Muslims ask Jewish Group to delay release of book on Islam
A national Islamic advocacy group today asked the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to delay the release of a new book on Islam for Jews until Muslim concerns about the book’s content and cover image can be addressed.
In April, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) questioned AJC’s choice of a controversial author for the book, called “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews,” scheduled for release this week. CAIR says the author of that book, Khalid Duran, has a mysterious identity, associates with infamous “Muslim bashers” and was once convicted of defaming an Islamic center in Germany.
CAIR now says it also objects to an image of the Prophet Abraham (“Ibrahim” to Muslims) on the book’s cover. (For Muslims, created representations of prophets are inappropriate in that they distract from God’s message and could lead to a kind of idol worship, something forbidden in Islam. Just recently, a similar image of the Prophet Muhammad in Time magazine resulted in an apology to Muslims. [Reuters, 4/21/2001])
Duran’s book is one of two being published by the AJC. (http://www.ajc.org/pre/muslimjew.htm) Rabbi Reuven Firestone wrote the companion publication, “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims.”
In a letter to AJC Executive Director David Harris, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote: “Given the AJC’s stated intent of promoting ‘understanding and mutual respect,’ it is puzzling as to why your organization would first of all engage an author who has little credibility in the Muslim community and then add insult to injury by using a cover image that many Muslims will find offensive. This book has the potential to do more harm than good in terms of interfaith relations.”
Awad added that the table of contents for Duran’s book reads like a “laundry list of stereotypes and hot-button issues.” He cited the book’s apparent description of the anti-Muslim political ideology of Kemal Ataturk as a “successful synthesis” and its focus on “Islamism,” “Jihadism,” “gender segregation” and “female circumcision,” issues often used to stereotype Muslims and Islam. Based on its table of contents, Rabbi Firestone’s companion book on Judaism for Muslims focuses on ordinary religious issues and lacks the Duran book’s critical tone.
CAIR has offered to have recognized scholars on Islam review Duran’s book for stereotypical or inaccurate content. Despite repeated requests, the AJC denied CAIR a preview copy of the book.
As evidence of Duran’s lack of credibility, CAIR noted that he is a close colleague of infamous Muslim bashers such as Steven Emerson, an author who Muslims say has a long history of attacks on Islam and on the American Muslim community. Duran was a consultant for Emerson’s now-discredited 1994 PBS program “Jihad in America.”
Reports also indicate that Duran will co-author a book called “Muslim America” with Daniel Pipes, another writer with an even longer history of Islamophobia than Emerson. Pipes, Emerson and Duran were among the first commentators to accuse Muslims of bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
In 1997, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) report responding to complaints about accusations made by Duran said, “A...factor which does not contribute much to Mr. Duran's credibility is the mystery surrounding his true identity. His real name is not Duran. ‘That's my mother's name,’ he told me. His father, whose name he wishes to withhold, was Moroccan, but Mr. Duran was born in Berlin, which is the reason for his German passport...When asked about his real name, he remains vague.”
“A third factor that undermines his credibility...is that he was sentenced in 1993 for making defamatory comments about the Islamic Center of Aachen, (Aix-la-Chapelle) in Germany. His sentence was to retract his statements or pay a heavy fine or, failing that, to go to prison...” Duran challenged the report's findings, but has not explained the mystery surrounding his name or his conviction for defamation in Germany.