More than 10 people were killed in Afghanistan as a result of violent incidents staged to protest the reprehensible act committed by Terry Jones. Indubitably, the desecration of the Holy Quran is an unbearable crime and an affront to the idea of mutual tolerance among all religions, which is an irrefutable need in this volatile, globalised world. But attacking and killing innocent people in the name of condemning an outrageous act committed by someone else, is not the solution. And Muslims must bear in mind that, at present, the biggest challenge facing them across the world is the negative and distorted image of their religion. So, the only reasonable response could be to ignore the publicity-seeking Terry Jones or condemn his behaviour in a very peaceful manner. In view of the present state of frayed relations between the two major civilisations, Islamic and Western, it is of the utmost importance that a solution be worked out to reconcile inter-religious differences. Interfaith dialogue can help combat evil forces and rein in fundamentalist elements among various religious communities. In addition, it is the only natural method of relating to people of other faiths and understanding their thinking patterns. All the religious communities should reaffirm their faith in the values of pluralism and actively participate in undertaking trust-building efforts. Interfaith harmony must be built on the foundations and concerns that all religions have in common. -- Rizwan Asghar
Remember Christian pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida? He caused an international uproar last year by threatening to burn 200 copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim Holy Scripture, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Among others, the overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, had warned at that time that such an action could provoke violence in Afghanistan and could endanger American troops. Jones subsequently promised not to burn the Qur’an. Last month, on March 20, however, with only 30 worshipers attending, Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial of the Qur’an in which he presided from the pulpit as a judge. Sitting in judgment was a jury of 12 members of his church. Punishment was determined by the results of an online poll. Besides burning, the options included shredding, drowning and facing a firing squad. Jones said voters had chosen to set fire to the book, according to a video of the proceedings. So the Qur’an was burned. The hateful act drew little publicity inside the USA, but provoked angry condemnation in the Af-Pak region, where it was reported in the local media and where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan condemned the burning in an address before the Parliament, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday called on the United States to bring those responsible for the Qur’an burning to justice. A prominent Afghan cleric, Mullah Qyamudin Kashaf, the acting head of the influential Ulema Council of Afghanistan and a Karzai appointee, also called for American authorities to arrest and try Terry Jones in the Qur’an burning. -- Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Faith is supposed to liberate and empower us. To give us hope, strength and a reason to live. And keep us going even when everything around us is falling apart. It’s faith that bonds humble man with God making angels fall before him in submission. Faith, like reason, distinguishes men from animals and all other creations of God. So why do we often see the so-called men of God turn on their fellow men in unbridled hatred in the name of faith? Faith is ought to make us more compassionate, more forgiving and generous to our fellow men and every living thing around us. Because they are all the creation of the One who created us too and whom we claim to love and worship. You would understand if crimes against humanity are committed by agnostics or deniers of the whole business of creation. Mass murderers like Genghis Khan, Atilla the Hun, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others like them could be explained away as pathological killers untouched by morality or any sense of right and wrong. -- Aijaz Zaka Syed
If you’re a neocon who hates Muslims, or better yet, a Muslim who hates Muslims (and Pakistan has more than its fair share of self-loathing latter-day colonists who’ll say anything to seem more Hollywood than Lady Gaga herself) then nothing suits your narrative more than the atrocities and murder that took place in Mazar-e-Sharif last week, in reaction to the burning of a Quran in Florida. Such events help perpetuate the twisted narrative of Muslims as generically rabid fanatics with no compunctions about beheading innocent people. If you’re an anti-Semitic, Hinduphobic, anti-American right winger who believes Pakistan was made the day Bin Qasim landed at Kemari, and for whom killing people on street corners for purported offenses of speech (and we know with certainty that our living rooms, televisions and streets are overflowing with such vileness), is no big deal, then the burning of the Quran itself is a boon to your trade. Nothing helps sell hatred more than a made-for TV drama like Terry Jones. Too many of the politically irrelevant mullahs in the Muslim world live and die for a chance to stir up reactions to the Terry Jones’ of the world. -- Mosharraf Zaidi
