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    Comments

    Steve M

    You give us hope, Judy. Thank you.

    Happy New Year.

    Grandma Lausch

    So you had 'great fun' visiting Regent's Park Mosque? So did Sir Iqbal Sachranie and hundreds of distinguished Muslim scholars a year or so ago at the memorial meeting for Hamas's founder Sheikh Yassin. That makes the difference between 'politicised Islamism' and 'the majority of Muslims in the UK' somewhat academic, but why let reality get in the way of haloymes? Ramadan tov ve matok

    Raquib

    Yitzhak Shamir, a terrorist of the first order and killer of women and children, was hailed as a great leader by British Jews.
    Sharon - responsible for the slaughter of thousands of refugees in Sabra and Shatila, and the murder of 20,000 Lebanese civilians by the IDF - is welcomed with open arms when he visits the UK.

    Jews don't have a monopoly on morality, Grandma, Muslims don't have a monopoly on terror.

    Judy

    Grandma Lausch-- the situation is not as simple as you present it. I do not claim that Regent's Park Mosque is a centre for dialogue between Muslims and Jews. I don't think it's a centre for radical Islamism either. But it is directly linked to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. I would not refuse to visit it, or to work co-operatively with it on issues to do with the educational needs of Jews and Muslims in the UK.

    Not all distinguished Muslim scholars approve of the politics of Sheikh Yassin or Hamas. On the other hand, there's also no shortage of western (and especially UK and US) distinguished professors and political commentators who do.

    I'm well aware of the lure of the power of dreams. That doesn't mean I'm not capable of keeping myself awake, or, when, needed, of waking myself up when I'm in the grip of a nightmare.

    Judy

    Raquib, your claims about Shamir and Sharon (particularly the latter) are not supported by the scholarship (as opposed to the propaganda and "committed" journalism) on these issues.

    Your polarizing and polemical contributions aren't helpful to promoting understanding or movement towards peace.

    Raquib

    One man's "scholarship" is another man's propaganda.

    Sharon was found "partly responsible" for Sabra and Shatila - by a Jewish court, hardly a fervent advocate of the Palestinian cause.

    If you choose to only read the material that supports your perspective you will always see Palestinians as terrorists and Israelis as Angels, no matter what the facts.

    With the best intention in the world, how can you be sure that your Jewish, pro-Israeli stance contributes to peace and understanding, while my sympathy for the plight of the plight of the Palestinians does not.

    Judy

    Raquib. You are mistaken. It was actually a judicial commission of the state of Israel-- not a court--that found Sharon had not done enough to ensure that a massacre was presented. That is not the same as finding him responsible for a massacre. Why should you think I am not sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians? We may have very different views of what causes that plight and how it may be resolved. I hope at some time to post on what I think peace might look like in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But meanwhile, I can observe that the Jordanians and the Egyptians were able to make peace with Israel, that peace has lasted (though it is not an ideal peace), and when they actually really wanted peace, it did not take long to reach agreement with the Israelis. You may well radically disagree with me there, but the record stands.

    By no means are all Palestinians terrorists, and if you read all my posts carefully, you will note where I refer to Palestinians who take an alternative view. For example, I have cited some interesting links to Gazan Palestinians, one keeping a diary, and one taking photographs of Gazan daily life, which give a very different picture of Palestinian perspectives from Gaza than we usually get via Hamas or even the mainstream of the PA. I would be delighted to find more such material to publicize. But of course I would be fooling myself and my readers if I ignored the more dismaying news coming out of the PA areas as appears to be happening today.

    I am glad however, that you appear to be ready to give me the benefit of having the best intention in the world. For I certainly do believe peace and prosperity, friendship and harmony between both peoples are possible. As is a similar harmony and peace between Islam and Judaism.

