Obama's Hospitality: A Response to Rabbi Shmuley

My blog posts have been sporadic lately, and I even wondered if I would continue blogging at all as it has become more of a challenge than it has been in the past.  Knowing that I could not avoid blogging forever, I thought about the topic of my next post, ignoring much of the hot-button news and preferring to wait until something came along to “inspire” me.

Unfortunately, my inspiration came from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s article on The Huffington Post entitled “Obama’s Hospitality:  A Question of Character.” In the article Rabbi Shmuley gives a damning critique of Obama’s handling of the Israeli Prime Minister during his recent visit.

I happen to like Rabbi Shmuley and his works.  My wife and I were regular viewers of his now defunct TV reality series “Shalom in the Home.”  We have bought many of his books and enjoy what he has to say, which is why I was shocked by his article and compelled to write a response.

Rabbi Shmuley opens up his piece with a provocative statement almost mocking the Seder meal to be held at the White House this year by stating:

As a Jewish American I am grateful to the President for highlighting the festival of Jewish emancipation and peoplehood. But given a choice, I would readily forgo the White House Manischewitz in exchange for an end to the bitter herbs the President is dishing out to Israel.

This statement is due to President Obama’s “treatment” of the Israel Prime Minister the Rabbi went on to explain.

Rabbi Shmuley’s piece isn’t a total loss as he does bring up some good points about hospitality and the treatment of heads of state.  However, what stood out to me were his veiled reference to Obama bowing to the Saudi King, his commentary suggesting Obama is an adherent of Islam, and most importantly what he didn’t say about why the United States is currently at this juncture with Israel.

I hate to point out the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but it was Israel that embarrassed the Obama Administration first when news spread that it had plans to build more than 1600 new, illegal settlements in Jerusalem on the heels Vice President Biden’s visit almost three weeks ago.  Maybe Rabbi Shmuley forgot about that incident, or maybe he just doesn’t care— considering he made clear in his article that all of Jerusalem belongs to the Jews anyway.  In of itself the latter statement completely contradicts his idea that “disdainful treatment” is contrary to his beliefs and the religious beliefs of many others. The issue in Israel is a matter international justice and the adherence to the international law.  Israel is occupying lands it illegally seized in 1967.  Religion should never be used as an excuse to occupy, oppress, and/or force others off their land even  . . . if you are Jewish.

Also, what Rabbi Shmuley carefully ignores is the Israeli Prime Minister’s disrespect of U.S. policy on U.S. soil in his tirade at an AIPAC meeting.  It is disheartening that Rabbi Shmuley favors an illegal policy which at it’s core is based on the idea that one groups religious beliefs trump the international call for human rights, justice, and law.  It is equally disheartening that one would disparage one’s own President for showing his disdain toward those who enact such policies.

Rabbi Shmuley makes it clear that his home may be in America, but his heart and support is with Israel’s unjust policies.  What ever happened to my favorite Rabbi who gave wholesome, reasonable, and righteous advice to all?

And who said that Islamophobia isn't real?

A phobia (from the Greek: φόβος, phóbos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”) is an intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus. When the fear is beyond one’s control, and if the fear is interfering with daily life, then a diagnosis under one of the anxiety disorders can be made. source Wikipedia

I often feel like a broken record, constantly repeating parts of the same song over and over again. For years, I have challenged the illogical, unintelligible, and unreasonable attacks, comments, and stereotypes made about Muslims in general. My reason for even starting this blog was to dispel such idiocy that has spread like a plague in the West by presenting what I hoped would be at the very least, one example of a Muslim who does not spend every thought thinking about destroying the “Western way of life”.

By giving insight into the mind, thoughts, and actions of a very Western Muslim who loves his country and in many ways is just as American as apple pie as the next guy, I hoped that some plagued by the illness that leads to Islamophobia, would at a minimum rethink their ideas. I’m certain I have failed in this mission thus far, but being the glutton for punishment that I am, I press on nonetheless.

Which brings me to today’s commentary in a collection of such ramblings and rantings.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of coming across an article today on Facebook in which a dear friend and dare I say mentor was the target of yet another contrived so-called controversy all due to his acceptance to open up a legislative session with a prayer. Oh dear God, go hide the children, someone is trying to pray for others! Of course, if my dear friend had been of the Christian faith or any other faith other than Islam, there would not have been cause for alarm. However, due to the effective infection rates of the plague that causes Islamophobia, it appears that my dear state of Virginia has much work left to do.

