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Why Muslim-Jewish cooperation matters for America

(RNS) Imagine receiving this message on your voicemail: “Dear Mr. Gonzalez, we regret to inform you that your heart surgery has been canceled. The medical professionals scheduled to perform it, Doctors Sarna and Latif, have discovered that they have serious disagreements about Middle East politics. Consequently, they are refusing to work together. We will do our best to find you other doctors before your condition becomes fatal.”

Seem far-fetched? In my mind, it is the logical outcome of the manner in which many Jewish and Muslim groups have chosen to engage each other in recent years. Or, rather, not engage.

From college campuses to national advocacy organizations, many Muslim and Jewish groups have made it not just a practice but also a matter of honor to boycott each other because of different views on Israel.

They refuse to meet or even join associations that the other group is in, and regularly badmouth their Abrahamic siblings to civic leaders, college presidents and elected officials.

But if it begins with Muslims and Jews refusing to work on a volunteer project on a college campus, where does it end?

Do Muslims and Jews refuse to do research in labs together, or play on the same athletic teams, or partner on school fundraisers, or engage in business deals? Do they even, as in the example above, refuse to perform lifesaving surgeries with one another?

And it’s not as if the Middle East is the only contested territory on the planet. What if other diaspora groups in America — Indians and Pakistanis, Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus, Turks and Greeks, Bosnians and Serbians — caught the bug that is infecting American Muslims and Jews and decided to boycott the other in professional and civic life?

In my view, refusing to work with another group because of its identity is treason against the American idea. As Martin Luther King Jr., said, “The American dream (is) the dream of men of all races, creeds, national backgrounds, living together as brothers.”

How do you have an immigrant society when people put conflicts from elsewhere at the center of their relations here? How do you have a diverse democracy if people cannot bracket their disagreements on some fundamental things in order to work together on other fundamental things?

In recent weeks, the shifting ground of American politics has created some promising new possibilities. A group of prominent Muslims and Jews just launched a high-profile council against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The New York Times recently profiled a meeting of a group called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom that gathered nearly 500 participants.

RELATED: Jewish-Muslim alliance formed against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

Personally, I’m most inspired by the shift that I’ve seen among campus-based groups. I have just returned from the Hillel International conference, where President Eric Fingerhut stated unequivocally that Hillels around the country would stand up against Islamophobia.

He received a rousing round of applause. This past summer at an Interfaith Leadership Institute organized by my organization, Interfaith Youth Core, I met Muslim students who took a particular interest in the partnership that King forged with rabbis during his 1966 Fair Housing March in Chicago.

They followed Muslim scholars who viewed even a hint of anti-Semitism as poison with no place in Islam, or anywhere else for that matter.

 Of course, some brave interfaith leaders have been building Muslim-Jewish partnerships for many years, long before it was fashionable.

The names "Sarna" and "Latif" actually refer to a real-life rabbi and imam team at New York University who, when tensions around the Middle East get high on campus, take their Jewish and Muslim students on interfaith service trips to areas ravaged by natural disasters in the United States.

Their message is clear: When you work with one another, you put your common Muslim and Jewish ethics into action in a way that improves real lives. When you don’t, you weaken America.

We live at a time in which Qurans are being defaced by swastikas in public libraries and high-ranking members of the incoming administration have made Islamophobic and anti-Semitic statements.

Frankly, it’s an easy time to build Muslim-Jewish partnerships. We owe it to America to build bridges strong enough to withstand whatever bombs may come.

(Eboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and author of the new book "Interfaith Leadership: A Primer")


  1. The American melting pot has been taken off the burner with its recipe of both assimilation and cultural engagement, and is now left to congeal with its disparate elements opposed and unblended on the sideboard of otherness.

  2. Next up:

    Why Jewish-Nazi cooperation matters for America,

    followed by:

    Why KKK-black cooperation matters for America.

  3. To journalists all religions are a blur. Reporters are vapid and seem to not know the details of any religion they cover. Islam clearly gives direction to muslims on dealing with Christians and Jews.