    Grandma Lausch

    I am not surprised Raquib can't tell scholarship from propaganda.
    Sharon wasn't found 'partly responsible' by a Jewish (sic) court. He resigned as defence minister after (Israeli) Kahan commission ruled out criminal prosecution while finding Sharon 'indirectly responsible' for Sabra and Shatila. There was a (US) court verdict though: a libel trial which Sharon won against the Time magazine. Incidently, 'thousands' of Shabra and Shatila remind me of the 'thousands' of Jeninograd, the Arab city formerly known as Jenin, which turned out to be 56 dead, mostly Hamas and al-Aqsa gunmen. Or the 120,000 Iraqi civilians killed by 'Bush and Blair', both welcome in the UK (in Raquib's colourful phrasing)

    My point was not about 'monopoly on terrorism' but about the adulation of child-murderers by mainstream Muslims, most prominent scholars and mullahs including. And while I am fighting on two frontsJudy, is 'radical Islamism' different from moderate (?)Islamism because in the former all terrorism is kosher while in the latter al-Qaeda, but not Hamas, is haram? If you think that justifying murder of children, Israeli or Turkish, is 'not simple', you will end up shooting yourself in the foot

    Raquib

    Judy,

    Court or Judicial Commission, whatever it was, 2,000 old men, women and children died. There is no memorial to them, they have no day of the year named for them, no-one reads out their names at each anniversary. Crucially, the perpetrators have not been called to account, nor those who commanded, protected, armed and funded them. 2,000 souls have slipped silently from our collective memory - Palestinian lives are cheap indeed.
    Court or Judicial Commission, whichever it was, found Sharon "partially responsible".

    Jordan and Egypt found it easy to make peace with Israel and go home to their beds. Palestinians do not have that option. They cannot simply hand over the little land they have left and walk with their children into the sea.

    I do not believe all Israelis are terrorists, but the venom that many Zionists direct at Palestinians on their websites (thankfully not this one) leaves me in despair. It is matched only by the venality Muslim militants direct at Israelis. The difference is that Israel is a nuclear power, in occupation of Palestinians in their own land.

    I did not expect that you would see the situation in the same light as me. I do hope, however, that by talking, confronting uncomfortable truths and opening our minds to each others' suffering that one day we will find the way to peace and reconciliation.

    And let us remember all that suffer and die - Palestinian, Israeli, American, Iraqi and British.

    Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

    Raquib

    Grandma,

    Your comment denying the massacre at Sabra and Shatila is disrespectful and demeaning to the sanctity of human life. It is beneath contempt.

    Your casual dismissal for the tens of thousands that died in Iraq, and die to this day, and the millions suffering there now, is an affront to human sensibility.

    You do not advance your radical zionist cause with such rhetoric.

    Shame on you. Shame.

    angua

    Raquib,

    Crucially, the perpetrators have not been called to account, nor those who commanded, protected, armed and funded them.

    Those who commanded, protected, armed and funded them were Phalangist Christian militias. The reason they were never brought to account is because that would prevent Jew-haters from having a one-sided view of the world. This is the same reason that the thousands of Palestinians killed by their Lebanese, Jordanian, and Tunisian brothers will never be avenged -- their lives cannot be used to stoke the fires of Jew-hatred, so they are worthless to propagandists.

    Sunny

    So Sharon did not do enough to stop a massacre, and that makes it alright does it?

    The Hindu-right chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, a state in India, watched with glee on the sidelines while Muslims were massacred in the state three years ago by rampaging mobs.

    But at least the vast majority of the Indian media pointed fingers at him for stoking communal violence and then not doing anything to stop it. Now he has become a virtual pariah, despite hopes of becoming Prime Minister.

    Raquib

    Angua,

    Those who commanded, protected, armed and funded them were the IDF, under the control of Sharon. IDF soldiers were posted on all the exits from the camp, on Sharon's orders, to prevent the victims from escaping.

    Open your eyes - this is what has been done, and is being done in your name.

    And don't tar everyone that protests injustice as a Jew-hater. That just won't wash anymore.

    Matthew Smith

    I've already commented on this at my blog (I TB'ed twice, because the earlier one is no longer valid as I re-dated it to the time it was finished, instead of the time it was started).

