Jewish-Muslim dialogue, a necessity
PROMPTED BY THE
DOCUMENTARY "THE MONSTER AMONG US"
Mike Ghouse, Dallas, Texas
Thursday, October 30, 2008,
Muslims should participate in Jewish events and vice-versa. Staying
away from each other will not contribute towards
peace-making that both communities so deserve. We have to
come together without conditions and learn each others
concerns and clarify mis-information and together find
solutions. If we don’t, the who will?
The Jewish Community Center in
Dallas recently screened a documentary called “The Monster among us”,
produced and directed by
Dallas filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell.
Here are a few quotes from the the publicity material
“ After a recent
screening in New York, CUNY & Brooklyn College professor
Charles Stone wrote:
“Watch the Monster among Us, and
then, when the first European pogrom [holocaust] of the
21st century happens, you will not be able to say that you
are shocked. You will be outraged and saddened and
scared, and we can scream ‘never again!’, but you will not
be able to claim you are shocked. The directors bring you
face to face, and face to mask, with the victims and
demons of modern anti-Semitism in Europe.”... “Sixty
years after the Holocaust, a new brand of anti-Semitism
has reared its ugly head in Europe. It has the same
purpose, but it wears a different face.”
And that face now is a Muslim face.
Watching this film (as well as other films in the
past) and listening to the responses of the audience has
confirmed my belief that one of the primary obstacles to
peace is simply inadequate communications stemming from
the unwillingness to see another point of view. There are
certainly rotten apples in the barrel, but focusing on
them to the exclusion of the positive only exacerbates the
problem. Muslims and Jews need to dialogue without
keeping a score or blaming the other.
The guardians of traditions have a role to
preserve their way of life for their respective
communities. Occasionally their
role has led them to marginalize the "other". We need a
change, and this change will need to come from the
hitherto silent moderate majority in both communities.
This is a responsibility we need to step up to.
Spiraling Extremism Today
of these guardians of tradition have been unable to
understand that much of the extremism around the globe was
given birth by many complex historical events, e.g. the
unresolved conflicts in the Middle East, the legacy of
colonialism and war, and aiding the Mujahideen in
Afghanistan during their fight against the Russians. It
was in the short-term interest of the few politicians to
wave the flag of extremism and keep control of the
situation as they see it fit.
As citizens for humanity, we have to look beyond this
pettiness and look at the larger, long-term picture. We
have to remember that there is a group out there who is
relentlessly promoting chaos as the norm. This group
has a policy of attempting to frighten the public and push
through their agenda which is financially rewarding to
them. If we can consciously create co-existence as the
norm of the society, most of the problems will fade and we
can hope to have a sense of security, drop the guards and
cautions and live in peace.
The Monster among us, the movie
To borrow a sentence from my friend Sheila Musaji “these films are
to be viewed as opportunities for dialogue and not to
further distance ourselves from the other.” We need
to consciously guard ourselves from despair and
disorientation and focus on hope and goodness to humanity
that includes you and I.
The producer of the movie Allen Mondell and I had a
conversation about the movie. He suggested that the movie
may offend me and that I should seriously consider
attending it. I wondered what there was about the film
that would cause him to believe that I might be offended.
As a peace worker, I believed that it was important to see
the film and attempt to understand the film maker’s
point of view, even if that might cause discomfort, and
therefore, I attended the showing.
I have captured the highlights of the film, and will pen a few
First of all, let me acknowledge, that it is a well made
documentary and I commend the integrity of the producer
for presenting his particular perspective which he twice
clarified to me was a strictly "Jewish" perspective with
no attempt made to present any other side of the story.
That is fair.
producers had made this comment in an email exchange in
response to this write up, and I am pleased to
are Christians from several countries and a Muslim
journalist in the film expressing their opinions. The
film is about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and
most of the interviews are from European Jews who are
experiencing both physical and intellectual attacks in a
variety of situations."
I studiously made notes during the 71 minutes of film.
Current anti-Semitism in both Islam and Christianity was
the primary focus as well as tracing the historical roots
The film depicts a university, where Islam and Christianity are
taught as mono-theistic religions and Judaism is
referenced with Jesus on the cross. This university needs
to be questioned and the subtle hatred for Jews must be
purged from their curriculum.
Muslim Kids were shown as drawn into hating Jews by the monsters
among us. It is a shame. I am a Muslim and all the Muslims
that I grew up with and the one’s that I personally know
are moderates and believe in getting along with every
human being and co-existing in peace.