    Quran (5:51) – “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”

    So Allah the almighty tells muslims not to trust Christians (He later tells them to “kill ALL infidels wherever you find them”.) The media’s lack of research on a topic is a disservice to the reader. You can’t ask the hard questions if you don’t understand background information.

    To be muslim is to accept the Quran as the word of the Almighty. Befriending Jews is against the teaching of the almighty. So how is this possible? If you pick and choose the verses to follow, what’s the point in being a muslim?

  4. “When you work with one another, you put your common Muslim and Jewish ethics into action in a way that improves real lives. When you don’t, you weaken America.”

    Exactly. That’s true not only among religions, but also skin colors, classes, etc.

  5. Read the OT and the NT you will see similar admonitions or commands not to marry or befriend those outside of your faith. There have fleeting times in the past where 2 or even all 3 of the Abrahamic faiths got along and even cooperated.

  6. You mean like how god told the Israelites to slaughter entire villages, including the livestock? You mean like how Christians pick and choose which verses to follow?

  7. Only when the differences between the cultures are too great. Amish, Mormons (early on), Hasidic Jews and fundamentalist Muslims come to mind. In many cases they have segregated communities and may limit social interactions. This may be their desire or come from fear.

  8. I’m a student of Islam, not the OT, but I know that most of those Old Testament atrocities are also included in the Koran. But the Koran and canonical hadith collections pile on a whole bunch of new atrocities and hate-mongering.

    One doesn’t have to be a student of any religion to see which religion currently sucks the worst in practice. Violently devout followers of the depraved barbarian warlord Mohammed and the ideology he shat upon the world are consistently running up combined monthly body counts in the thousands in the many filthy little jihads they are waging around the globe. Christian and Jewish holy warriors, not so much.

  9. You’re comparing an entire religion of over one billion people to the KKK and Nazis? Judaism and Islam were founded on the same principles of love, not hate.

  10. I talk to Muslims, something like 50,000 of them live here in Minn. I’ll take theit word for what their religion is and is not. I also know that of the billions of Muslims, the percentage who are violent is very small.

    Christians did their bloody monstrosities a few centuries ago. It’s a pretty weak endorsement to say “they” are worse than “us.” I’d like to see Christians focus on all the lumber in their own eyes.

  11. I don’t know much about the founding of Judaism, but I know that Mohammed reinvented the Abrahamic god and ideology to serve his own purposes, which had very little to do with love. He did it to bring adulation and power to himself and to justify his own depravity.

    Is there a critical number of adherents beyond which an ideology may no longer be criticized, no matter how violently bigoted it is?

    I do realize that many Muslims don’t take the most vile koranic rantings of the pedophile prophet seriously, if they are even aware of them, or view his life as exemplary despite his many well-documented atrocities. But mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence look every bit as vile as nazism or the KKK’s version of Christianity to those of us who aren’t straight male Muslims of the “right” sort. Just for being an atheist and a serial blasphemer, I’m eligible for violent death in all mainstream schools of Islam — don’t expect me to respect Islam. Don’t even get me started on Islamic misogyny and homophobia.

  12. Tell it to Christians.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about what’s going on in the world today than a few centuries ago.

    Adherents of an ideology aren’t going to tell you that their ideology sucks even if it does suck, because people tend not to adhere to ideologies which they think suck. If you want to learn about Islam more objectively, try reading the Koran, some canonical hadith collections and maybe a sharia manual too, instead. At least talk to some apostates of Islam for balance.

    I do not claim that most Muslims are violent, but all mainstream versions of Islamic ideology are violently infidelophobic. Today’s violently devout jihadis practice Islam in much the same way that the first violent jihadi (the depraved barbarian warlord/prophet Mohammed) practiced and preached it.

  13. Christians don’t pick and choose, they follow Christ. That is what makes them Christians. What you don’t seem to know is that Christ establishes a “New Covenant” (look it up.) He says this when he takes the cup during the last supper “This is the cup of my blood the blood of the new and everlasting covenant” The Old testament is under the Old Covenant with Moses.
    Hebrews 8:13 “By calling this covenant new he makes the old one obsolete and that which is obsolete will fade and disappear”
    Your problem is you don’t know the Bible so you are talking from your own ignorance. Just so honestly we understand each other’s position.
    Old Testament: Stone the whores
    New Testament: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
    Jesus rewrote the law.
    Also read Jeremiah 31:31-33 in the old testament so you can make an educated argument next time. Christians don’t pick and choose, they follow the new covenant of the new testament.
    So know you know and you don’t have to bring up old testament law anymore.