Some years ago, a Commission headed by Justice N.P.Nathwani was appointed to investigate the complaints of the Bohra reformists. The Commission had dragged out several skeletons from the Syedna’s cupboard. It revealed out that the Syedna and his family of several hundred members had amassed enormous wealth by taxing his followers, wielding, for this purpose, the mithaq as a weapon to reduce the Bohras into virtual slavery. Indeed, as numerous reformists attending the Udaipur convention stressed, so abject is the surrender of the Bohras to the Syedna that they willingly call themselves abd-e syedna or ‘slaves of the Syedna’. Bohra reformists claim that although the mithaq was a traditional Bohra practice, crucial changes had been made in it by the present Syedna’s father and predecessor, Tahir Saifuddin, in order to further reinforce his control over the Bohras. -- K. Itarwla, NewAgeIslam.com
It’s tempting to say that the only gain could be for those fringe voices who garner public credibility for their otherwise discredited views. But neither those voices nor their regular sparring partners are likely to care much what someone like Aravosis thinks about the bible. Indeed, the blog post’s only imaginable effect on homophobic church readers would be to move the more moderate of them towards a more extreme interpretation. Does Aravosis really want to persuade members of the Southern Baptist Convention, say, that a strict interpretation of Leviticus requires them to advocate the death penalty for same-sex acts? It’s more likely that Aravosis is preaching to his own choir; that is, to political liberals who identify as LGBTQ, or their staunch allies. What effect will this post have on them? It can only confirm the view that queer political progress depends on a strict secularism—after all, Christians only quote their violent bible “to take away our civil rights.” We politically awake queers would be so much better off, the post implies, if only we could get rid of that hateful book and those who still read it. -- MARK D. JORDAN
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Islam also puts great emphasis on Justice. And since seeking justice may sometimes call for violence, some people think Islam allows violence in its quest for justice. This is not true. Two examples from the Life of the Prophet should suffice. The first is the treaty of Hudaibiya that the Prophet signed on terms that all his companions found humiliating for what was by then a powerful community which had fended off several attacks and could be expected to do so again. Hudaibiya was not a just treaty they all thought. But the Prophet accepted that as this was the only way to peace. Another example is Muslims victory over Mecca. The Prophet announced a general amnesty after this. Justice demanded that war criminals be punished. But this would have probably created bad blood and possibly led to counter-violence. The Prophet again delinked Justice with Peace. The requirement of peace was paramount in his view.
Following the Prophet’s example, in the last century, the great leader of the then united India’s northwest frontier province, which is now known as Pakistan’s province of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, Badshah Khan devised a strategy that harmonised the demands of a quest for Justice with the interests of peace. He was inspired by the Mahatma and was his greatest, most unflinching ally. But he had worked out his strategy of non-violent struggle and started his unique movement before meeting him. He said he had learnt this from his study of Quran and Hadith. He found his nonviolent strategy in Islam’s call for an unrelenting struggle against injustice and the Prophet’s constant exhortation for patience and perseverance. He brought the two virtues together and thus was born his unique movement of non-violent resistance against British colonial rule. He told his 100,000 strong non-violent army of khudai khidmatgars (Servants of God):
“I am going to give you such a weapon that police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it. …tell your brethren that there is an army of God and its weapon is patience….”
Many scholars and peace activists who have studied the Khudai Khidmatgar movement in detail consider this as an Islamic model for non-violent struggle against injustice. -- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam at a seminar organised by Al-Hakim Foundation and Himalayan Research during the UN Human Rights Council’s September 2010 session at Geneva.
Generally rationalists hold religion responsible for religious fanaticism. Is it really so? First of all we must understand what is fanaticism? When mind is closed to any idea other than one holds and refuses to accept even simple logic, much less complex arguments sometimes involved and prefers to follow rather than think using one’s own intellect, it would be called fanaticism and a person known as fanatic.
