Washington “” Efforts to bring together Jewish and Muslim communities hit another snag when an imam at a major Muslim conference gave an incendiary speech in which he said Jews were to blame for the Holocaust.
The speech came during the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, which was attended by rabbis who have been trying to build closer relations between Muslims and Jews.
At one of the conference’s 70 sessions, Warith Deen Umar, a New York imam, spoke critically of Jews, saying that the Holocaust happened to the Jews “because they were serially disobedient to Allah.” He also said that a small handful of Jews around President Obama “control the world.” ISNA immediately condemned the tenor of the comments. This was enough for some of the Jewish figures in attendance, but not enough for the Jewish terrorism hunter who brought the comments to light.
The divide comes in the context of a broader debate in the Jewish community about how far to go in dialogue with Islamic groups. One strong view has been presented by Steve Emerson, head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and a skeptic when it comes to close ties between Jewish groups and the major American Muslim organizations.
Emerson has argued that ISNA and other Muslim groups are not as moderate as Jewish groups would like to believe. It was Emerson’s project that released a record and transcript of Umar’s comments, and he immediately rejected ISNA”s apology. […]
In his July speech, Umar took issue with the fact that Obama’s first choices for White House positions were Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. Both men are Jewish, though Umar wrongly described them as Israeli. “Why do this small number of people have control of the world?” he asked.
He then moved to speak of the Holocaust, providing his own explanation for its cause: “These people were punished. They were punished for a reason, because they were serially disobedient to Allah.”
ISNA leaders were quick to issue a statement condemning his language and stressing that it does not reflect the group’s opinion of other religions.
“We would like to set the record straight and state our complete rejection of all prejudicial views and bigoted stances toward the Jewish community and any other community of faith,” ISNA”s president, Ingrid Mattson, said in a statement.
Oh, really now.
Louay Safi, executive director of the group’s Leadership Development Center, told the Forward that Umar was scheduled to speak about peace and to demonstrate how Muslim and Jewish communities can live in peace. Safi said that Umar, like other speakers, was vetted based on his proposed topic, not his past.
“We were very surprised when we heard about it,” Safi said, adding that the group will now look for ways to make sure that such mistakes do not occur in the future.