  14. Old Testament-New Testament are under very different covenants.
    Christians don’t pick and choose, they follow Christ. That is what makes them Christians. Christ establishes a “New Covenant” (look it up.) He says this when he takes the cup during the last supper “This is the cup of my blood the blood of the new and everlasting covenant” The Old testament is under the Old Covenant with Moses.
    Hebrews 8:13 “By calling this covenant new he makes the old one obsolete and that which is obsolete will fade and disappear”
    Old covenant: Stone the whores
    New covenant: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
    Jesus rewrote the law.
    Also read Jeremiah 31:31-33 This old testament verse tells of the coming of the new Covenant. Christians don’t pick and choose, they follow the new covenant of the new testament.
    So now you know and people don’t have to bring up old testament law anymore.
    10 commandments= Old Covenant -OMG what do we do.
    John 13:34 Jesus says “A new commandment I give you, that you love each other as I have loved you.”
    In Jesus’ example of love covers the 10 commandments.
    And I’m not a religious person but I like to research so I know what I’m talking about.

  15. If you don’t know much about Judaism, then kindly refrain from giving instructions on who to cooperate with. You may see Islam as akin to Nazism. The majority of the organized US Jewish community does not. And they’re the ones making the decisions.

  16. I did not issue instructions to anybody, m’ijito.

    My knowledge of Judaism isn’t what leads me to say that mainstream Islamic ideology looks as vile as nazi ideology from where I sit, my knowledge of Islamic ideology is. The depraved barbarian warlord Mohammed himself committed Islam’s first large-scale massacre of Jews (the Banu Qurayza tribe) before he had even amassed a huge following.

    What the majority of US Jews believe about Islamic ideology does not define the reality of what Islamic ideology is. The majority of US Jews ought to break away from the “progressive” herd, reject its delusional groupthink on Islam, study Islam and wise up before they blithely absolve it (that’s a suggestion, not an order).

    Muslim mass immigration is increasing anti-Semitism in a big way in Europe, and is starting to drive Jews to flee from places like France and Sweden.

  17. I have researched Islamic ideology extensively, and I know what I’m talking about when I discuss it. I wasn’t discussing Christianity. Her Leftness was trying to change the subject to Christianity. Apparently she isn’t comfortable with blunt and honest discussions about the violently bigoted ideology which the depraved barbarian prophet Mohammed shat upon the world.

  18. So if I want to learn about Christianity I should ask Buddhists? And to learn about Buddhism I ought to ask atheists, and ask atheists about Islam, etc? That makes no sense at all.

    I know that Christianity looks at large swaths of the Old Testament and some of the New as descriptive, rather than prescriptive. Muslims regard the Koran and other sacred writings the same way. In addition, interpretations vary as well. That’s true of every religion. The overwhelming majority of Muslims regard the terrorists as heretics, just as Christians do white supremacists like the NaziKKKs now known as the Alt-right.

  19. Regardless of how literally most Muslims do or don’t take the pedophile prophet’s koranic rantings, literalism in mainstream Islamic ideology is far more entrenched and inflexible than in mainstream Christianity. All mainstream schools of jurisprudence view the koran as the literal word of god.

    This is why many thousands of devout Muslims are waging a whole series of violent, infidelophobic jihads around the globe. This is why many millions of other Muslims support them in spirit and/or materially through zakat. This is why it is so difficult for the Muslim world to marginalize its extremist filth as much as the Christian world has — mainstream Islamic ideology itself is extreme.

    This is why I could still be executed in 13 Muslim majority countries (and imprisoned in most of the other 43) for professing my atheism and saying that the koran is not the word of god, but the words of a depraved seventh century barbarian warlord who re-imagined an imaginary god in his own despicable image.