From the above one can easily understand that this does not involve religious issues alone but also other opinions, be that political, cultural or social. Any firmly held opinion which refuses to change in view of overwhelming evidence to the contrary would be called fanatically held opinion. Thus fanaticism is psychological whereas religion is moral and spiritual category. -- Asghar Ali Engineer
No sooner had Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi been appointed as the new head of the Dar ul-Uloom, Deoband, India’s most influential madrasa and nerve-centre of the global Deobandi movement, than he found himself in the thick of controversy, which only seems to be getting even more embarrassing and convoluted with every passing day. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Vastanvi created a storm by claiming, in an interview given to a leading newspaper, that Muslims in Gujarat (from where he hails) were not subject to any form of discrimination, and that they were reaping the fruits, in the same way as other communities, of the state’s chief Minister Narendra Modi’s much-touted ‘development model’. Vastanvi’s naïve and wholly untenable statement won him fierce condemnation from Muslims (and some others) from across the country, who pointed out the continuing discrimination against Muslims in Gujarat and the fact that he had conveniently remained silent on Modi’s central role in planning and instigating the horrific anti-Muslim genocide of 2002. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
Photo: Maulana Ghulam Wastaanwi
Admittedly, this task of rethinking the ‘other’ in Islamic thought is not an easy one. It involves engaging with numerous problematic issues, particularly related to the corpus of Hadith (which is replete with fabricated narrations) and the tradition of fiqh of the mullahs (which is based on the notion of ‘Muslim’ communal supremacism). But this is a task that cannot be avoided, particularly in today’s world, where ‘Muslims’ and others live in increasing proximity, where their lives are intertwined far more closely than ever before, and where, therefore, communal supremacist understandings of religion pose a very real danger to peace and harmony.
One could go on further to elaborate this, but I shall stop here. What I have tried to argue in this presentation is that efforts for genuine inter-faith dialogue and solidarity can make no headway without each of us radically transforming the ways in which we understand what is projected as the religious ‘other’, as well as how we understand our own religious systems. The dialogue needs to happen, therefore, within oneself as well, rather than being directed solely outwards. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
It appears, or so the film suggests, that Muslim groups might not even have known of the existence of the Cheeta-Kathats had Hindutva groups not arrived on the scene, fired by an irrepressible zeal to ‘purify’ the community, which, for all practical purposes, means ‘cleansing’ them of their Muslim beliefs and practices. Instigated by the intervention of these Hindu groups, a number of Islamic outfits, the film tells us, rushed to the scene, to ‘rescue’, as they saw it, ‘the fallen Muslim’ Cheeta-Kathats from the very real threat of apostasy on a mass-scale.
To stave off the Hindutva threat, they resorted to precisely the same strategies as the Hindu missionaries have adopted with such resounding success—building schools, mosques and madrasas in the area (where, the film shows, children are taught chaste Urdu and Arabic, languages as completely foreign to them as Sanskritised Hindi and Sanskrit that are taught in the Parishad-run schools), and arranging for roving missionaries of the Tablighi Jamaat to popularise what they regard as ‘Islamic’ dress and appearance (such as skull-caps for boys and beards for men). They began speaking out against the observance of ‘Hindu’ festivals, occasions of joy and gaiety, branding them as ‘un-Islamic’ anathema.
The sort of Islam that they sought to promote was dour and sullen, with little occasion for celebration, quite in contrast to the lively, earthy traditions of the community. All these were part of a wider agenda of providing visible external markers of ‘Muslim’ communal identity that would clearly mark the Cheeta-Kathats off from the Hindus, starkly confirming them as ‘complete’ Muslims, thereby coaxing them to identify with other Muslims in the area and beyond.