So Imam Johari Abdul Malik, known to those who have actually heard him speak, have talked to him in person, or seen him both on supposed liberal and conservative cable news outlets, as one of the foremost Muslim leaders in the DC area against Muslim extremism, radicalism, terrorism, etc. and known for his work with interfaith projects and community service, has been ridiculously accused of being apathetic to terrorism of course!

Boycott urged for Muslim imam’s prayer in Virginia House

Never mind that there is recorded evidence on both cable TV and radio that Imam Johari is anything but, all that matters is that he is a Muslim and dare accept an invite to open up a legislative session with prayer. One almost have to laugh to avoid crying as it’s sad to know that we live in a nation where one can be targeted not for their works or their beliefs but due to alleged associations and their faith.

So just why was Imam Johari targeted in this manner? Well like an addict who has a million excuses to explain away their addiction or to avoid the truth, the organizers of the protest will concoct ridiculous arguments that all amount to guilt by loose association. Imam Johari is one of the Imams at Dar Al Hijra Mosque in Falls Church, VA and as the internet and especially the islamophobic websites will note, came to national attention because 2 of the 9/11 hijackers just happened to pray there and recently it was noted that the madman of the Ft. Hood tragedy also prayed there and at one time the Yemeni Imam who supported him, was the Imam there as well.

Now to the uninformed, or in this case those looking to validate their illness, this may give cause for alarm. These facts, may even make it plausible that Dar Al Hijra is a haven for mad Muslims bent on causing acts of terrorism. However, even with these facts in place, these conclusions are based on illogical lunacy as they are based on the idea that one is guilty by association. While guilt by association can be proven to be true in some instances such as the guy who is the lookout for others who gang rape a victim, it can be proven just as false if the same guy was just waiting in the car for his friends oblivious to what his associates were doing, or why they wanted him to wait in the car.

Regardless of how many analogies I could try to throw together to explain the lunacy of guilt by association, I’m certain there will be those out there who will bypass the intent of my explanation and opt for attempting to find loop holes in my argument, so for the sake of time and word count, let me say that I fundamentally believe that this entire concept of guilt by association is not only a slippery slope which I will explain, but also a tool used by those with a specific agenda to discredit others, when there are not facts readily available to condemn the individual outright. Afterall, it is much easier to accuse a person when you can just highlight the crimes of those around them right?

So let’s examine the problem with this cute tactic used by those inflicted with islamophobia. What they would want the perfectly healthy and rational among us to believe is that somehow because several deeply disturbed homicidal madmen committed acts of terror, just happened to pray in the same mosque as Imam Johari, that he must also by definition of guilt by association, either be a homicidal maniac himself or a sympathizer of homicidal maniacs. The latter is their actual accusation.

Well herein lies some very large problems with that “logic”.

Imam Johari on many occasions on Larry King Live, NPR, Fox News, and many other media outlets has denounced terrorism, the hijackers, Nedal Hassan, and even the Yemeni Imam. He is on record on both national and local media outlets. So the “tricky” thing for the infected accusers would be that they would have to demonstrate proof that Imam Johari is a consistent liar. Which would be very difficult considering that he also has many works here in the DC community many not reported, where he has actually practiced what he preaches by both rolling up his sleeves to help the larger DC community regardless of faith and encouraged others to do so.

Another problem with this “tricky logic” is that the sick would then have to categorically state that every Muslim who has ever attended services with that aforementioned madmen are also or sympathizers themselves and on this point I take serious issue.

In order for this to pan out, the accusers would have to state matter as a matter of fact, that if one shares a space with anyone who espouses beliefs other than their own, or participates in actions other than their own, that by virtue of praying together they are all the same. Which is exactly what they are saying and this is exactly why they are ill. I have prayed in Dar Al Hijrah mosque on many occasions. I have never heard a sermon remotely close to anything that could be trumpeted as a call to arms for Muslims against those of other faiths, yet does this mean that by virtue of my being present on several occasions over the years that I too categorically accept terrorism as something that is correct? I would love to see someone stick that label on me.