It is a fallacious idea that Terrorism is a problem of any
one in particular; indeed Terrorism is
everyone's problem, especially Muslims.
Unfortunately most of the terrorist acts in the last three
decades have been perpetrated by criminals who call
themselves Muslims; they bring shame and sorrow to the
millions of Muslims who reject terrorism.
A speech by a Muslim cleric in
London was shown, it came out as though he was reading
from the Qur'aan, he was not, as those hateful verses do
not exist in Qur’aan. It was embarrassing to see that
cleric misrepresenting my faith, indeed it was an
inflammatory speech against Jews and that speech should
have no space in civil societies, that man must be booked
as an individual inciting hate. For God’s sake don’t book
him as a Muslim; he was the criminal and not his religion.
Let’s place the blame where it belongs and bring justice
and peace to each one of us.
Unfortunately, there are clerics like him in
Europe and Middle East with a pulpit available to them,
they are a few but enough to poison the youth. They are as
much a danger to Muslims as they are to Jews, as they are
the masters in creating chaos. They are so few that we can
round them up as individuals for hate speeches. A few
years ago one such Cleric was to visit Canada and the
USA, thank God, several Muslims took the steps to bar
entry out of the Toronto Airport and sent him right back
USA and Canada, there is a constant vigil within the
Muslim communities to stop any hate sermons from being
delivered in the Mosques. There is little tolerance for
such sermons among American and Canadian Muslims. In fact
the FBI had planted several of the agents in the Mosques
around the country to monitor it and I am glad they did,
we need to flush out the bad guys. The Wall street Journal
and a Muslim Leader claimed that there were hate speeches
in Mosques; I asked them to produce the proof, no response
came from Wall Street Journal and the Muslim retracted
saying it used to be like that.
The film focuses on
because the problem is much bigger there. I hope the
Europeans will be just as active and concerned as those in
I hope some one introduces a bill in the US congress that every
house of worship, of every faith or religious gatherings
must post their video sermons and the scripts of lectures
on their websites to be available to the public. It should
not be considered a regulation, but rather a safety
measure to protect every American from hate sermons. This
might violate the First Amendment of separation of church
and state, but it may be within the purview of the
Non-Profit status of the organizations. Every hate sermon
must be exposed to the public at large, it is a threat to
our peace and security no matter where it is delivered
within the United States.
I would urge the producers of this documentary and makers to show
anti-Semitism as a universal evil against humanity to
solicit a response for every one to come together to de-root it.
We must avoid
pushing people into the corner as they may dig in their heels, that is not the way
to uproot the evil.
I did not find the movie to be offensive; however there were three
major flaws in the movie that needed to be re-edited or
tagged with comments to rectify them. Our allegiance ought
to be to the truth.
Q & A session
When Q & A session began, questions about Islam, Muslim behavior or
the Qur’aan were asked. I raised my hand every time to
respond to those questions; in the absence of a panel
people deserved an answer. However, I realized that it was
not my show and understood the neglect of my raised hand.
The producer of the movie agreed that a Panel would be
ideal to handle a session like this.
fair to present another view, I am pleased to share the
producers comments, "There were about 150 people in the
audience. There were many people raising their hands. We
appreciate that you wanted to say some things, but we felt
that we needed to call on you in the same way we were
calling on others. And you did have your opportunity to
comment on the film. The film was 71 minutes, and we had
to be out of the JCC by 10 p.m. Because of time
restraints, comments had to be limited In fact there were
so many questions and comments that unfortunately we were
unable to call on everyone."
When the questions start flying from the audience my faith in
humanity grew stronger. Stereotyping any one does not
produce results; whether one paints all Jews or Muslims
with the same brush or believes they are all the same,
speaks of his or her ignorance. Good people always speak
up, it is an obligation and a duty to speak up when we see
wrong. I have tremendous faith in humanity, Jews are no
different than Muslims, and there were some sane voice
that spoke up while the moderate majority simply witnessed
One lady relayed that Qur'aan is full of hate; another one said
that she has some Muslim friends who aren’t like the one
in the movie. Then some one asked if there was any Muslim
here tonight? Gratefully the producer acknowledged and
mentioned my name, but still did not encourage or invite
me to address any one of those questions.
