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Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about…

Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and…

by Rabbi Marc Schneier

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Imam Shamsi Ali was born in Indonesia, the country with the most Moslems in the world. As he grew older he realized “Most people in my village would call themselves Muslims, but they never studied Islam, they did not learn the Qur’an, and they held on to a lot of superstition.”
When he moved to Pakistan to continue his studies, he discovered competing views: “Islam should dominate the world” and “Islam is how to be a better person, spiritually and socially.”
Eventually he moved to the United States and was amazed at how different the US is from what he expected. On his ride from the airport in New York, the taxi driver was a fellow Muslim who liked living here.
Rabbi Marc Schneier’s family had an eighteen-generation line of Orthodox rabbi. His insulated world was very different from not only Imam Ali’s but from most Americans. When he began being among other people, his long held ideas began to change and he found support for those changes within Judaism.
SONS OF ABRAHAM A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims is presented as a dialogue between these two religious leaders as they discuss numerous issues affecting both communities. After 9/11, they understood the importance of dialogue between members of both religions and have worked together to increase understanding and cooperation between both communities not only throughout the US but also in other countries. Leaders of each group have an obligation to work to dispel hatred and misconceptions within their own community as well as with the other community.
In alternating chapters, they explain the concepts of caring for people who are not their religion, being a chosen people, of jihad, of shari’a law, the meaning of and importance of Israel, Jerusalem, the Holocaust, and a Palestinian state for both groups.
Omam Ali explains that a lot of actions done by Moslems actually are against Islam, which is a peaceful religion. “ Violence and extremism are not inspired by religion per se but rather by politics, socioeconomics, and a persuasive sense of injustice.” Shari’a lawl is designed to benefit individuals and country, not take over a nation.
When writing about the importance of Israel, Rabbi Schneier notes Israel and Jerusalem Jewish homeland and capital for 3000 years, not just since 1948, and that it is important that Moslems recognize the meaning of the Holocaust for Jews. The imam relates that the first expansion of Islam was when it took control of Jerusalem from the Romans. Umar, the caliph, came from Arabia to receive key to the city and said, “the Jewish community should have the right to return and settle and worship again.” He also explained several reasons why Jerusalem has historic important to Moslems.
I found some inconsistencies and omissions in their comments. The imam refers to several lines from the Qur’an that have been used to justify acts of violence and explains what those verses meant when they were written and how they have been misinterpreted. He does not, however, discuss the infamous “ Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him — except for the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.”
He writes about how, during the days of the first intifada in the early 1990s, when he was a student in Pakistan, Palestinian students in Pakistan privileged: “received aid from both common people and governments around the world.” Had motorcycles, got more money in scholarships from Saudi Arabia. “We knew the Palestinians didn’t have a state, but they seemed to be enjoying life more than we were, and to be honest, some international students like me were a bit jealous....” Later he writes about the suffering of the Palestinians today without much comment about the role the Palestinian leaders and other Arab/Moslem countries play in their plight. He also condemns the killing of innocent Israelis by rockets launched by Palestinians and equates it with Israeli bombs killing innocent Palestinians. He does not mention that the Palestinians who fire the rockets deliberately launch them from civilian areas in order to maximize civilian casualties.
He blames Israeli settlements for some of the hardships of the Palestinians and the failure to reach a peace agreement but ignores Israel demolishing all the settlements in Gaza which led to terrorist attacks instead of peace and prosperity, especially for the Palestinians living in Gaza.
He also doesn’t mention the way Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hate Jews and Israelis by their teachers and leaders.
They both speak of both people having more in common with each other than they have with other groups and having the same heritage: Abraham. The rabbi refers to Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, noting that Jews and Christians say that Isaac was the son while Moslems claim it was Ishmael. There is no explanation given for the discrepancy.
SONS OF ABRAHAM... offers hope as it shows how people from extremely different backgrounds can work together to dispel myths and bring understanding to their communities. It is well written and formatted. ( )
  Judiex | Dec 4, 2013 |
Sons of Abraham brings a tough and honest interfaith dialogue between two representatives of Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam. Rabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty and Imam Shamsi Ali, raised in a small Indonesian village, but after studies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, work and several positions as imam eventually landed in the US as well as Schneier, took the challenge. They met in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In the book both men write alternating chapters, first about their background, current role and the way they met each other in the post 9/11 world. Both value their heritage, their core beliefs and holy books and traditions, but are also open for dialogue and digging into sensitive topics. So, by no means superficial, the material goes deep into splitting the actual sources / teachings and the way it is interpreted or acted in nowadays world regarding being religious, ‘The Chosen People‘ or ‘Best in breed’, voluntary or compulsive conversion to a particular religion, jihad, loving your neighbor or stranger, Shari’a and positions on Israel, Palestinians and a single or two-nations solutions for Palestine, Jerusalem (and access to religious sites). By reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can discover that there are many similarities or common grounds, rather than huge gaps that cannot be bridges at all (except for launching missiles or raging wars). Striving for justice, kindness, service to the community, both within and outside your community of fellow believers, could really make a difference. Schneier and Ali are strong defenders of this common approach, though many of their brothers and sisters don’t agree (yet). Samuel G. Friedman provided a foreword, an introduction is given by former US president Bill Clinton. ( )
  hjvanderklis | Oct 8, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807033073, Hardcover)

A prominent rabbi and imam, each raised in orthodoxy, overcome the temptations of bigotry and work to bridge the chasm between Muslims and Jews
Rabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic. Imam Shamsi Ali, who grew up in a small Indonesian village and studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seems unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye. Yet in the aftermath of 9/11, amid increasing acrimony between Jews and Muslims, the two men overcame their prejudices and bonded over a shared belief in the importance of opening up a dialogue and finding mutual respect. In doing so, they became not only friends but also defenders of each other’s religion, denouncing the twin threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and promoting interfaith cooperation.
In Sons of Abraham, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends and offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that frequently divide Jews and Muslims, clarifying erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behavior. Rabbi Schneier dispels misconceptions about chosenness in Judaism, while Imam Ali explains the truth behind concepts like jihad and Shari’a. And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two speak forthrightly on the importance of having a civil discussion and the urgency of reaching a peaceful solution.
As Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali show, by reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can realize that they are actually more united than divided in their core beliefs. Both traditions promote kindness, service, and responsibility for the less fortunate—and both religions call on their members to extend compassion to those outside the faith. In this sorely needed book, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali challenge Jews and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones, find common ground in their shared Abrahamic traditions, and stand together and fight for a better world for all.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:34 -0400)

"A prominent rabbi and imam, each raised in orthodoxy, overcome the temptations of bigotry and work to bridge the chasm between Muslims and Jews. Sons of Abraham relates the unlikely friendship between the orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali. Despite the anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic prejudices they were exposed to in their youth, these two men forged a lasting friendship in the tumultuous decade following the attacks of 9/11. Here they share their vision of how Jews and Muslims can work to find common ground. To that end, they analyze some of the religious texts that divide--but can also unite--Jews and Muslims, and address the pressing issues of the day, such as why Jews should be concerned about Islamophobia and why Muslims should care about anti-Semitism. In a time when Jews and Muslims are viewed as incorrigible enemies, Sons of Abraham is an example of a genuine alliance that gives readers a cause for hope"--… (more)

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