    I think the comments here show that some people didn't understand one of its central points, which is that common political differences can (and should) be kept out of inter-faith dialogue. It should be about establishing a common moral front and about defending the rights of religious people from secularists, not about rehashing old political arguments. Why bother arguing about Palestine here? There are things that can be achieved in dialogue for the benefit of both communities.

    Grandma Lausch

    Raquib's 'creative' reading of my Sabra and Shatila comments - where did I 'deny' that the massacre took place or dismissed the victims in Iraq? - reiterates his belief about propaganda and scholarship; I actually find gratuitous name-calling 'beyond contempt', along with inflating numbers of innocent victims for propaganda.
    I don't think it was 'easy' for Egypt and Jordan to make peace with Israel, but Palestinians were offered a state many times: as long as over half a century and as recently as a few years ago. Each time Arabs opted for terror and violence that richocheted against them. Their suffering is mostly of their own making: they wanted all and ended up with nothing. Why not take a deep breath and have a good look around; they are in for a long and bumpy ride if they believe that the way of child-murderers of Hamas or Arafat's corrupt thugs will take them to prosperity and independence

    Herschel Zimonas

    If Raquib really felt for Sabra and Shatila - one of countless massacres of Arabs by Arabs - he would at least have learned the true number of victims. Clearly, it is mainly of anti-Israel propaganda value to him.

    In any case, if Sharon were guilty, the Palestinians would have named a football team after the old warrior, as is their custom when terrorists murder innocent people.

    Judy

    I appreciate people expending energy in commenting here. It is always something to know that people take the time to visit Adloyada. However, I really do not want this to be a space where people seek to question others' motives and moral probity around inflammatory issues such as the role of Sharon, the Lebanese militias and the Palestinian factions around the Sabra/Shatila massacres. I am sure that everyone who reads this site agrees that the massacre was horrendous and Sharon was rightly criticised for his role. We probably disagree strongly on every point around that particular issue beyond that. We know that, and we will not resolve that here.

    My interest is in promoting what we can in the way of positive moves forward. I thank you Raquib for your good wishes for me and my family for the Jewish New Year.

    My belief is that as Muslim and Jewish people in the UK, we can and should find every way we can to support each other in what we recognise as common issues. I am very grateful to you, Yusuf, for supporting that point. For that is what this post is about.

    Much as we might want to, I do not think we are going to find ways through discussions like this to resolve profound differences about how we see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which anyway is decisively not what the post is about. I explicitly said so in the post.

    Herschel Zimonas

    Judy,

    Your writing that the 'situation [with the Regent's Mosque memorial for Hamas] is not simple' is an example of moral dampness: would you have 'fun' at a synagogue whose rabbis paid respects to the 'distinguished scholar' Dr Baruch Goldstein? I believe that you, and 99% of Jews, wouldn't go anywhere near it, whatever the educational or other benefits.

    The vast majority of Muslim scholars and communal leaders, by contrast, consider Yassin a great man. That is the nightmare behind the bromides of 'idiosyncratic family traditions'; Hitler and Mother Theresa - and just about everybody else - share 99.9% of genes.

    Judy

    Herschel-- It may well be that I am morally damp. Actually, I referred to having fun only at the school I visited. When I wrote about the visit to the Regent's Park Mosque, I referred to the warm welcome I was given there. I maintain my view that it is worth co-operating with them, and with Muslim institutions in the UK over common interest. This is also the view of the UK Board of Deputies of British Jews. I can't comment on whether their morals are damp or otherwise, or quite what dampness implies.

    I also don't know if it was the Mosque that organized the meeting in memory of the terrorist organizer Sheikh Yassin, or whether it was organized by people using it. I would not attend such a meeting any more than I would attend a meeting on Baruch Goldstein. But if I found out that a synagogue had organised a meeting commemorating him or celebrating the racist organization, Kach, that he was part of, it would not prevent me from visiting it on matters of education or other Jewish policy matters. I would not take that as endorsing a deplorably wrong act of the synagogue's.