Another lady added vigorously "what is represented in the movie is
not reflective of all Muslims, it was the radical Muslims"
then she added, "Why don't the Muslims speak up"... I
could not sit quite any more, I walked up and asked
for Microphone, there was reluctance, it was not my show,
but my responsibility was to speak up… thanks to those
individuals who yelled "give him the microphone" and they
I said "Ma’m, I am so glad you brought this up, please Google and
check out anything you want, it is all there, yes Muslims
have condemned Terrorism - she asked when? I said, all the
times, it is just that they don't get the microphone. I
was rather pleased with the appreciation from the
audience, and believed in the inherent goodness of
humanity who follow the right instincts if paved. The
producers deserve the credit for making this event
possible and I asked the audience to give applause to the
producers to bring their point of view, and added, until
we have all points of view on the table, the dialogue to
find solutions would be inadequate and thus will not be
If you are a Muslim and don’t say anything against anti-Semitic
rhetoric; if you are a Jew and smile when you hear
anti-Arab or Anti-Muslim rhetoric; if you are a Baptist
and rejoice anti-Mormon rhetoric; if you are a Catholic
and remain silent when some one belittles the practices of
Hindu, Wicca or Pagans; then do you have the right to
complain if some one is anti-you? This is a serious
question, the more you are silent about it, the more you
are justifying anti-sentiments against your own creed. No,
if it is not good for you, it is not good for others
Then I addressed the earlier question about
Qur'aan and shared the information about the free copy of
Qur'aan translation they may have, the flawed translation
is referring to the verses 6 and 7 of Sura Fateha on the
very first page. (http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/01/unlike-jews-or-christians-17.html
) The image of “The Alcoran of Mahomet" 1640 AD was shown
in the movie, It was indeed a deliberate attempt by the
Emperors of the time to mistranslate and demonize the
conquering Armies, so they can get their poor sucker
subjects to fight for them to consolidate their kingdoms (http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/03/islamophobia-and-quraan.html
There are about 60 such verses that have been
mistranslated by Neocons wearing Christian and Muslim
labels to suit their own unscrupulous agenda. I apologized
to the people for the pain and anguish they felt upon
reading those verses. As Muslims we are offended by such
translations, there are millions of copies out there, the
only thing we can do is read 18 some translations
available on the market, the best one being by Mohammad
Asad, a Jewish scholar.
The Bhagvad Gita shares this wisdom “finding
the truth is one’s own responsibility” If some one uploads
you with ill-will, hate and prejudice, even if they are
your parents or spiritual teachers, it is your
responsibility to find the truth, as you are the one who
will suffer from pain and anguish and not your Rabbi, Imam
or the Pastor.
The Sentimental Moment
One of the most sentimental moments of the
event was when a man wept sharing the loss of his family
in Holocaust and he wished it never happens again. I felt
compelled to ask him to give me a hug, I walked towards
him and he walked towards me until we hugged. It was
one of the most beautiful moments of my life to feel the
pain of that man and have the empathy and develop the
commitment to work for peace and security for human life.
Allen Mondell was puzzled that the French
Scholar in the movie could make a blunder of saying that
only Jews and Christians believe in Messiah and Muslims
believe that Muhammad will be back to kill the infidels.
That scholar probably did not have the knowledge of the
issue, however statements like that lead to
misunderstandings. Muslims do believe in the coming of
Messiah and it would be Jesus Christ who would be back to
bring the peace to the world. I hope the producer edits
this or adds a comment to genuinely pass on a truthful
message in the interest of cultivating a culture of peace.
Some one made a comment that Muslims have been
hateful towards Jews in the 1400 years of Islamic history.
This comment did not get corrected and it is a shame that
such ignorance exist. If she knew the Golden years of
Jewish History, the comment would not have been made. This
is where one needs to speak up to set the records right,
if not we are affirming the wrong records. Hopefully a
panel of well informed guests might help avoid the
pitfalls in the future.
There was another comment made that Europe will
become Islamic and they did not want to live in Europe
anymore, some one rightly countered that we should face
things squarely and not run to Israel and allow the wrong
There is always a room to improve
communications and reconcile the mis-understandings,
here is the response from the Producers Cynthia and Allen
to my write up, that I am including it verbatim,
email make it sound as if you were denied access to
speak when this is not what happened. You were called
on, and we were not handing out the microphone to anyone
in the audience. When you were finally handed the
microphone, you walked away to hug the man who earlier
had begun crying when he talked about his holocaust
memories. There were other people who had questions, so
w continued the q&A.. After one or two were answered,
you were called on again and finished what you were
When the program was over and everyone was leaving, you
picked up the microphone and continued to talk.
