SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- Jewish groups have stepped up efforts to combat anti-Muslim bigotry, with several national initiatives announced this week and supporting statements coming in from a range of Jewish voices.
In Washington, officials from several Jewish organizations took part Tuesday in an emergency summit of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that denounced anti-Muslim bigotry and called for a united effort by believers of all faiths to reach out to Muslim Americans.
Reading the comments of many Jewish Week readers on the New York Islamic Center controversy, I can't help but wonder why so many fail to see the parallels between their views of Islam and traditional anti-Semitism.
A typical comment goes like this: “Don't you understand that Islam is not a religion, but a violent ideology bent on conquering the world and bringing its population under submission through Sharia law? Haven't you read the Koran?”
The vehement Park51 opponent and day school mom sits down with Jewish Week, up to a point.
Special To The Jewish Week
Pamela Geller had had enough.
The right-wing blogger, whose vehement opposition to the planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero (a “mega-mosque” in her parlance) has earned Geller national headlines, rose from her seat at a Midtown diner last week and, fed up with the line of questioning, stormed out of a Jewish Week interview.
“Shame on you,” she shouted, “shame on you. Stop slamming the good guys.”
A journalist’s offense? Asking questions about her accuracy and her red-meat rhetoric.
Let me get this straight: about one in five Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. And yet the biggest controversy during his presidential campaign was over the perceived influence that his spiritual leader had on him, that leader of course being Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
So which is it, folks? Are we worried that the president is a Muslim following Islamic law or that he is/was under the spell of a Christian preacher?
As an Orthodox Jew, I believe that membership in a religion is not casual but legal, something like American citizenship (if you support the good people of Arizona). You can't just cross the Rio Grande and vote in Phoenix. There is a rigerous citizenship process, a conversion process, or there is Judaism's singular qualification -- being born to a Jewish mother.
I've stayed out of the ugly debate over the “ground zero mosque” that's not really at Ground Zero and not exactly a mosque, in part because I don't understand all the vast complexity of issue, in part because it's summer and I'm at the beach and not in the mood for all this indignation.
But one of the comments I keep hearing from opponents is driving me crazy.
There are actually several variants, but they all come down to the same thing:
Islam can "build the mosque when Saudi Arabia allows a shul in Mecca," they say.
The controversy over construction of a cultural center that includes a mosque near Ground Zero has emerged as an attack point for GOP underdog Rick Lazio in his race for governor against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.