As the film very strikingly suggests, the war for converts being fought among the Cheeta-Kathats by Hindu and Islamic outfits is not about making them better human beings (in what one might think ought to be the truly spiritual sense of the term). Rather, it is all about prodding them to unambiguously and explicitly identify themselves with either the Hindus or the Muslims, as the case might be, these communities and their religions being defined in fierce opposition to each other. In other words, it is a communal struggle in which exclusivist and intolerant notions of religion and religious identity play a central role. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
I use the word “Christmas” with feeling since I’ve recently celebrated my own festival of Eid , wished my Hindu and Sikh friends a delightful Diwali, and my Jewish friends a Happy Hannukah. Therefore, I feel we should have absolutely no qualms about wishing our Christian friends a “Merry Christmas” on their day of joy. ... Just to to think that in the year 2010, when Canada is fast set to become the most pluralistic country in the world, we’re avoiding saying “Merry Christmas.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but pluralism doesn’t mean minimizing the celebrations of the majority but being inclusive about everyone’s festivals. We know that every minority celebrates with full gusto, taking time off work with pay and having their kids take time of school without any qualms. In fact, employers have to accommodate minority faiths. But when it comes to Christmas, the story is different. A huge corporation (one of the largest in Canada) sent out a memo to its employees giving them guidelines on how to enjoy the holiday. The guidelines tell them not to use the word “Merry Christmas” lest they offend someone who doesn’t celebrate. My fellow Canadians, ... Muzzling the voices of those who wish to celebrate the best of the season and wish everyone a Merry Christmas is excessive. So what if this is not your festival – “Merry Christmas” is a greeting, not a slur, so get over your personal pettiness and become part of the cultural festivities. -- Raheel Raza
This grievance can be traced back to the Crusades. But the militant forms of Islam that have corroded tolerance for Christians in many Islamic societies owe more to contemporary history. Western support for Israel and the humiliation both of the Palestinian people and of surrounding countries have favoured the spread of a more narrow interpretation of Islam. The United States invasion of Iraq has been catastrophic for Iraqi Christians. Under Sadam Hussein they lived in relative peace. As a result of the invasion, they have been identified both with the United States as Christians and as clients of the Sunni. The antagonism between Sunni and Shiite and the cooptation by Iran and Saudi Arabia of radical groups has hemmed in the space for happy co-existence.....
But leaders of Western churches are unlikely to press for such solidarity, or Christian congregations to hear it, unless Western Christians own their complex history with Islam. Solidarity with Christians in the Islamic world cannot be built unless it is accompanied by solidarity with Islamic peoples as well. It is contradictory to embrace Christians as the victims of Islam while ignoring the way in which both they and Muslims in the region have been the victims of Western depredation and invasion. -- Andrew Hamilton
Whether we like it or not, harassment of minorities is a national pastime in Pakistan. One of my first memories as a child is of the anti-Ahmedi riots in Lahore in the early 50s. From then on I saw the thriving ‘Anglo’ community in Lahore virtually disappear as evidently did the Parsis from Karachi. Many members of these minorities, including the Ahmedis, have whenever possible migrated to other countries. The ones left behind, especially among the Christians except for some of the well-established urbanites, are mostly those who are too poor to leave the country of their birth. -- Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain
Farooqui, who is a specialist in fatwas and holds a post-graduate degree in Sanskrit from Sampurnand University, credits his love for Sanskrit to a Quranic command that says one should learn as many languages as one can. To him, Islam’s concept of monotheism is a reiteration of the Vedic principle aika brahma dutia nasti (God is one and there is none except Him ). Even Prophet Mohammed once said he felt soothing breezes coming from India. This belief led me to explore the exciting world of Hindu scriptures, says 41-year-old Farooqui who has written several books, including commentaries on the Quran in Hindi. -- Mohammad Wajihuddin
There are certain challenges that, despite our various differences, are common to almost all religions, and consequently to all liberal religious leaders. They fall into two main categories:
The first is of that of secularisation. It’s a process that is seriously eroding religious communities, and, of course, has also significant economic consequences. For when there is a shrinking of the community, its economic resources are affected. The second category is at the opposite end of the spectrum, encompassing extremism and fundamentalism, often accompanied by violence. And, of course, this phenomenon can also lead to a degree of disaffection on the part of certain sectors of the community, again adding to the decline in membership of religious congregations. -- Daniel Sperber
Is this an elastic quality unique to Indian Islam? Perhaps. It is certainly true that Indian Muslims, through centuries of interaction with India's dominant religion, Hinduism, have adopted several Hindu customs and traditions.
