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Building a better relationship with Muslim neighbors

Published Wednesday, April 6, 2016
by Rabbi Jay TelRav

I'd like to take a few minutes to share with you some thoughts that I have after last evening's program here in Stamford.  I was very proud of the large number of Temple Sinai members who attended the program organized by the Stamford Interfaith Council which was called "Honest Conversations with our Muslim Neighbors".  It is the latest in a series of experiences designed to enhance healthy relationships with our Islamic American neighbors.  While many of us were there to experience it ourselves, it feels important enough to take this time to share some of what I heard last night as well as my reflections on what it means to me.  Please remember, I am only one man with my own perspective and others may have heard something else while there. 
The format last night placed three Muslims on a panel fielding moderated questions from the audience.  It seems to me that no questions were off-limits and they answered them in a straightforward manner.  The moderator began with the question that we are all concerned with: why is the Islamic community not speaking out against the extremism being reported around the world which is being perpetrated in the name of Islam?  Imam Dr. Kareem Adeeb, who has been a guest several times here at Temple Sinai, responded by saying with emotion in his voice, "We ARE responding!"  He told us how Muslims are speaking to any audience who will listen about their rejection of radical Islam.  He listed a number of venues in which he has shared this message and he told us about an open letter signed by more than 700 imams nationwide following the attacks of September 11th.  But, he then pointed out how resistant the media has been to show us this truth.  This became a theme throughout the evening.  In fact, another panelist, Azra Asaduddin, told us about a new work of academic research called "Terrified: How anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream" by a professor at Duke University named Christopher Bail.  Every one of us knows that the media does us no service by crafting a significantly skewed version of reality.  This is particularly upsetting to our Muslim speakers.  And as one more proof last night, here in Stamford 150 people of various faiths, including our mayor, gathered for this conversation.  The media was made aware of the event, but to my knowledge, chose not to join us. 

There is a perception among many of us that the Quran is a book which teaches violence.  Dr. Adeeb rejects that notion and emphatically

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