah, in synagogues all over the world, Jews read the story of Abraham and his son’s act of submission to God — what Jews call the binding of Isaac.

What does this new month that is sacred to Muslims and Jews teach Americans? It teaches us to repent of our misdeeds, to apologize for our failings and admit we were wrong, and to have humility before God. It teaches that Jews and Muslims share a heritage that is precious and we learn that these two minority communities, both “children of Abraham,” must be responsible to one another.

Now is the time for the Jewish and Muslim communities to have each other’s backs. To stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

As minority religions, we have been natural allies. Back in 2008-09, Muslims from the Islamic Cultural Center (96th Street Mosque) joined monthly with students and staff from the Jewish Theological Seminary to prepare food for New York’s hungry at the local Presbyterian soup kitchen.

In 2014, Jewish and Muslim physicians joined forces to give low-income Texans free health screenings.

Just last year, the NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee joined with the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees to make up relief packages for the displaced and, in recent months, the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council lobbied Congress for hate crimes legislation.

These are but a few examples of Muslim and Jewish cooperation to “repair the world.” But we need to do more. We can open our Mosques and Synagogues to each other, as well as to the surrounding, largely Christian, community. As the season of holidays comes upon us, it is time for Jews to visit the Mosque, and for Muslims to join the Jewish community, perhaps for lunch in the Sukkah. Open your homes to one another, open your hearts. That is how we can help America to remember the loving and welcoming nation she was always meant to be.

This is not a season for hate or xenophobia. It is a time to welcome all of God’s children with love. The Holy Quran teaches, we are made different “tribes and peoples that you might know one another.” The Torah commands us, “Know the heart of the stranger for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”  And we are taught, “Love the stranger.”

We live in a country where we need not be strangers, but fellow citizens. We share common hopes and precious freedoms. We stand together in love to protect those freedoms and speak out against hatred. For hate will pass, but love will always abide. We pray that in this new month, God bless the United States of America.

Daisy Khan is founder and executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality & Equality (WISE), a non-profit addressing the challenges that face the global Muslim community, particularly gender-based inequality, and editor of a forthcoming book, “WISE UP — Knowledge ends extremism.”

Rabbi Burton Visotzky is Appleman Professor of Midrash at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he directs the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, a center focusing particularly on fostering Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim understanding and partnership

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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