    This is why a large majority of Muslims in many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, and Malaysia agree that blasphemers apostates should be executed. I’m guessing that none of them who feel that way think Islamic ideology sucks. So yes, you need to do more than ask some practicing Somali Muslims in Minnesota about Islam if you want to understand the many ways in which Islamic ideology sucks.

  20. “mainstream Islamic ideology is far more entrenched and inflexible than in mainstream Christianity. ”

    That’s not at all true. In fact, most of what you write is not true. Do you have any evidence At All to back up your absurd claims?

  21. Oh yes indeed they do. I know all about the new covenant, and that picking and choosing continues throughout every part of the bible by every facet of Christianity.

  22. Better yet, if you think it isn’t true, name the mainstream interpretations of Islam which do not treat the pedophile prophet’s koranic rantings as messages from god.

    Everything I write about Islamic ideology is true and derived from studying canonical Islamic scripture and its current and historical application. Everything you write about Islamic ideology is received “wisdom” direct from the groupthink of the “progressive” herd you run with and from practicing Muslims.

    Do you deny even the easily verified facts about civil blasphemy laws in Muslim countries? Where do you think that civil law comes from,

    1) Islamic law derived directly from the Koran and canonical hadith, or
    2) lawmakers in those countries lacking your understanding of Islamic ideology?

  23. You made the unsupported claims in your first comment. It’s your responsibility to back it up, rather than back away from it or try to divert attention.

    Go ahead. I’ll wait.

  24. The Koran has many calls to violence against non-Muslims such as 9:29:

    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

    I say that all mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept such calls as literal messages from god. You apparently claim that (some? most?) mainstream versions don’t take them literally. Instead of me trying to show that every mainstream version sees such messages as literal and prescriptive, we should just focus on one version which you claim doesn’t, since one well-supported counter-example would be sufficient to show that I’m wrong. The first step would be for you to name a mainstream version of Islam of which you believe doesn’t take passages like the above one as a prescriptive message from god, — but you can’t, because one doesn’t exist. You have found a way to avoid facing a truth about Islam which you would prefer not to believe. You are essentially just holding your hands over your ears and yelling ” LA LA LA, I can’t hear what I don’t want to hear!”

  25. “I say that all mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept such calls as literal messages from god”

    That’s how far I read, to the same unsubstantiated claim you’ve been making. I glanced at the rest enough to see there are no links.

    Same old, same old.

  26. Here you go. These are the three most important canonical Islamic texts:

    Koran: (with 3 English translations)
    Sahih Bukhari:
    Sahih Muslim:

    You’ll find that none of the texts say, for example, that Koran 9:29 calls for figurative rather than literal fighting against non-Muslims, or figurative rather than literal submission, or figurative rather than literal jizya “protection” payments. None say that such prescriptions have an expiration date either.

    Koran 1:39 says: “The revelation of this Book is from Allah, the Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom.”

    Koran 10:37 says “And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah…”

    (You can confirm these in the Koran link)

    Devout and knowledgeable Muslims tend to take these passages seriously and therefore regard the Koran as messages revealed to the barbarian pedophile prophet Mohammed by god (through an angel), but you’ll no doubt claim (without providing credible supporting evidence) that they don’t take the passages literally, so round and round we’ll go.

  27. This is your claim that you have not supported: “I say that all mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept such calls as literal messages from god”

    Yes, the Koran calls for violence. So does the bible. That’s never been my point of contention with you. It’s your claim above that’s at issue.

  28. OK, never mind that you can’t even name a mainstream version of Islam that doesn’t take such scriptural prescriptions for violence literally despite your insistence that they exist.

    Never mind that the Koran itself says that the depraved barbarian warlord Mohammed’s koranic rantings are really god’s rantings.

    Never mind that the calls to violence in those rantings are codified in both sharia and in civil law in Muslim countries derived from sharia.

    Never mind that opinion polls show that large majorities of Muslims in many Muslim countries, and significant minorities in others agree with such laws.

    Never mind that many thousands of devout Muslims are heeding such calls and waging a series of violent jihads around the globe in which they are consistently running combined body counts of non-Muslims and the “wrong” kinds of Muslim in the thousands.