Finally, Mike, you have every right to be critical of
the film with both positive and negative comments. What
disturbs us most is that we feel you misrepresented how
you were treated at our showing and then sent that to an
e-mail list of individuals who have already responded to
your comments having never seen the film.
Like Mike, and so many others who challenge the narrow
mindedness and sometimes violence of true believers, we
agree that co-existence can some day lead to a much more
secure and peaceful society. Until then, as filmmakers
and communicators we also feel a responsibility to point
out the prejudices, the injustices and destruction
experienced by some at the hands of others.
I must also state
that I had sent the write up to my Jewish, Christian,
Hindu, Sikh and Muslim friends, who have gone through
the article at least twice and have contributed to fine
tuning it, the idea was to present the article that has
the least flaws in it. Our ultimate purpose
in producing documentaries or writing articles is to
bring hope and to work for a world of co-existence. I am
planning to make a documentary about the conflict
between Jews and Muslims and I will have it seen by my
Jewish and Muslim friends before it hits the public
hope we all can bring the harsh facts to the public and
also give hope and find solutions to the problems. I am
pleased to work with the producers in moving forward and
doing our share of Tikkun Olam.
The real question
I shared a story with a small group later on
about a time where I stopped a guy from maligning Jews and
in that critical moment, a good Muslim jumped in and said
that it was wrong, followed by thirteen others, the man
apologized and promised me never to speak ill-will towards
Jews or any one again, he has kept his word on it.
What if a bad guy had jumped in to tell me that
I was wrong? Would the thirteen others have jumped with
I asked the group in the Center, if any one
among them would have spoken up if someone were to spew
hate against Muslims. It was God’s grace to see a few
hands go up. I believe in humanity, when Ahmedinejad
denied Holocaust a few years ago, Forty Muslims wrote to
Dallas Morning News denouncing him, they published six of
them including mine. Muslims do speak out.
My presence was there to see another point of view with an open
mind and an open heart and speak up if needed to in the
most civil manner. I have always believed in the inherent
goodness of humanity and believe that the moderate
majority needs to speak up. Thanks to the Jewish
communities who have always been open to me, exceptions
are of course always factored in.
Anti-Semitism is real
I am saddened by the rise of anti-Semitism in
Europe. It is for real, as a Muslim it is frightening to
me, and it should be frightening to every one in the
world. Anti-Semitism must be exposed and eradicated before
it envelops other areas of life and starts re-producing in
different forms, un-checked, ultimately it will get to
each one of us.
Anti-Semitism is hate for Jews, and to his credit, the producer
acknowledged in his comments that both Muslims and Jews
are facing this abuse in
Europe. As responsible citizens, we need to stand up
against hate towards every one.
Anti-Semitism, anti-Arab or anti-Muslim is an ugly virus that is
going to find home in every soul if we don’t take the time
to neutralize it. It should not be the problem of Jews
and Muslims alone; it should be every one’s problem. Today
it is them; tomorrow it will be you, no matter who you
The biggest lesson for Jews and Muslims
We need to interact; some of the ill-will is based on
mis-information and some of it is real. It is in our
interest; interests of the world, interest of
Israel, Palestine, America, you and I to build bridges. We
need to fund those projects that build bridges and not
invest in ideas that promote misunderstandings, hate,
ill-will, anger and revenge, it amounts to
We have got to remember that we will not be at peace, when others
around us aren’t. We cannot have security when we threaten
others. My security at the cost of others is not
sustainable. Peace making does not happen with score
keeping, it happens with a genuine desire for peace and
goodness for all.
Let films like this pave the way for discussion and work on
developing a better understanding of each other. Muslims
should participate in Jewish events and vice-versa.
Staying away from each other will not contribute towards
peace-making that both communities deserve. We have to
come together without conditions and learn each others
concerns and together find solutions. If we don’t, no one
To be a religious is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate
conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence.
God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his
creation; that is indeed the purpose of religion, any
Acknowledgements: Thanks to my Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian
friends for reading the article and helping with a
solution oriented essay, Sheila Musaji is one of them.
challenge to Muslims and Jews
watch the movie together to find areas to collaborate, and
remain focused on the movie and find solutions. Work
together for the wellbeing of every American.
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator.
He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television
network discussing Pluralism, interfaith, Terrorism,
Peace, Political and civic issues. His comments, news analysis and columns can be
found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal