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New Seattle-Area Mosque Dedicated – OpEd

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The Muslim Association of Puget Sound(MAPS) dedicated its gleaming new mosque this past weekend at a celebration I was privileged to attend.  It was a joyful, festive ocassion and as a Jew I was especially grateful to participate with my Muslim neighbors.  There were a number of government representatives there including the mayor of Redmond, the jurisdiction which approved all the permits to build the mosque.

As you can imagine, the Muslim community (and perhaps local officials) were apprehensive lest a local Pam Geller-type be roused to action against the facility.  Luckily no such opposition happened and the local Muslim community worked hand in glove with the city to bring this dream to reality.

Being based in Redmond, many mosque members are highly educated professionals a number of whom work on Microsoft’s international product initiatives.  In this increasingly global environment, companies like this will need such a diverse work force.  It’s wonderful to see such developments in Redmond.

Rob McKenna had the chutzpah to show up even after he joined a number of state attorneys general in proposing that Washington State should have a foreign policy position supporting Israel’s horrendous war on Gaza.  I note that the local Jewish community and elected officials like McKenna who opposed the I-97 city BDS initiative, suggested it wasn’t the business of Seattle to take a position on foreign policy.  They didn’t manage to maintain any consistency on McKenna’s signing of the attorneys general letter.  I guess it depends which foreign policy a local official is advancing as to whether Jews and the pro-Israelists support local forays into foreign policy.

I had the opportunity to hear the MAPS Imam Joban, a native of Indonesia, whose address took a suitably joyful, yet serious tone with the audience of mixed Muslims and non-Muslims.  I also appreciated that he included a short Muslim prayer in his homiliy sung in a style somewhat reminiscent of what a Jew might hear a cantor or rabbi sing in a synagogue.

The Episcopal bishop of western Washington warmly addressed the gathering. I note only one Jewish community leader, Rabbi Jim Mirel, attended the celebration.  I was happy to see Rabbi Mirel there, and not surprised that I didn’t see any other leaders of the community there.  There is very little effort made by my community to build bridges to the Muslim community.  In fact, local Jews allow a group like Stand With Us, with its harsh anti-Arab, anti-Muslim rhetoric to set the tone for Jewish-Muslim relations or the lack thereof.

I’ve reported here that I attempted to organize a mosque-synagogue Twinning initiative between MAPS and my own synagogue, Beth Sholom, but my rabbi, Jill Borodin, under likely pressure from congregation members affiliated with Stand With Us, retreated from her own commitment to sponsor such an initiative.  Rabbi Daniel Weiner last year tried to organize a Twinning, but his record of deep animosity for Iran including support for violent regime change, which I’ve written about here, and his strong pro-Israel positions didn’t endear him to the local Muslim community either.

A community in which there has been a horrible killing by a Muslim-American as happened at the Seattle Jewish federation offices several years ago ought to cause local Jews to make the strongest effort to reach out to the Muslim community to find common ground and discuss issues that unite and divide us.  Except for Rabbi Mirel and his congregation, this isn’t happening.  A far better job is being done by the Middle East Task Force of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, with whom I joined in a conference about Islamophobia.  There I was able to address issues of Jewish-Muslim relations in ways that likely could never happen inside the local Jewish community.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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