See the problem is not so much with the islamophobes as it is with Muslims in general. We (Muslims) have to stop allowing them to control the message. If we do not allow our voices to be heard we only do ourselves an injustice. Any people who are a silent as we tend to be, opens the door for others to define who we are.

Incidents like this involving Imam Johari are nothing new, it has happened with many Imams in the past, many Muslims in the past, and will continue until Muslims demand just as other groups before us have, that islamophobia and the actions committed by those with the illness against us will no longer be tolerated. We have to be loud and clear on every media platform that we can reach that these people are insane. We have to repel their evil with good as we are commanded in our religion. Until people hear our voices and hear them just as loud as islamophobes and yes the terrorists, we will continue to be labeled guilty by association.

Most people know that it is foolish to assume that anyone in a place of worship regardless of whether they are an Imam, Priest, Preacher, Rabbi, or other spiritual leader that they cannot be held accountable for the actions of their congregants unless it can be proven that they delivered a message or actively encouraged their congregants behavior. Nor can any fellow congregant be held accountable for every other congregant’s actions. It is ridiculous to think that a person even knows about that man or woman sitting next to them on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sunday, let alone the secrets they hold in their hearts.

However, Muslims have allowed an illness to ferment in America and in the West in general, where this logic does not apply to Muslims. By not actively challenging these mad assertions, by not opening the doors to the mosque and our beliefs to the general public, we have not become part of the solution, but part of the problem.

Right now, islamophobes and their followers, would have ordinarily good people believe that Muslims somehow have super powers others don’t possess. Muslims somehow have the ability to be connected to the lives, thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and practices of every other human on the planet that declares that Islam is their faith. Which is why Muslims are all this or that, because we are all connected in ways no other mortal could hope to ever achieve if they are not Muslim. So of course Imam Johari, Robert Salaam, and every other Muslim who has prayed at Dar Al Hijrah or any other mosque on the planet is just as guilty as any other when another Muslim commits a crime, wishes ill will on others, cheat on their taxes, forget to take out the trash when their wives told them to, get bad grades, etc. etc. etc. We Muslims are connected plain and simple do to our superhuman ability to be connected by our faith. So what is true for one Muslim or a group of Muslims is true for all 1.5 billion Muslims even all those babies born as type to Muslim families.

This is the narrative that islamophobes would have us to believe. This is the reality in the media that we face. They organize, produce websites, and write books to promote and spread their illness. Facts don’t matter. Therefore, Muslims like Imam Johari, a man by all accounts is an enemy to extremism and terrorism committed by all humans let alone Muslims, can easily be labeled as being apathetic or a sympathizer and neither the media nor the general public bats an eye.

If one can not see after clear evidence here on display yet again, that irrational fear of a person or group, is not the basis of the reasoning behind those who protested Imam Johari’s acceptance to pray, then there is really nothing that I can write to show you otherwise. However, for those who are sober and can see what is being done, for those who are Muslim and how do not want to one day find themselves the target of these infected irrational “people”, I simply ask, what are you willing to do about it? Will you join me in ensuring that the message about who we truly are as a people is spread? Will you work in your communities, join advocacy groups, start your own groups, and work to promote peace, civility, and understanding among all peoples? I believe that our work will one day trump their words. I implore Muslims of conscience to join me and others such as Imam Johari in working toward that common goal.

I don’t pretend to be naive in my beliefs that somehow we can change the hearts and minds of those plagued by this illness, as only God can do that. God has revealed to us in the Qur’an the very nature of those with whom we are dealing with when He revealed that they will never accept you unless you reject Islam as your faith.

But, what I am stating is that we can still reach those on the fence, those who know better, and others of conscience to not only join us and repealing those in whose hearts live enmity toward Muslims but also working with us to promote and produce a society and world where every man and woman regardless of background can live in peace and without fear. Our differences should not be what repels us from one another but that thing that compels us to get to know one another as God has revealed that He made us diverse in our languages, colors, nations, and tribes so that we may know one another.

May God grant us the heart and mind of mercy and compassion toward our fellow human beings regardless of our differences. May He allow us the ability to use reason in our judgments, wisdom in our discernment, and contentment in our resolve. May Almighty God continue to guide us through the words of His Prophets and His Messengers (Peace and Blessings be Upon Them), and may we all strive to evolve stage after stage until we reach that eventual perfection.