    I know that many Muslim scholars, particularly those influenced by Wahabi Islam, endorse Yassin. The scholars of national profile in this country that I personally know of do not. They tend to be of mainstream Egyptian traditions. There are many issues on which I would not agree with them, but there are far more on which I do agree.

    I am afraid your concluding comment on "the bromides of idiosyncratic family traditions" is not clear enough for me to comment on.

    The point I was making was actually about the huge degree of commonality of religious and cultural commonality between mainstream Islam and Judaism in terms of my experience of it.

    Raquib

    I care rather more for the victims of Sabra and Shatila than either "Grandma" or "Herschel" ever can.
    But I take Judy's point about this discussion going off point.

    Regarding Goldstein - he is admired by many more Israelis and Jews abroad than you would care to believe - search the web and see.

    I strongly agree with Judy's views that there are many more things that ought to unite us than currently divide us. The plight of the Palestinians is the big stumbling block. The only hope of bridging the gulf between us, is to do exactly as Judy has done - keep meeting, talking and seeing each other as human beings.

    Grandma Lausch

    I don't see how Judy hopes to focus on what unites Judaism and Islam without adressing one fundamental difference. Judaism is about the Torah, and the Torah is about the Commandments. And I don't know a Judo-Christian taboo more absolute than 'Thou shalt not murder'. By contrast, the Quran is routinely used to justify and encourage atrocities like suicide bombings and the fatwa on Rashdi. For all talk of 'cultural commonality' there are millions of otherwise perfectly pleasant Muslims who are in unison with Khomeini on this. This issue goes to the heart of what a civilised human being means today and outside it any dialogue is superficial

    Herschel Zimonas

    Judy,

    Mea culpa: I was wrong to assume that you would be boycotting a synagogue with links to Baruch Goldstein. I accept that it is a matter of personal conscience which you resolved in the way that made you comfortable.

    The Board of Deputies is not a good model in this case—they were very unhappy about Ken Livingstone kissing up to Sheikh Qaradawi, although the mayor used a similar logic to yours to justify his hospitality: Qaradawi may be a Hamas fan, in favour of stoning gays and female mutilation and he refuses to talk to Jews - any Jews - but he said all the right words about the London bombings and cares deeply about family matters - yeled tov Yerushalaim! Incidently, he is one of the most influential religious scholars in the world and is the only Muslim cleric on the long-list of the 100 greatest living intellectuals; that gives you some idea about the bigots who define Islam today.

    It is your blog and you set the rules here. Do you agree that people who spread bubkes - 'thousands' dead in Sabra and Shatila; Sharon convicted by 'a Jewish court' - shouldn't be allowed to get away with it? And do you welcome contributors whose battle cry is 'Scholarship is Propaganda' (Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour!)?

    How Islam and Judaism are similar/different is a very long story. But discussing only what unites us, and staying clear of what doesn't, produces the kind of 'bromides' I meant, not the better understanding which you seek

    Judy

    Herschel-- As you observe,I do set the rules of my own blog. It seems to me you could usefully look at my category sections on "our entirely unbiased media" and "radicals and Marxists of Chelm" before you decide that this is a blog which produces bromides.

    MPACUK categorizes me as a Muslim hater/fascist, partly in response to the way I have written about Qaradawi on this blog. Clive Davis lists Adloyada as a "combative" blog.

    Your categorizations of me and my blog maybe say more about your orientations than mine.

    Matthew Smith

    From Herschel:

    Incidently, he is one of the most influential religious scholars in the world and is the only Muslim cleric on the long-list of the 100 greatest living intellectuals; that gives you some idea about the bigots who define Islam today.

    The "list of intellectuals" you are talking about was compiled by non-Muslims who probably have little if any knowledge of the real scene of Islamic scholarship. He may be the only Islamic scholar they know of! Yusuf al-Qaradawi is actually not one of the most significant scholars, just one of the most famous because of his slots on Islamic TV stations. In places around the world where Arabic isn't spoken and they don't get these stations, it's quite possible that there are Muslims who have never heard of him.

