Tag Archives: 9/11

The Long and Winding Road to Interfaith Dialogue

by Steven Philp
While the media spent the morning of September 11 replaying footage of the terrorist attacks of that day in 2001, small groups of people gathered across the country to show that wounds can heal with faith and conviction, if not time. These gatherings on that day brought together Jews, Christians and Muslims to remember those who lost their lives in the attacks, and to show a renewed commitment to developing bonds between our different faith communities. According to Haaretz, approximately 15 interfaith memorial services were planned for New York City alone, with others taking place in major cities across the United States – including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, DC. The first official interfaith gathering occurred on Friday, September 9, when more than 2,000 individuals crowded into a mosque in uptown Manhattan; the service was officiated by head imam Ali Shamsi, two rabbis and two priests. Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department was also in attendance.

Although the event was held in remembrance of those who lost their lives on September 11, the memorial service also focused on the need for coexistence between American religious communities. “We’ve defeated the terrorists,” explained Imam Shamsi in an interview with Haaretz. “The terrorists who acted on September 11 sought not only to kill innocent people, but also to divide the public and sow hate among us, to incite man against his fellow man. But they failed.” Shamsi participated in a total of eight interfaith services, taking place in churches, mosques and synagogues across Queens. He explained the need for people of different religious communities to enter each other’s places of worship, to get to know their neighbors first hand. “The attackers wanted and still want the believers of different religions to hate one another,” Shamsi said. “But in the wake of the attacks, we’ve become closer.”

Unfortunately, not all American religious communities share Shamsi’s positive outlook. Only last year several Christian and Jewish organizations–including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Zionist Organization of America–mounted demonstrations against Park51, a proposed Muslim community center breaking ground two blocks away from the World Trade Center Memorial in downtown Manhattan. Although containing a large Muslim prayer space, proponents have been quick to point out that Park51 is not a mosque–in fact, the majority of its facilities will be open for use by the general public, including a small memorial to the victims of September 11.

It is a testament to the perseverance of individuals like Imam Shamsi that such a large number of interfaith memorial events occurred.  Perhaps in our shared grief it has become apparent that internal divisions need to be considered and–with a building of mutual respect and understanding–be placed aside. “The relationships between American Jews and Muslims have become tightly knit, and evermore significant,” said Shamsi.

This hopeful sentiment was echoed by Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Speaking to Haaretz, he explained, “Ten years ago there were no ties between Jews and Muslims in the United States. Today they exist, and are experiencing a blossoming of cooperation.”

Israel Expels Richard Falk

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Richard Falk

Richard Falk

Israel refused to allow senior UN rights official and Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk into the country earlier today, sending him back to the US after he landed at the Tel-Aviv airport.

Falk planned the trip to investigate human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip but was expelled, according to Israeli sources in the foreign ministry, because of statements he made comparing Israeli policies in Gaza to Nazi policies during WWII.

Falk was notified before his trip that he would not allowed into Israel, whose foreign ministry believes the Princeton professor emeritus has not viewed the circumstances fairly. The BBC has this quote:

“[He] does not try to advance human rights, but instead comes with his conclusions ready and those conclusions are of course extreme, methodic criticism of Israel and only of Israel,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Continue reading

This Week’s Links

  • Robert DeNiro is now Jewish. Or, maybe he just doesn’t like Mel Gibson. [God Blog]
  • Do Obama, McCain, and others violate the second commandment? Rabbi Irwin Kula is concerned about the use of God’s name in politics. [On Faith]
  • I just got $50,000. All I had to do was move to Dothan, Alabama, where the graying Jewish community is seeking implants—that is, younger Jews to refresh their community. [AP]
  • Identical twins who were separated at birth were reunited by chance. What an opportunity to study nature vs. nurture. [Blog at 16th and Q]
  • The Israeli soccer team played a World Cup qualifier yesterday in Chisinau, Moldova. The city used to be called Kishinev, and was the site of horrific pogroms in 1903. Israel won 2-1. [Ha’aretz and FIFA]
  • A professor at Yeshiva University recently had a sex change. She is now on indefinite leave. [JPost]
  • Try making realistic Rosh Hashanah resolutions. [Three Jews, Four Opinions]
  • “In 2004 George Khoury, an Israeli Arab student, was shot while running in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem by a gunman from the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade who mistook him for a Jew. Khoury’s family decided to make the donation [toward translating Amos Oz’s memoir, “A Tale of Love and Darkness” into Arabic] in an effort to help create greater cultural understanding between Arabs and Jews.” [Jewschool]
  • Here’s a useful chart of kosher meat companies and their competent/failing labor practices. [Forward]
  • “Anyhow, we are in an era where good and evil will be intensely clear to some, and not so clear to others, a period of confusion, where simple solutions might have dangerous appeal.” One writer remembers September 11th. [Looking at the Jewish World]
Photo by AlphaTangoBravo/ Adam Baker.

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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