Amen

Will the media ever report the truth about Farrakhan?

Minister Farrakhan gave a 4 hour lecture at this year’s annual Savior’s Day Address that he didn’t even get to finish and what did the media report? Three out of context remarks about white-Right wingers wanting to make Obama a one-term President, a vision he had in the 80’s, and his commentary about being light in the darkness. Without going into the specifics of the lengthy address, I just wanted to comment about how it drives me absolutely nuts how idiotic people can be when responding to such poorly written reports.

If one was to take a cursory glance at the comments sections of the various articles one would easily see all the critics of Farrakhan have not heard this particular speech in full themselves or any in the past. Some even boast about how they could listen past the first 15 minutes, but continue to spew the same talking points about Farrakhan none of which they ever researched. Among my favorites are the comments comparing him to David Duke, Pat Robertson, et. al. As if anyone can ever cite a comment from Farrakhan calling for the death or subjugation of an entire racial group, or particular people and/or countries.

I have read, listened to, and been witness to many of Farrakhan’s lectures over the years and it never ceases to amaze me how uplifting, spot-on, and truthful he is, only to have a few quotes extracted purposefully out of context by the media to enhance their viewership or readership. I don’t know why there still exist people in America who can not see the reality of what’s going on. In America today, we still have huge issues with race. If you are a black leader and speak forcefully, automatically they try to tar and feather you in the media. Everyone knows this but it’s not considered PC to say it. Which is why contrary to the attempts to silence him, Harry Reid was absolutely correct about his commentary a couple of months ago about President Obama. Obama absolutely has to be soft spoken and come off as aloof or weak, or he would have never gotten this far. He absolutely had to distance himself from Jeremiah White, Farrakhan, and others. The ugly reality is the majority of Americans who by the way are white, don’t feel comfortable with a black person in power speaking forcefully. The words that come out their mouths are never analyzed in context, so they just paint them in a manner to make themselves feel comfortable. So any black leader Farrakhan chief among them is painted as “radical”, “racist”, or written about in ways to make them seem like cartoonish characters that shouldn’t be taken very seriously. It’s supposedly “obvious” and that’s why if one looked at the recent slew of negative commentary, people can spot the typical talking points about something he supposedly said, did, or wrote decades ago. No dates given, no full excerpts noted, etc. as they are not considered necessary. This is same tactic that occurs every time Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton are brought up. We are never challenged as intellectuals to analyze and respond to commentary, we are only given soundbites and reminded of this or that happening from decades ago.

I used to believe that maybe I was just the opposite side of the coin vigorously defending against the critics, until I personally experienced how the media operates. For a good time, Google “Robert Salaam” and go read my extracted comments in the major media and then read the comments. You would think that I only spoke a few sentences to reporters, when in truth, I rarely gave an interview shorter than 45 minutes. In one major media outlet I was quoted for two sentences that pissed a lot of readers off, but I spoke with that reporter for over an hour all for naught. If I knew then what I know now, I would just give a few sentences and not waste my breath.

My point is, one should be careful what they believe and how they comment based on what is reported in the media. They are in the business to raise revenue not report. Therefore, the more sensationalist the comments or “news” the better. When Farrakhan can give a 4 hour lecture and it’s summed up in one paragraph while you may feel good by calling Farrakhan the fool, you may want to look in the mirror. Farrakhan knows what he is saying and why he is saying it. However, those making the comments are completely ignorant and basing their thoughts on something someone else says is important. If one only gave you the section of the dictionary on the letter “X” would that be enough to state that you understand all the words in the entire book? Would it make you feel wise and superior enough to give commentary about the English language? If not, what makes these idiot posters feel so confident about what Farrakhan has or hasn’t said in more than 4 decades? If your life was reported as an article excerpt written from negative bias, what would the public be able to decide based on the report?

Lesson: Think before you speak or at a minimum research something before you style yourself a pseudo expert

Although I have no official or unofficial ties with the Nation of Islam, even I know that it would be unwise to not consider the truth of Farrakhan’s address. I could care less what some of you may think of me based on that.