Understanding, tolerating the religions of others

Rabbi Michael Gotlieb ("The links between Judaism and Islam," Opinion, Dec. 23) is correct in identifying the notion that there is "no God but God" as the single most important tenant of Islam. However, the remainder of his claims about Islam are unfounded.

First, Islam is not an offshoot of Judaism as he claims. Rather, Islam asserts that all the prophets including Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad came forward with the same exact message of the "Oneness of God." Prophet Muhammad, however, came forward with that message to all of humanity as opposed to one group of people related by a common ancestry.

Second, prophet Muhammad's message sought the reversion of all of humanity to the message of the oneness of God whether they were Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Animists or Pagans.

Third, Gotlieb's claim that Jews were hated under early Islamic rule is contradicted by historical facts. Jewish scholars -- Maimonides, for example -- flourished under Islamic rule. Moreover, Jews lived peacefully and gained tremendous acceptance in society under both Islamic Spain and the Ottoman Empire.

Fourth, his claim that Muslims, by virtue of their faith, harbor hatred toward Christians and Jews is a shallow discussion of a complex reality. On a global level, current day apparent animosities stem mainly from the
oppression suffered by the majority of world Muslims at the hand of non-Muslims.

Unfortunately, the rabbi's unfounded claims about our faith and our prophet only serve to foster hatred and cast a net of suspicion on all devout Muslims. Men of religion should search for common ground and emphasize the need for mutual respect and understanding.


Globe column slams Daniel Pipes for smearing U.S. Muslims

In the years when I was living and working in the Middle East I used to hear endless and misinformed complaints about the Jewish takeover of the United States.

The Zionist octopus had its tentacles into everything, went the story line - the press, the government, the banks, you name it. Later I heard echoes of such talk among Serbs and Croats in Bosnia who spoke of the Muslims among them as different, alien, outlandish, not to be trusted, a danger within.

It was with sadness, then, that I picked up a copy of Commentary last month to find that professor Daniel Pipes, a distinguished author, director of Philadelphia's Middle East Forum, and columnist for the Jerusalem Post, had written an article entitled: "The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America."

After mocking editorial writers, politicians, and the president of the United States for having "tripped over themselves" to describe American Muslims as just ordinary people who "love their country," Pipes warned that the "Muslim population in this country is not like any other group, for it includes within it a substantial body of people…who share with the suicide hijackers a hatred of the United States…"

Thus having set the stage for the entire Muslim population in this country to be considered "not like any other group," Pipes goes on to cherry-pick statements from Muslims, not all of them Americans, that would indicate their evil intentions.

Allah to help replace evil with good." Another is charged with saying that he had a vision of America in which Muslims owned property, businesses, factories; Muslim pilots (Pipes knows the hot buttons), Muslim trucks rolling down highways, and Muslim street names. But what immigrant group has not wished much the same for its people?...

because there are a few fanatics among them, or to call for an "immediate reform of immigration procedures to prevent a further influx of visitors or residents with any hint of Islamist ideology," smacks of the intolerance and scare- mongering that was once used against Catholics, Jews, and Asians among us.

This kind of rhetoric is the real face of the danger within.


South African Jews polarized over Israel

It is a brief document, occupying less than half a page in a local newspaper here. But since the "declaration of conscience" was published 10 days ago, it has polarized South African Jews like no issue since the collapse of white-minority rule seven years ago.

Written by two Jewish heroes of South Africa's liberation struggle against the white government's apartheid system, and signed by 220 Jews, the document asserts that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories is the cause of the escalating violence in the Middle East and denounces Israel's campaign of violence. Titled "Not In My Name," the declaration acknowledges Israel's right to exist and its valid security concerns but compares Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the oppression of South Africa's black majority under apartheid.

"It becomes difficult," Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky write, "particularly from a South African perspective, not to draw parallels with the oppression experienced by Palestinians under the hand of Israel and the oppression experienced in South Africa under apartheid rule…"