    But his positions on a number of other issues, such as those concerning women, are quite liberal (in some cases too liberal, by some accounts). The reason he visited London was to campaign on behalf of women who wear the hijab, and the type of hijab he and his Arab cohorts advocate involves covering the head, but not necessarily the face, and wearing loose clothing.

    As I explained a few months ago in a dialogue with David T of Harry's Place, this is a medium position between the religiously inadequate "back-homian" shalwar kameez and dupatta, or the "hijabified" variant on school uniform offered by one well-known school in Luton, and the long black clothes and covered faces demanded by some scholars from the Subcontinent. It's the dress increasingly worn by religiously-aware, literate, urban Muslim women.

    Al-Qaradawi is one of the better-known advocates of this position and is well-respected among his community. That said, I think Ken Livingstone's decision to hug him was stupid as they are diametrically opposed on so many things other than their support for Muslim women to wear hijab. I also think Ken's a crap mayor and hope the committee dealing with the Finegold affair get rid of him before he goes ahead with his ruinous C-charge extension.

    Herschel Zimonas

    Qaradawi fancies gals in 'shalwar kameez' and reaches for his sword at the sight of 'dupatta'? Now we know. And of course he got his own TV show because of his looks, not influence. The Sheikh's 'too liberal' positions are spelt out on his web-site—but on the other hand he was good to his mum.

    Livingstone and Qaradawi certainly disagree on just about every issue under the sun, but as long as the anti-American left and Islamists share a pathological hatred of Israel, the US and Western civilisation, their love-fest will carry on.

    If Clive Davis—Clive who?—says Judy is 'combative' I’d better take my 'categorizations' back. There is a small hitch though: according to Judy's groupies at MPACUK, as well as assorted sacranies and banglawanglas, the BBC is at the service of the Zionist lobby. Does that make the Beeb 'kosher', or simply say something about 'orientation'? Or maybe Judy K is trying to be a 'wife to all husbands', a sort of hybrid of Melanie P and Alibhai B ?

    I am certain of one thing only: she just loves schmaltz in her chicken soup.

    Judy

    Yusuf-- thanks for your helpful points clarifying why Qaradawi is seen as having something to contribute on Muslim debates in the UK on the jilbab etc., and his primarily media-related scholarly status.

    What I'm interested to know is whether you think there is any significant body of Muslim scholars who would not only recognise the right of Israel to exist, but would also not see that as accepting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the state of Israel (as opposed to being financially compensated)?

    I'm happy to agree with you on Ken Livingstone. Unfortunately, I don't think he will get disqualified over the Finegold affair. And he and the Congestion Charge are probably going to go marching on....

    Matthew Smith

    What I'm interested to know is whether you think there is any significant body of Muslim scholars who would not only recognise the right of Israel to exist, but would also not see that as accepting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the state of Israel (as opposed to being financially compensated)?

    Not really, although in my observation scholars in some places are becoming more pragmatic in their stance on Israel. Most don't have the "drive them into the sea" mentality of the past and there's also a recognition that the Palestinians' present problems have much to do with their leaders, in their dealings with other Arabs as much as with Israel. The PLO, in particular, caused trouble in two of the countries in which it took refuge, before settling in Tunisia, a notoriously anti-Islamic secular regime.

    There's one Italian individual who goes round posing as an Islamic scholar and telling Jewish audiences around the world what they want to hear. Don't be taken in by him - he's jumped on and off many bandwagons and has no standing in the Islamic community whatsoever. I wrote about him at my blog here:

    http://www.blogistan.co.uk/blog/index.php/2005/09/25/palazzi_reveals_his_disbelief

    Judy

    Yusuf: I've never heard of this man. He sounds like the equivalent of an "Israel Shamir" type figure. Wacko, but very much with an eye on the main chance.

