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Mosque: What Muslims Could Learn from Jewish Communities

by Dan Ehrlich (writer), London/L.A./Seattle, August 25, 2010

The Ground Zero Islamic Center Controversy is Another American Absurdity

The overblown and continuing controversy surrounding a planned Ground Zero Islamic center is indicative of a greater problem, a form of religious intolerance called Islamophobia which may increase as America's Muslim population grows along with continued threats from extremists. And, having some Republicans making this local matter an election issue only makes matters worse.

America has long had a ethnic and religious pecking order, much the same as other countries have. In our case, we began with a WASP base whose members looked down on non WASPS. But none of these groups had members threatening to attack the country and its citizens. This is new territory for the USA. The Jews, ethnic Semitic cousins of Arabs, are a prime example of a minority group whose experiences of persecution, rejection and acceptance here and abroad could serve as a lesson to most minorities of what to do and not to do in an alien society.

First and foremost, Jews don't proselytize their faith. This, along with periodic massacres by Christians, has kept this ancient people at relatively a small worldwide population, today numbering around 16 million. Muslims do proselytize maintaining there's is the one true faith. There are more than a billion Muslims. This threatens many Christians, who also proselytize, claiming theirs is the one true faith.

Second, Jews don't call for a worldwide rabbinate in which everyone is Jewish. Muslim teaching, as with Christianity, maintains only those who see things their way will see heaven. Yet, more strident Islamists preach that all will bow to the will of Allah, one way or the other. The believer and infidel classification by Muslims, relegating non Muslims to a less than equal status doesn't build love among non Muslims.

Third, Jews often are too good for their own good. No one small minority group has ever held so much power, knowledge and wealth. Yet, this opens them up to the envy and jealousy of others. And, in Nazi Germany, they were the scapegoats for all that nation's problems, something that ended in genocide.

So, through the generations Jews have learned the best way to prosper in safety is to either keep to themselves as some do or keep a low profile and assimilate into the majority population, as has largely been the case in America. Muslims will be relatively powerless until they mingle and assimilate into American society, something they have yet to do.

An example of this concerns the controversy, mainly in Europe, about female Islamic dress. The dress for Jewish women in ancient days was similar to female Arabic dress. However, as Jewish women wandered throughout Europe their version of the Arabic head covering called the hijab marked them out for racial profiling and persecution. So, gradually they traded in their hijabs for hair wigs called sheitels and no one was any the wiser.

Of course today, Muslims in America aren't subjected to the persecution Jews endured in Europe. However, we are seeing European nations actually banning certain female Islamic dress from public places. So, the sheitel does offer Muslim women an alternate head covering. On the other hand there is the valid view people just should be allowed to wear what they want to wear. But, is a full body covering called a nijab a security threat since there have been cases of terror suspects escaping cloaked in this female garment.

On the rather tactless side of this argument is the Ground Zero Islamic center and mosque near the site of a Muslim terrorist attack on America. This isn't keeping a low profile and isn't something that will build good will, at least in the short-term. Under the circumstances the 15 story building there, although legal being approved by New York's Jewish Republican mayor, is in poor taste and very insensitive. This sentiment has been echoed by New Yorker Donald Trump. Recent history shows that Muslims become extremely sensitive when their people or faith are attacked in any way to the point of sparking deadly riots. In a spirit of goodwill and remorse about 9/11 it would serve their cause better to have their center elsewhere. Under similar circumstances, Jews would never build a synagogue there...they've learned over the centuries not to antagonize the natives.

Eventually, through the school of hard knocks Muslims may follow the Jewish example. It's too early to tell since Muslim immigration is a contemporary event. The U.S. had more than 200 years to develop its brand of multi culturalism, one based on the formation of a mass middle-class. The main lesson to be learned is: You can’t expect miracles over night.

When millions of immigrants were pouring into America around 1900, they built ethnic neighborhoods. It often took several generations for these disintegrate or disappear with their inhabitants assimilating into the vastness of nation. Yet, even with this, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, these ethnic and racial communities still exist.

But this was during America emergence as the prime world power. Now we seem to be in decline and our tolerance level may be declining as well. It's not the Ground Zero mosque that should concern us but what will be taught there and who will it house and how will non Muslims react to possible provocations that may emerge from it.

A major Islamic problem in Europe and in America are kids not being allowed to embrace the western lifestyle. For example, the U.K., where I lived for 28 years, with an large influx of Muslims and now Poles offers a stark comparison. While Polish immigrants can't seem wait to jump into the British lifestyle, many Muslims, mainly from Pakistan, not only keep to themselves but keep their kids as far away from the infidels as possible. This includes forming private Muslim schools where western values are kept to a minimum.

So what does this mean? Are some young British Muslims rejecting British values and the western lifestyle? If the Black experience in America is anything to judge by, it’s more a matter of these youths being unable to fully partake in that lifestyle that’s at the root of the problem in the UK.

However, here’s where the American and British minority experiences have a major difference. Race, religion and color have been the main criteria for acceptance or rejection by the American white majority. For British, Muslims acceptance in society is more a matter of family and religious values. It’s their families and their belief system that hold them back not contemporary British society.

For proof there are two obvious examples: India and Pakistan or Israel and its Arab neighbors. In Britain, mainly Hindu and Sikh Indians are at the top of the economic and educational ladder while Muslim Pakistanis are at the bottom. Yet both share a common ethnicity. And in the Middle East, little Israel is miles ahead of most of its Arab neighbors economically, educationally and politically. And here too, Israelis and Arabs share the same DNA.

So what’s the answer? One society allows its people to think for themselves, express themselves and enjoy the fruits of an affluent lifestyle and the other don't. This then breeds tension and rebellion among the young…but a rebellion against British values not against their family values. Whether this will be a trend in America and the planned Ground Zero Islamic center will be used to keep the cultures separate is a question for the future.

About the Writer

Dan Ehrlich is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on Mosque: What Muslims Could Learn from Jewish Communities

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By ibucketbot on August 25, 2010 at 03:59 pm

Firstly, 'near the site of a Muslim terrorist attack on America'- are we even sure that only the muslims caused this attack ? The US govt havent even given a clear idea who caused the attack. There are many things to say which might make the people ponder about whether the attack was even caused by the Muslims. Talk about the collapse of WTC Building 7. Anyways, no one will ever know the truth about 9/11 so why blabber about something that is of no use. Secondly,why are the terrorists labelled as muslims instead of 'Terrorists'. I bet when a Christian would cause a terrorist attack, it will never be called a christian terrorist attack. What about Joe Stack crashing the plane into the Echleon office ? Would we call it a terrorist attack ? forget calling it a christian terrorist attack. According to my point of view, a mosque should not be built there because even if its built, violence would erupt greatly. Its sad to see people's mind getting a wrong view on the Muslims and as you question about Muslim people's knowledge, I should remind you that Muslims had a great contribution and are still contributing towards science, maths, philosophy and arts. I would suggest you not to have a wrong view on the Muslims by just looking at some neighbours of yours. THe truth is, muslims will get demoted everywhere, wherever possible no matter what happens. I guess thats all part of the plan :)

All muslims are not terrorists.

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By Jack Bates on August 25, 2010 at 04:57 pm

Great thought provoking article that is very well written. I grew up a WASP in the Mid West. I lived overseas, and now in the SF Bay Area for the last decade. I have unlearned most of what was proselytized to me in my youth over that time. I now sit back and learn from my Jewish and Muslim friends and find both religions to be beautiful and community based. Your article will be a great talking point the next time I have a BBQ! (I will never unlearn how to BBQ :-)

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