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Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2002/ 13 Adar, 5762

Don Feder

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No 'Sermon on the Mount' from Mecca -- LAST WEEK, President George W. Bush sent greetings to Moslems at the end of the Eid al-Adha holiday. His proclamation referred to the "joyful and reverent fellowship" of pilgrims in Mecca. But, some regular features of these gatherings are anything but reverent.

More than one million Moslems made their way to Mecca. Crowds thronged the city's Grand Mosque, the faith's holiest site, to hear a sermon by Sheikh Osama Abdullah Khayyat.

On orders from the Saudi regime, the sheikh eschewed politics -- but not gratuitous anti-Semitism. "G-d give your glory to Islam and Moslems," the imam intoned. "L-rd ... defeat those tyrant Jews (," he added, almost as an afterthought. Among many Moslem clerics, Jew hatred is second nature.

Khayyat's comments were mild, compared to those of Abdallah Bin Matruk Al-Haddal of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Speaking on a popular TV show, on Jan. 22, the preacher called Jews "brothers of apes and pigs." The World Trade Center attack was the product of a "Jewish-Zionist" conspiracy and the United States should "get rid of the Jews," Al-Haddal advised.

In Egypt, repetition of the blood libel (that Jews use the blood of gentiles in religious ceremonies) is a regular feature of the government press.

When he met the pope last year, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad told the pontiff the Jews "tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ."

OK, so, in the region of its birth, Islam has, shall we say, a few rough edges. But what about Moslems living in the most tolerant, pluralistic society on earth?

Earlier this month, 300 copies of a translation of the Koran were pulled from Los Angeles public schools, when it was discovered they referred to Jewish beliefs as "arrogance" and "blasphemy." The books were donated by the Omar Ibn Khattab Foundation, which said its gift was intended to promote a greater understanding of Islam. Perhaps it did.

Generally, the reaction to Sept. 11 of U.S. Moslems has been -- blame it on the Zionists. When asked in a Zogby poll to pick the best way to fight terrorism, 67 percent of Moslem Americans chose "changing America's Middle East policy" (abandoning Israel) as opposed to the seven percent who endorsed the use of military force.

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says that while the murder of Israeli women and children is "morally unjustifiable," it must be understood in the context of the "prolonged ... occupation of Palestine." That's like saying that while the Holocaust can't be condoned, it must be considered in the context of Germany's humiliation at Versailles.

Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, of the California Islamic Society, was invited to pray with the president at the National Cathedral in September. A year earlier, at a Hezbollah pep rally, Siddiqi thundered, "America has to understand -- if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of G-d will come!" With a large enough paintbrush, the imam might have drawn a target on the World Trade Center.

Anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism go hand in hand. In a recent posting on the Web site of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Kevin James charged, "Our government has shown throughout the course of history that it will support any regime or policy, no matter how illegal or corrupt, bloody or brutal, so long as it furthers the vested interests of wealth and power."

If he's speaking of our support for Saudi Arabia -- as wealthy, corrupt and brutal as they come -- James is correct.

But while the Islamic world spews venom, America (in a national version of the Stockholm syndrome), sees nothing but sweetness and light from that quarter.

A textbook widely used by California seventh-graders has a section on Islam that reads like a press release from the grand mufti of Cairo. Students are told that during the spread of Islam, Moslems "were extremely tolerant of those they conquered." Sure, and converts were made by guys in white shirts and narrow ties knocking on doors, saying, "Hi. Have you considered the Koran?"

While there are a few, brave voices of dissent within the Islamic world, most of what comes from there sounds more like the sermon at Mecca's Grand Mosque than the Sermon on the Mount.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate