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In defense of Islam

nathan Eric Lewis June 8, 2003

I am an American, a Jew, and a Zionist and I am writing to defend Islam against those who belittle it, defame it, and demean it.

Don't get me wrong. I am no fan of many things in the Islamic world today. To start with, Hamas and its endorsement of suicide bombings and the mass murder of innocent Israelis. Just as bad are the whining sycophants who proclaim these suicide attacks only occurred because the Palestinians are "frustrated." These guys do more to damage Islam's reputation than any staunchly anti-Islamic American preacher. Any Islamic cleric who supports suicide attacks against Israeli children says more about his interpretation of Islam than he does about Israel, a country I love with all my heart.

I'm not crazy about the mullahs in Iran who make life difficult for my Iranian friends. I think that, in the 21st-century, the world could do without religious police who make sure women are "properly" dressed.

Finally, I have little patience for those self-appointed spokesmen of American Islam, either. I need to turn off the television when I see these jokesters, most of whom sound more like Vichy-era French fascists than scholars of medieval Islamic law. They can barely conceal their antipathy to America. I do often wonder why they just don't leave? Oh yes, it has something to do with the fact that Muslims, like all Americans, have freedom of speech, assembly, and religion here in the U.S.A.

For some, it is tempting to cast the whole of Islam into the enemy camp.. But, we must remember those millions and millions of Muslims who have never harmed a soul, whose top priorities involve working hard and raising a family, and who probably couldn't tell you and probably doesn't care about the Palestinian cause. These Muslims aren't terrorists or extremists and shouldn't be labeled as such. And their faith isn't "evil" as some have claimed.

A proud New Yorker, I interact with Muslims everyday, from the Egyptian Muslims with whom I practice my Arabic and from whom I buy my kosher groceries to the Bangladeshi Muslims from whom I buy my New York bagels. I recently gave a talk to a joint audience of Albanians and Jews about the need for our people to work together for a better world. I probably have more Muslim friends than those leftist fools who profess such sympathy to the Islamic world, but who really are just acting out some bizarre psycho-social problems I don't even wish to understand.

None of my Muslim friends would become a terrorist, let alone kill Americans and Jews. In fact, many of them have professed a quiet admiration for my people, for what we have accomplished in the face of such overwhelming odds. From my days of living in both the United Kingdom and the United States, I remember many a bonding experience with Muslim friends over our mutual dislike for all things pork. I remember a good friend from Kuwait with whom I could always share cigarettes and a smile. I always enjoy spending time with my Albanian and Lebanese Muslim friends, too. And what's not to like about Turkish food?

Truth told: I am getting awfully sick of these simple and pedantic articles demonstrating how evil Islam is. As if non-Islamic societies like Burma, North Korea, and Zimbabwe are some paradises on earth? I really wouldn't want to be a Jew living in overwhelmingly Christian Greece right now. That society is far more anti-Semitic than many of the Muslim societies of Central Asia where Jews are treated respect by the governments. And last time I looked, rural Idaho wasn't such a wonderful place for a bar mitzvah.

True, there are problems in the Muslim world right now - lots of problems. There is a terrorist problem, do doubt about it. And it isn't just a small group of people, either. There are fanatics from Casablanca to Teheran; from Amman to Singapore. There are those extremists who would kill and be killed for their nihilistic ideology of radical Islam. I know: they attacked my city, my home. They did it in 1993, too and I am sure they are plotting something as I type.

There is an anti-Semitism problem. Too many Muslim (pseudo)-intellectuals speak of "the Jews" in conspiratorial tones reminiscent of the Nazis. Hizbullah puts out enough of this anti-Semitic garbage to make a gentile and refined East Coast anti-Semite shiver. This has got to stop. Now! One need not deny this for the sake of political correctness.

And let's be honest, religious minorities don't fare so well in the Muslim world right now, a sensitive topic for Muslims to be sure, but one that shouldn't be swept under the rug, either. Ask the Assyrians, the Bahai, and the Copts. Yet, one need not condemn 1.2 billion Muslims either.

What is needed is intellectual honesty. What is not needed is a war between Christianity and Islam with the Jews caught in the middle. Memo to my Jewish colleagues who support the Evangelical alliance with Israel: open your eyes, my friends. The Christian supporters of Israel from Middle America may be great people. I am sure of that. I deeply appreciate their support for the Jewish State. They aren't the scary fanatics that the media often portrays them to be. Nevertheless, they should really carefully assess their plans to evangelize to the Muslim world. More importantly, they - unlike Israeli teenagers - will not be going to nightclubs in Tel Aviv that will be targets for suicide bombers. It is easy to claim "Islam is evil" when you live in a small American town with no Muslims.

The American Muslim community needs to be more honest as well. They need to explain why so many of its self-appointed spokesmen - those who are always on television - have next to nothing good to say about anything. I mean it: they are anti-American foreign policy, anti-Israel, anti-war with Iraq, anti-discrimination at the airport, anti-Jewish power. The list goes on. What do they stand for? Seriously. Memo to the millions of apolitical American Muslims: get involved with politics and shut down the fools who speak in your name: Be a Muslim and be an American.

Islam is a great civilization that is going through some rough times. It is also one of the fastest growing religions in the United States. Even though many Americans might not like it, American Islam is here to stay. This means that Christians and Jews have an obligation to respect the Islamic faith, even if they may vigorously disagree with its tenets. It also means that Muslim-Americans must reject extremism, sincerely disavow terrorism conducted in their name, and adapt to living as religious minorities in a predominantly Christian society.

It also means that the cable news media need not give airtime to the ranting and raving Muslim activists who have nothing good to say about the country that has given them a home and a life unimaginable in much of the Islamic world. It also means that the media should give airtime to respectable and truly moderate Muslim leaders as well as ardent secularists from Muslim countries, including those who are willing to discuss sensitive issues such as women's rights. Unlike the fanatics, they may not make the ratings; yet, their voices must be heard.

I will never forget what was done to my city (primarily by Saudi citizens) in the name of Islam, yet I won't forget my Muslim friends either. They have added intellectual nourishment to my life and have made this city a wonderful place to live. If not for them, where would I, a pro-Republican, pro-Zionist New York Jew, buy my bagels?

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©Copyright 2003, Israel Insider (Israel)

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