Weddings are a case in point. A qazi solemnizes the nikah, ritually recites Quranic verses and delivers, post-nikah, the khutba or sermon. Ideally, a Muslim wedding ends there. Not in India. Elaborate pre-nuptial ceremonies including haldi and mehndi, and post-wedding song and dance of late, feature in Muslim weddings, much like for Hindus.
The Quran does not recommend offering lavish food to wedding guests but Indian Muslims are often seen to outdo their Hindu neighbours in serving up multi-course feasts. Some little time ago, Muslim clerics in Hyderabad threatened to boycott weddings if more than one variety of biryani was served up.
"Celebrating marriage with a feast is not an Islamic ritual. It has reached Muslims from the Hindu custom of bhoj. But now it is part of Indian Muslim custom too," explains Mumbai-based social commentator Zaheer Ali who has written extensively on India's Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb or composite culture. -- Mohammed Wajihuddin and Insiya Amir
The transformation of what, for want of a better term, can be called 'Hinduism' into an openly and self-consciously missionary religion is one of the most significant developments in South Asian religious history. Today, several Hindu groups are active, not just in India but elsewhere as well, to bring others into the Hindu fold. These are no mere fringe groups any longer. In fact, one of the major groups behind the rise of aggressive Hindu nationalism in India today is styled the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (The World Hindu Council), one of whose stated goals is actually to convert the world as a whole to Hinduism. This transformation of the fundamental character of Hinduism over the years, which owes much to the shuddhi campaign of the Arya Samaj in the early decades of the present century, is not simply of significance to Hindus and Hinduism alone. Rather, since Hindu missionary activity as well as Hindu religious nationalism has, traditionally, been sought to be built up on the foundation of a profound antipathy of Islam and its adherents, it has had tremendous consequences of Muslim public behavior in South Asia and, indeed, as in the case of the Tablighi Jami'at, for Muslim communities in other parts of the world as well. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
This not only explains the lack of interest and enthusiasm shown by many Muslim kings during the several centuries of Muslim rule in India, as well as sections of the ulema attached to them, to fully and properly Islamise the nau-Muslims but also, as one writer observes, the marked reluctance on the part of several Muslim rulers to even encourage Hindus to convert to Islam. The fear that if many Hindus were to convert to Islam not only might they put forward a claim to equal treatment as fellow Muslims but, over time, might even compete with them for political power, seems, for some Muslim rulers, to have outweighed the attraction of earning religious merit in the after-life for spreading Islam.
As a result of this very partial Islamization of what, for want of a better term, can be called neo-Muslim groups (Urdu: nau Muslim aqwam) the practice of local customs not sanctioned by the sharia or Islamic law was widespread, but this did not appear as a problem that demanded immediate solution on the part of both the political authorities as well as the nau-Muslims themselves. So pervasive was this admixture of local and Islamic practices that as late as the fourth decade of the 20th century, a leading spokesman of the Islamic reformist party Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Punjab was provoked to cry out in great anguish that: “If a Muslim of the first century of the hijra were again sent down to this earth to see the state of religious affairs in India, he would at once say that eighty per cent of the Mohammadans inhabiting India are kafirs and that they have adopted the name 'Muslim' only to gain their political ends. Otherwise, there is absolutely no difference between the Hindus and the so-called Muslims.” -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
It is true that cultural conflicts are increasing and are more dangerous today than at any time in history. Yet the fundamental reason for the turmoil and tension in the world is the absence of a just economic order. Ruthless exploitation by subjecting weak countries to colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalisation has brought the world to the present pass. Despite all scientific achievements, more than one-fourth of humanity is confronted with deprivation, hunger, disease and illiteracy. We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation — the paradox of misery in the midst of plenty. However, the artificial world order is collapsing, and this is the period of history when values undergo a fundamental shift. This happened in the Hellenic period when from the ruins of the classical world the Middle Ages were born. It happened also during the Renaissance, which opened the way to the modern era. The distinguishing features of such traditional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures, and of course in the process consistent value systems collapse. -- Mohammad Jamil
While it started out as a minor footnote, opposition tosharî’ah has now morphed into the mantra by which many justify their opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” If we allow this mosque to go forth, so the logic goes, the next thing you know, all the bars in the country will be shut down (and those infidel lushes flogged!), all the women will be draped in sheets, and Muhammad will replace Jacob as the most popular name in America. Allahu akbar! -- Dr. Sherman Jackson
The impression of Islam and the Muslims on Gandhi started at a very early age. "He was born," says Sheila Mcdonough, a renowned authority on comparative religion, "into that part of India (the coast of Malabar) where the geography situates Hindus to reach out and experience contact with others. To be a child beside the sea is already to know that a mysterious beyond beckons. The Muslims had been in Gujarat for centuries as traders. In his childhood, Gandhi knew them as representatives of those who came and went to other places beyond the seas.
