Jews and Muslims Don't Have To Be Divided

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I came across this article in the New York Times about the executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations), Jacob Bender, who is Jewish. This passage of the article struck me the most:

Mr. Bender offered both hope and censure, twinned: Muslims and Jews could still be “partners for peace and justice,” he said. Israel and Hamas bore shared responsibility for the current carnage, he added, and more hatred would lead to more violence, while love would lead to reconciliation.

After he finished those words, he intoned the Judaic funeral prayer, El Malei Rachamim, adapting its English translation to remember the victims in Gaza. He closed the prayer by saying “amen,” and the several hundred men and women replied in kind. Then, unbidden, they joined in sustained applause.

What motivated to me to post about this article, in fact, was its title: "Guided by History, a Jew Tries to Unite Two Faiths Divided by War in Gaza."

And I though to myself: We don't have to be divided. Yet, sadly, the conflict in the Middle East has divided the American Muslim and Jewish communities. And it should not be so. My good friend, based here in Chicago, Eboo Patel said in the article:

How can we make sure that a deep disagreement over a conflict in the Middle East doesn’t permanently damage relationships in the Midwest? The core idea of America for me is that groups who are at each other’s throats over there can build, together, a nation here.

I echo his belief wholeheartedly. Just like fellow ChicagoNow blogger Essam says:

So why on earth are you yelling and shouting at each other here at home? Neighbors in the US, particularly here in Chicago are not at war. We live in peace. We grow our communities together and enjoy equal rights and freedom, so then why is it that what's happening a world away turns us against each other?

We don't have to be divided here at home. In fact, Jews and Muslims have so much more in common than in distinction. We both worship the God of Abraham, HaShem, Who is the Lord and Savior of all. We both honor and venerate the very same Hebrew Prophets mentioned in the Bible and Qur'an. Why, in the biggest of ironies, the Jews and Muslims who are fighting each other in the Middle East are so alike in so many ways. Why can't they see this and stop their fighting?

When I was blessed to graduate medical school here in Chicago, I took the Oath of Maimonides, who was a Jewish physician in the Islamic world. I was so very happy to do it. One night during Ramadan, as war raged in the Holy Land, I heard these verses being recited during the nightly prayer vigil:

My Lord! Open up my heart [to thy light]
And make my task easy for me
And loosen the knot from my tongue
So that they may fully understand my speech

This is one of my most favorite passages of the Qur'an (20:25-28), and it was the prayer that Moses made to God when he was charged to free the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Whenever I start a task, I try not to forget to make this very prayer. Director Bender recited the Jewish Funeral Prayer, El Male Rachamim, at a mosque:

God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of [the name of the deceased] for whom prayer was offered in the memory of her/his soul. Therefore, the Merciful One will protect her/his soul forever, and will merge her/his soul with eternal life. The Everlasting is her/his heritage, and she/he shall rest peacefully at her/his lying place, and let us say: Amen.

I would not hesitate to say "Amen" myself to this prayer. Muslims and Jews don't have to be divided, and to this end I make my own prayer:

Beloved Lord our God, Beautiful and Holy Allah, Glorious and Magnificent HaShem! Bring peace and healing to our bleeding and suffering world. And let the children of Abraham come together in peace and harmony forever and ever.

Amen.

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