    I'm interested in what you have to say about Irshad Manji, who I would have classed as an ex-Muslim, in the same way as there are legions of ex-Jews, or even never-were-Jews except by ethnic criteria. Does she really have no Islamic background? I would not take her views seriously as a contribution to debate about Muslim-Jewish dialogue as she clearly cannot be taken seriously by anyone within Islam (to put it mildly). I am also interested in what you have to say about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's Islamic provenance. I already thought she must be unacceptable to Muslim opinion as she "married out", to put it in Jewish terms, and clearly articulates non-Islamic perspectives around the upbrining of her daughter. But what difference does her Ismaili Islamic background make? Are all Ismaili Muslims rejected by the Islamic mainstream?

    ami

    I have only just caught up with your response to my query about the notice by Barnet council, to which I say, fair enough, that is a reasonable interpretation. I am however dismayed at your cavalier dismissal of Irshad Manji. Who are we, as non Muslims to presume to judge who should or should not be taken seriously as a Muslim. Who are we to say who can be classified as the "anyone within Islam" who will not take her seriously. You ask if it is true she has no Islamic background. I urge you to read her book The trouble with Islam, where you will read, among other things, about her experiences at madrassah as a child. I have met and talked with her and she is passionate about her love of Islam (in fact her next book is going to be about what she loves about Islam) and I feel very strongly about others taking it upon themselves to attempt confiscate her identity.

    I would feel just as strongly about anyone who tried to say that of me on the strength some of the views I hold as a Jewish woman, for example my feelings of spiritual alienation sitting cut off in the ladies' gallery last week (kol hakavod to you for being able to celebrate your place there).

    Gmar hatima tova

    Judy

    Ami-- I think you misinterpret what I am saying. I think she is not going to be acceptable to the organised Islamic community as a Muslim, even if she had a Madrassah background.

    After all, Stalin had a seminary education, but would not be acceptable to the Russian Orthodox Church as representative of Russian Orthodoxy.

    The comparison with Jewish status isn't helpful here, because Jews have an ethnic as well as a religious identity. I have already given an analogy, which is that I would not regard someone like Michael Rosen acceptable as any more representative to discuss Judaism than the Archbishop of Canterbury, although he is ethnically Jewish.

    The fact that she sees herself as a Muslim who loves Islam does not make her any more acceptable to Muslim religious communities who see her as an extreme apostate.

    I think a better analogy is to consider why Jews consider adherents of the Jews for Jesus movement to be Christians rather than Jews, even though JforJ members define themselves as Jews.

    Self definition isn't an absolute category.

    Gmar Hasima Tova

    mark

    Or better still, make JihadWatch.org and DhimmiWatch.org part of your daily reading!

    Judy

    I've deleted one comment put up here recently because I think it crossed the boundary of criticism into gratuitous personal insult. In this case, it was addressed to me. But any comments which insult any other commenters or fail to observe reasonable courtesy in the spirit of this blog will get the same treatment. It is possible to express disagreement in a postitive and constructive manner.

    ami

    Your question was whether it was true Manji had no Islamic background. I told you she had. You now introduce the issue of whether despite this background, she is qualifies as a Muslim at some level.
    In your comment above, you "think" Manji is not going to be acceptable to
    the "organised Islamic community" as a Muslim.
    This is a modification of the categorical:
    " she clearly cannot be taken seriously by anyone within Islam" of your previous comment.

    All analogies are precarious, and certainly to compare Manji with Michael Rosen is so disparate as to be never mind apples and pears, but apples and.. oh, staircases- it would take to long too enumerate the fallacies of that comparison.

    I thought it went without saying that there is status as a Jew with its ethnic attributes is different to most other religions. (pace Hindus).
    But let us take a sub-category: Orthodox Jew. At the risk of becoming personal- I hope not gratuitous: You do not appear to wear a headcovering. If on this basis the likes of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, say, would exclude you from his definition of Orthodoxy, would you accept this?(Even if you are wearing a sheitel this would not be good enough for him.)