    Never mind that Mohammed himself is documented in canonical Islamic scripture to have been a mass-murderer, a little girl raper, a slaver and a sadist.

    Never mind that his devout followers spread his vile ideology mostly by the sword and continue doing so today.

    Never mind that you haven’t even bothered to read the Koran or canonical hadith collections.

    Barak Obama, George Bush, Angela Merkel and some Somalis you talked to in Minnesota all say “Islam is peace,” so it must be true! And LA LA LA, you can’t hear anything that contradicts that ludicrous meme.

  29. Most of all, I should Never Mind that you have exactly Zero Support for your ludicrous claims, which frees you to make up anything you like. Very trumpian of you.

  30. 1) I voted for Gary Johnson.
    2) I made nothing up.
    3) I gave you links to the Islamic scripture which backs up what I’ve said.
    4) History and current events¹ back up what I’ve said.
    5) The legal systems of Muslim countries back up what I’ve said.²
    6) Opinion polls of Muslims back up what I’ve said.³
    7) Your inability to name even one mainstream version of Islamic ideology or law that rejects clear koranic prescriptions for violence helps confirm what I’ve said.
    8) You attempting to change the burden of proof for your ludicrous claim that mainstream Islamic ideology rejects the clear prescriptions to violence in the Koran to my burden of disproof further confirms what I’ve said.

    Would you like links to descriptions in canonical Islamic scripture of the atrocities which the barbarian prophet Mohammed personally committed or ordered committed?

    ¹ –
    ²- (note which countries apply the death penalty for blasphemy),
    ³ – , , ,

  31. I never said you voted for the pres-elect.

    You continue to throw out words and links to everything but your statement: “I say that all mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence accept such calls as literal messages from god”

    My guess is you’re ignoring that because you have no support for it. It’s just your opinion. You’re welcome to your opinion, but don’t try to pass it off as fact.

  32. I gave you two koranic passages which claim the koran is the work of god itself. I gave you a link to three English translations of the koran with which you can confirm the passages. I gave you plenty of evidence (with links) that lots of Muslims don’t take calls to violence in other koranic passages as merely unserious suggestions, or prescriptions which have expired.

    You are essentially asking me to disprove your ludicrous claim (and opinion that you’re trying to pass off as fact) that knowledgable and violently devout Muslims don’t take these passages seriously. What do you imagine such a disproof would look like?

    You are refusing to name a mainstream version of Islam which doesn’t take koranic calls to violence seriously because you know that it’s a opinion (and probably not even a sincere one) which you’re trying to pass off as fact.

    Would you like to see examples of how these calls to violence were interpreted by people who codified in them in to sharia law? If so, add Reliance of the Traveller and Tools for the Worshipper to my suggested reading list. You can Google for a free PDF copy.

  33. For pete’s sake woman. Address the issue YOU raised. I checked your links every time you posted them. Yes, there are verses in the Koran that promote violence, just as there are in the bible. Yes, there are violent Muslims who commit terrible crimes. Yes, there are Muslim countries which use the death penalty for some religious crimes. You’ve listed no specific “schools” of the Islamic faith.

    I’m tired of playing your little game of deny, obfuscate, avoid, etc. I’m done with this fruitless thread so feel free to declare yourself the most self-righteous, smart and whatever else you want.

  34. The Sunni Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools plus the Shia Jafari school are the ones I’d say qualify as mainstream schools of Islamic law:

    Which of these do you claim reject one of the central tenets of Islam — that the Koran is literally the word of god?

    Which do you claim treat all of the calls to violence against non-Muslims, blasphemers, LGBTs, and women in the Koran and canonical hadith as merely figurative or as time-limited prescriptions?

    Which might you claim don’t treat the life of the depraved barbarian Mohammed as exemplary despite his many well-documented (in canonical scripture) atrocities?

    And since you’re so determined to compare Islamic ideology to Christian ideology, who would Jesus genocide? Who would Jesus rape? Who would Jesus enslave? Who would Jesus torture? Who would Jesus rob?

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