In his own words: "You must know how to restrain your anger, if you desire to maintain non-violence in action for any length of time. Hazrat Ali, the hero of Islam, was once spat upon by an adversary; and it is my conviction that if he had not restrained his anger at the time, Islam would not have maintained its unbroken career of progress up to the present time." Gandhi also paid eloquent tribute to the incomparable sacrifice made by Imams Hassan and Hussain (RA).
The glorious example of Imam Hussain (RA), the grandson of the holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh), who suffered martyrdom at the hands of a cruel and hostile state, is equated by Gandhi with tapascharya, the Hindu belief in the power of suffering to transform consciousness: "All religions in the world are thus strict in regard to pledges ... Even if only a few among you take the pledge, we shall have reward through them. Muslim students have before them the example of Imams Hassan and Hussain. Islam has not been kept alive by the sword, but by the many fakirs with a high sense of honour whom it has produced ... I have nothing to give you in the way of excitement ... I want to give you quiet courage. I want you to have hearts pure enough for self-sacrifice, for tapascharya."
Gandhi believed that what he called "the Sufi aspect of Islam" taught patience and self-discipline, which Indian Muslims should learn to practice and the bhakti forms of Hinduism preached egalitarianism, which Hindus should learn to understand in its true spirit. He firmly believed that the Holy Qur'an stresses mercy and patience as essential human virtues. He refused to believe that irrational violence was a particular characteristic of the Muslims or the Hindus. He always interpreted irrational Muslim violence as corrupt understanding of Islam, as Hindu violence was equally a corrupt understanding of Hinduism. No wonder Gandhi was cut to the quick when a terrible communal riot broke out in Calcutta on August 16, 1946. In the next few years, mutual killing and destruction continued among Hindus and Muslims in many parts of the country. There were attacks on Hindu villages by Muslims in Noakhali and similar outbursts of violence against Muslim villages by Hindus in Bihar. The grief-stricken Bapu lamented: "We represented in India (the undivided India) all the principal religions of the earth, and it is a matter of deep humiliation to confess that we are a house divided against itself; that we Hindus and Muslims are flying at one another."--Syed Ashraf Ali
Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism which, in terms of goals and outlook, couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshipping apostate. For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and non-believers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West. -- William Dalrymple
The irony is that Palin and Gingrich do not represent the idealism and philosophy of America, a nation that is liberal, open, democratic and secular. Gingrich is a false American; Palin is a falsetto American.
The true American patriot is Michael Rubens Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, who has supported the idea of a mosque. I use his full name deliberately: he is of the Jewish faith, from a family of Russian émigrés. Bloomberg reflects the idealism of America as well as the anguish and wisdom of his own heritage, of a people who have suffered the trauma of bigotry and threat of extinction for two millennia. He knows prejudice when he sees it; he understands the poison it injects into the human psyche; and he is willing to set aside the prospect of political advantage from hysteria in order to stand on the side of justice. -- M.J. Akbar