James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘moderate muslims

Some Muslims are not just “moderate” …

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… they are downright righteous. I met such a Muslim Arab man – Bedouin to be specific – on Thursday at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Ishmael Khaldi works for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most recently as Deputy Consul in the San Francisco consulate.  He speaks for the Jewish state of Israel and being a Muslim is no barrier to that fact.

He spoke clearly about the threats to Israelis – all Israelis – emanating from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the delegitimization campaign against Israel.  Whether it is Iran’s race for nuclear weapons or the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement, these threats are threats to Arabs and Jews and others in Israel and often elsewhere.

I have met few people who have so clearly expressed the case for the Jewish state and the common bond shared among many Israelis – Jew and Arab alike.  Most striking was his explanation of the work that many Bedouins did to help give birth to the Jewish state.  For, while Israel’s independence is often simply described as the cause of war between Jews and Arabs, Khaldi made clear that a sizeable number of Bedouins supported the pre-state Jewish community and the state of Israel.

His was a story not lost on those of us familiar with the long tradition of Druze assistance to the Jewish community.  Once one peels back the simple narratives, one sees the plural multiculturalism that defines Israel as not just a Jewish state, but also as a democratic and liberal one.  Khaldi is just one of many examples of that multicultural liberal reality.

Read more about Ishmael Khaldi and buy his book through his website or on Amazon.

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Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

My column in the Press-Citizen: No valid objection to Park 51

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My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen.  Here is the opening:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.

via No valid objection to Park 51 | press-citizen.com | Iowa City Press Citizen.

Read the whole thing.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

From Mossad to Kurdistan …

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Point of No Return is an excellent blog that covers stories about Jews in the Middle East and North Africa.  It culls the news from an impressive array of sources and provides original pieces in what is a must-read source for all things Jewish in Arab countries.  Here is an excerpt of an interview of a Mossad agent, Jayzi-Ghazi, who helped the Kurds:

Aliayzar: In Mossad, we didn’t have ability to choose to where we could go. Sometimes, we would go to countries which we were against and we would go to their homes and they didn’t like to see us. You read their letters and listen to their talks without their consent. Sometimes you would face dictatorships. Anyway, you have no choice and you must obey. However, we were all happy to work in Kurdistan, because we knew that they were an oppressed nation.

via Point of no return: Mossadnik wants to become first Kurdish consul.

Israeli-Kurdish cooperation is an important start for what should be much broader Jewish support for our Kurdish friends.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Soner Cagaptay on Turkish Islamism.

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Soner Cagaptay from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy offers this observation at the top of his recent article:

At home, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has promoted the Islamist mindset of “us Muslims” in conflict with “the bad others” through the media and also by spreading Hamas’ views throughout Turkey, whether through official Hamas visits to Turkey or through AKP-supported conferences and fundraisers.

via WINEP – The AKP’s Hamas Policy: “Us vs. Them”.

While Cagaptay’s article goes on into other details, this observation is a core observation that many defenders of liberalism fail to make. Many people like to cast the war on terrorism as part of a clash of civilizations. That narrative serves only those who seek war.  Al Qaeda pushes this narrative for this very reason. If the war is between Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on one hand, and moderate Muslims on the other hand, then they will lose. But, if it is between Islam and the West, they have a chance of winning.

Whatever you think of the political ideology of extremist Islamism, you should want to defeat it. Defeating it means rejecting the divisive narrative pushed by these extremists. It is important, therefore, that we always make sure that our language is focused on those extremists who seek to do us harm and not on Muslims generally.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 7:21 pm

An Arab Muslim who is sensitive to the Jewish people.

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Shams Ghoneim is a good person. She is sensitive to Jewish concerns in ways that many are not.

During debate on the Johnson County Democratic Platform last weekend, one plank echoed the charge that Jews are not loyal Americans. The plank was shrouded in coded language, likely to mislead innocent observers. However, it was the same kind of Jew-baiting coded language that Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh and America First used to stir anti-Jewish incitement in the US leading up to WWII. While most who ultimately supported the plank undoubtedly did so innocently, they also did so with a lack of sensitivity towards Jews and the history of anti-Semitism.

Shams, despite obvious peer pressure to the contrary, did a simple thing that demonstrated deep compassion and understanding towards the Jewish people. She refused to support that coded language. She is willing to display, publicly, that she is unwilling to help those who are insensitive to our concerns, even when they are superficially “on her side.”

Shams and I have serious disagreements. But, she can set aside those disagreements and make difficult choices when necessary. She is an asset to the Iowa City community, the Muslim community, and the Arab community. She may not be a member of the Jewish community, but because of her courage, she is an asset to our community as well.

Postscript: The foregoing is a letter I wrote that was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen today. My initial submission did not explain the details of last weekend’s Johnson County Democratic Convention and much of the second paragraph was omitted. It is not my desire to unfairly criticize the Johnson County Democratic Party. I am already exchanging e-mails with those who I feel were most responsible for this troubling language, and I hope we can reconcile our differences. I also want to note that there were a couple people who spoke for “our side” on this issue Saturday. They were not Jewish and, prior to Saturday, were not known to “our side.” They were moved by our concerns to speak in our favor. They represent what I think of when I think of Democrats generally. I was worried that I might have written something very different coming out of the platform debate. People like Shams, and these other gentiles who care about our sensitivities, preserved the integrity of the local Democratic Party and acted in a manner consistent with historic Democratic interests in diversity and sensitivity towards minority populations.

Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 9:23 am