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A Muslim wakeup

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Muslims pride themselves on their faith's steadfast stand against prejudice and the Koran's proclamation that "We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other."

Compare this with the ubiquity of anti-Jewish bigotry among some Muslims today, and you'll find yourself wondering why the everyday reality has departed so far from the stated ideal.

When I lived in Amman, Jordan, last year, the anti-Jewish diatribes that usually followed the calls for justice for Palestinians during Friday sermons disturbed me a great deal. Out of disgust, I eventually stopped going to the congregational prayers there. Sadly, I encountered much of the same at mosques throughout the Arab world.

For many Muslims today, the government of Israel has become synonymous with the Jewish people. And the daily scenes of Palestinian suffering and despair seen on Arab and Muslim media, combined with a prevailing feeling of helplessness, fuel a growing hostility toward Israel.

This phenomenon is complicated by the fact that Israel invites this association by calling itself a "Jewish" state and often justifying its actions against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as being in the best interests of the Jewish people.

But as Tariq Ramadan, European Muslim scholar and grandson of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan El Banna, states, "There is nothing in Islam that gives legitimization to Judeophobia, xenophobia and the rejection of any human being because of his religion or the group to which he belongs."

Israel is as much of a "Jewish" state as Iran is an "Islamic" state, and just as thousands of Iranians are calling for more freedoms, scores of Israelis are actively demanding an end to their government's occupation of Palestinian lands.

Muslim-Americans, especially, face a critical challenge that demands an unequivocal stand against the trap of ignorance and bigotry. In the current chilling political climate of racial profiling, secret detentions, and the mainstream acceptance of anti-Muslim bigotry, we have much to learn from the Jewish experience in Europe and North America. The Jewish stories of tragic pain, oppression, resistance, and renewal are especially relevant to us today.


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