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Why There Is No Place For Anti-Semitism in Islam

01/27/2015 12:41 EST | Updated 03/29/2015 05:59 EDT

Recently, the Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton was vandalized with the hate graffiti, 'Leave Canada'. Last year, in October, a mosque in Cold Lake was similarly targeted with the graffiti, 'Go Home'.

Times like these provide opportunities to communities to reach out to one another. This is especially true for the children of Abraham -- Jews, Christians and Muslims, whose relationships are often strained by the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stoked by religious rhetoric.

Muslim activist Haroon Moghul recently opined that anti-Muslim sentiments in some Jewish circles and anti-Semitic sentiments in some Muslim circles have frightening consequences.

Yet, as events in the Middle East are exploited by hatemongers to fuel anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, we cannot let religious rhetoric and sordid history mar community relationships or define our shared future.

Fortunately, in Edmonton, Rabbi Shimon Moch of Temple Beth Ora showed me how he educates Islamophobes, who email him hateful propaganda material. I shared with him Muslim resources that unconditionally condemn anti-Semitism.

It is true that there exist problematic texts concerning Jews in both the Qur'an and the Hadith. However, Rabbi Reuven Firestone asserts, 'negative scriptural references to non-believers exist in all scriptures, and they are sometimes cited and manipulated by hateful people ... anti-Semitism is no more basic to Islam than hatred of all non-Jews is basic to Judaism'.

Likewise, Sinem Tezyapar's article "Are anti-Jewish slogans truly Islamic?" and Rohail Waseem's article "6 Convincing Reasons Debunking the Myth of Islam Promoting Hatred of Jews and Christians" challenge those who usurp and bastardize Islamic texts to address their political grievances by fomenting hate.

Hatemongers look for simplistic worldviews and some amongst them may be impervious to reason. Yet, defying their twisted worldview, we have many instances of Jews and Muslims standing side by side, watching out for one another.

Two years ago, the Calgary Jewish community honored Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Muslims like the Indian Princess Noor Inayat Khan gave up their lives fighting Nazi Germany. Likewise, Jews like Ivan Ceresnjes and Jakob Finci protected their Muslim neighbours from the genocide in Sarajevo.

Muslim scholar Afifi Al Akiti has clearly stated that there is no legal precedent in Islam on targeting innocent civilians and that Hamas violated this admirable precedent in 1994 by bombing a public bus in Jerusalem.

We cannot forget news items like that of Hassan Askari, a Bangladeshi Sunni Muslim, who risked his own life to aid three Jewish travelers in New York from anti-Semitic assault. Likewise, we note how Muslims in Bradford, England, organized a fundraiser to save a Jewish Synagogue.

Recently, Lassana Bathily, a young Muslim employee, saved Jewish lives from terrorists in a kosher supermarket in Paris. He said, 'I helped Jews. We're all brothers.'

There are many such examples that aid the efforts of interfaith activists to curb anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and draw communities together. In Ottawa, our Universalist Muslim family holds a monthly dialogue with Faith House, called the Ottawa Network of Spiritual Progressives.

In Edmonton, members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths of various denominations have even begun to broach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on our common values of human dignity and justice.

The existence of such groups shows that while we may not be to solve the Middle East crisis, we have the potential to bring communities together against forces that seek to divide them.

The Qur'an describes those who are heedless of prayer as akin to those who withhold small acts of kindness. Thus, when Muslim communities unequivocally condemn anti-Semitic instances like the vandalizing of Beth Israel, they are simply upholding their basic obligation like prayer.

Jews and Muslims can jointly emphasize that there is no anti-Semitism in Islam. By underscoring this narrative they can render irrelevant all those who seek to incite hate and violence on the basis of ancient texts that are simply not relevant to our time and age.

In the corpus of Muslim texts, the ones that call for mutual cooperation and universal love have to be given precedence over those that seek to divide us. Indeed, the 13th century jurist Al Tufi gave precedence to human welfare over legal texts.

The Prophet taught us that the sanctity of human life is greater than that of the Kaaba (house of the Lord). The Prophet's ummah (community) included all - Jews, Christians and pagans. His cousin Imam Ali taught Muslims that people are brothers (and sisters) in religion or humanity (outside religion).

We are but one flesh and blood.

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