Monday, December 7, 2015

The Loopiest Way Yet to "Build Bridges" With Muslims--By Reciting the Shahada

From a traditional Islamic perspective, the State of Israel is an impossibility that flies in the face of what Islam teaches about Jewry, i.e. that they are a lowly, duplicitous people who balked at Islam's founder when he presented them with "the truth"; edited out all references to Islam's founder in the Torah (!); and were on three occasions transformed by the prophet into apes and pigs.

Such a people could never under any circumstances be permitted to have sovereignty over Jerusalem (Islam's third holiest city, after Mecca and Medina) and over land claimed in perpetuity for Islam. And yet, Jews and even some Muslims persist in trying to "build bridges" via interfaith endeavors, ones whose conviviality is predicated on glossing over their divisions over Arab/Muslim rejectionism (which, for more than a few Muslims, has veered into eliminationism) of Israel.

Despite those hurdles, the desire to feel safe in the world continues to spur Jews and Muslims to want to sit down and "pass the tasty samosas." One of the Jews who remains adamant that such efforts should continue is Rabbi Donniel Hartman, of the Israel-based Shalom Hartman Institute. And Rabbi Donniel has come up with a unique approach to bridge building, one which more that a few of us are likely to see as being hugely problematic. Here's a description of how it all went down at an event last month (my bolds):
The central message of the evening went further, urging Jews and Muslims to accept not just each other’s culture or lifestyle, but the authenticity of the other’s faith. Christians and Jews have been doing this in America at least since Vatican II in the early ’60s, Hartman reminded us. It’s time, he said, to extend the same gut-level acceptance to Islam. 
What does that mean? For those present, it meant listening to Rabbi Hartman stand in front of us reciting the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith. And he did it in Arabic: La ilaha illa-llah, muhammadur rasulu-llah (There is no God but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God). 
“We Jews have to learn not just to recite the shahada, but accept it, as Jews,” he told the suddenly very quiet audience. The part about one God is easy, he said. But accepting that Muhammad is a prophet of God, that’s the hard part, and that’s what he insisted is required. “While there is one God, that God does not have to love one people best,” he said. (Interesting that the Arabic calls Muhammad the messenger, not a messenger, a detail Hartman glossed over, but hey, let’s call it a translation problem.)
Hey, let's not. Let's call it part and parcel of the real problem, which is that Islam is a supremacist, supersessionist religion--always has been, and likely always will be. For Islam, Muhammad is the last prophet, the "seal" of the prophets, and, the only people who are doing religion correctly--religion as Allah demands it be done--are those who submit to Islam and venerate Muhammad, the be-all-and-end-all of all prophets.

There isn't any wiggle room here. And Rabbi Hartman's resorting to the indefinite article "a" instead of the definite article "the" not only doesn't solve the problem, it points to the unbridgeable chasm between Jews and Muslims when it comes to how they view Islam's founder. (I suppose, in such company, it would be inappropriate to mention how the Jewish sage Maimonides, the Rambam, referred to Muhammad--as "hameshuga," that madman.)

As for reciting the shahada, that's a terrible idea if you're Jewish, for what you're doing is mouthing the avowal of faith which, when spoken in the company of three Muslim witnesses, ipso fact makes you Muslim.

Can Rabbi Donniel Hartman, having recited the shahada in a way that makes it official in Islamic eyes but obviously having no plans to stop being Jewish, now be considered a Muslim "apostate," and therefore in line for the sharia-decreed punishment of death for this crime against Islam?

Perhaps that's something he should have considered before reciting the thing.

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