Why is the relationship between Muslims and Jews troubled in the US?

Since the awful terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 quite a few Muslim organizations, Islamic Centers and mosques in North America (US and Canada) have begun a host of interfaith activities with Christian and Jewish religious and social organizations. Muslim community leaders in a variety of cities across the vast North American continent have stepped out and have held joint interfaith harmony programs with churches and synagogues. The initiative towards building harmony with the Jewish people has been particularly noteful due to the fact that in middleast the Jewish state of Israel continues to behave with injustice towards the people of Palestine, most of whom are Muslim. That has caused much tension between Muslims and Jews across the globe.

Thus ten years ago the Muslims of North America hoped that building harmonious relationship with Jews will help reduce this global Muslim-Jewish tension and will help individuals from these two communities that are indeed cousins, work to reduce individuals from both communities from working against the political and social interests of each other. The larger hope of the Muslims was that the rapprochement of Muslims and Jews in North America may help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian-Muslim dispute in an equitable manner. Also it was hoped that in the arena of the political and electoral circles in North America, Muslims and Jews should stop opposing each others’ efforts to gain visibility.

It is no secret that in North America the Jewish people are very strong in social, political, economic arenas and Muslims are considerably weaker. Yet in terms of demographics and population the numbers of Muslims are healthy and thus they could give some support to the North American Jews. However, after ten years of interfaith rapprochement efforts one finds that these two communities are at loggerheads and the tension between the two has not reduced.

Conversations with several middle of the road North American Muslims indicates the following from the perspective of the Muslims.

It is true that in the interfaith programs of the two communities and mutual visits to mosques and synagogues there is enthusiasms from both sides and a genuine desire to resolve the tension between them.

However, it appears that the North American Jewish community is approaching their Muslim counterparts with a multipronged strategy. A segment of the Jewish community tries to build harmony with Muslims. But a larger and more powerful segment of the Jewish community and their organizations are continuing to oppose the core social, political and economic interests of American and Canadian Muslims and their organizations. In situations in the counties, cities and states across north America when Muslims try to get elected to civic positions either in local governmental or civic or organizations, they are frequently opposed by Jewish activists. In the universities or research centers or hospitals or corporations when credible and meritorious Muslim individuals try to get elected to committees or commissions or panels they are often opposed by Jewish individuals.

In the matter of the foreign and domestic policies of the governments of US and Canada when Muslim organizations and activists try to have the government policies improved to make them more equitable towards Muslims and Muslim countries and Palestinians, the powerful Jewish organizations and individuals oppose the efforts of the Muslims.

Today the Muslim community in North America is beleaguered in a manner similar to the African-American community. The Jewish community in North America has been sympathetic to the African-American community. But it is surprising that when it comes to the similarly beleaguered Muslim community, most of the Jewish organizations and individuals are not sympathetic to them. Notwithstanding the many interfaith harmony efforts between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

In the absence of any progress to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over the last several decades and the huge problems in that area, some Muslims hoped that at least in the matter of domestic policies in US and Canada if the two communities could cooperate more and reduce the tension between them it could work as a springboard to resolve the global tension among them. But as mentioned above despite overtures and positive interfaith efforts of US and Canadian Muslims towards the Jewish communities in these countries, the approach of the American and Canadian Jewish folks are frequently contradictory. The positive efforts of the interfaith Jews are being nullified by the powerful and larger hawkish Jews.

Both Muslims and Jews are religious minorities in North America and hence they must learn to coexist peacefully, support each other and build bridges of understanding. The Jewish people and their organizations have the ability to eliminate the contradictions that one sees emanating constantly from their side. Otherwise the interfaith and positive feelings of many North American Muslims and Jews will go haywire and a lot of efforts to reduce tension between these two communities who happen to be people of the Book and cousins will come to naught.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2011 on page no. 23

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