    You may respond that there is nevertheless a substantial Orthodox community which would accept you as such. But is this the criterion?
    Take this thought exercise:
    If chas veshalom, all Orthodox Jews perished in an appalling disaster. (not so unimaginable in the 40's) apart from you, and there were only Reform Jews left, how would you define yourself?
    Your definition should be a theological and philosophical issue, and the absence of a "constituency" should not make a difference. Your approach is therefore revealed by this thought exercise as embracing political criteria, by looking to the size of Irshid's constituency for her validity as a Muslim.
    My contention is that we are supremely unqualified to categorise her on theological criteria, and ill advised to adopt or approve any particular Muslim constituency. You are well aware of the debate over at Harry's Place about the advisability of embracing the MCB as the official voice of Islam in the UK. By doing so, you may be inhibiting the growth of an another (I do not use the word alternative) constituency, (which is there,) with whom it may be fruitful to dialogue. Manji certainly contends this is the case. Again, I urge you to read her book to see the potential for a wonderful dialogue.

    Judy

    Ami-- I am aware that it is possible that Rav Yosef and many other orthodox Jews might not recognise me as orthodox. I accept that for their communities, I would not be seen as acceptable as someone to be presented for dialogue to speak about orthodoxy. I have no problem with that.

    You make the assumption that my status requires me to cover my head. I won't comment any further than to say that is your assumption.

    My comment about Irshad's recognition "within Islam" is in the context of talking about organized Islamic communities for religious purposes, eg mosques and madrassahs (and those who are committed to following them) rather than the MCB or other political Islamic organizations. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear enough.

    Orthodox Judaism does not accept Reform as an alternative constituency, and would not wish to encourage its growth. I respect that standpoint, and can recognise the equivalent stance within organised Islamic religious communities.

    However, I personally am close to many Jews and work with Jewish organizations right across the spectrum, and have enjoyed doing so. That is different from thinking that it would be right for, say, the Reform Rabbi Lionel Blue to be selected as a spokesperson or a dialogue partner on the future of orthodoxy.


    I am sure I personally would be able to get along very well with Irshad and understand her standpoint. But it would not make me feel that she was the right person to select as a spokesperson for Islam. At the time of the 7/7 bombings, I saw Tariq Ali (a well known veteran Trotskyist and atheist) offered by one of our TV channels as a spokesperson for the Muslim point of view. It's a similar case.

    I agree that it is not my role to categorize people of my own or other faiths. But I do feel the need to be sensitive to the religious leadership of those faiths in who they recognise as qualified and not qualified to speak for their faith communities.

    I wish the BBC other UK broadcasting authorities,The Guardian and other media consistently demonstrated such sensitivity. All too often they do not. And indeed they all too often turn to political organizations when they should be looking to the faith communities themselves.

    Herschel Zimonas

    I think Judy is missing a few points here.

    Lionel Blue as a spokesperson for orthodoxy is different from LB as a spokesman for Judaism.

    Stalin was not just secular: he was anti-Christian, and murdered tens of thousands of priests and wiped out thousands of churches and monasteries (rabbis and synagogues too, of course). He never claimed to speak for Christianity. Irshad sincerely tries to find a place for herself—a lesbian, liberal young woman—in Islam, and finds it incompatible with the life-styles and human rights which we in the West take for granted. She is not against Islam, but in favour of lifting it out of the Dark Ages and the backward ideologies that failed in Europe.

    If we want to help to modernise Islam, we need to support Irshad and Muslims like her, rather than two-faced banglawanglas and qaradawis whatever popularity they have at the moment (Tariq Ali, incidently, doesn't consider himself a Muslim at all: it was the TV station's mistake to appoint him spokesman for the Muslim community).

    The BBC and The Guardian are not paid for 'sensitivity'—they want 'controversy': last Sunday's Radio 4 programme about the CST is an example. That's why the same odious characters pop up on Radio 4 'representing' English Jews, and for every piece by Melanie Phillips there are a dozen by the likes of Michael Rosen in The Guardian.

    Judy

    Herschel-- I don't think it is the business of anyone but Muslims to decide about what Islam should be. I think it is wrong and inappropriate for people of other faiths to be advocating "reforming" Islam. In the same way, I would think it equally wrong and inappropriate for people of other faiths to be telling Jews that they should be reforming Judaism.I respect the scholarship of Abdul Hakim Murad and find myself much more at home with his views than the ones you express here about Islam.

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