According to Laurie Franklin (photo right), a Jewish leader and rabbinical student in Missoula, Montana, “It’s really hard to talk to somebody who wants to shoot you.” But despite the religiously-motivated hatred for and desire for extermination of all Jews, a dominant theme in all Islamic teachings, Franklin has organized a “Celebrate Islam Week” in Missoula, April 25 – 30.
It was Franklin, spiritual leader and student rabbi at Har Shalom, who late last year spearheaded formation of something called SALAM, the Arabic word for peace and an acronym for a uniquely Missoula group, Standing Alongside America’s Muslims.
Events kick off that Monday with a dinner and discussion at St. Paul Lutheran Church, featuring presentations by Muslims from four countries.
On Wednesday, the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming” and a Technology, Entertainment and Design talk by Dalia Mogahed will be shown at Hellgate High School. “The Muslims Are Coming” follows Muslim comedians around the country as they perform and explore Islam and Islamophobia. Mogahed is the Egyptian-born director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C. Her TED talk is called “What Do You Think When You Look At Me?”
Samir Bitar, a University of Montana Arabic instructor and popular public speaker, will give the keynote talk Thursday evening at Urey Lecture Hall on the UM campus prior to a panel discussion.
Neither Franklin nor Bitar think it’s incongruous that a Jewish rabbi is in the forefront of a pro-Islam educational movement. (Of course not, leftist Jews are notorious for trying to make friends with their mortal enemies and coming out on the losing end repeatedly)
The week’s final event is set for Saturday when the congregation at Har Shalom on South Russell Street will host Dances of Universal Peace, using music and themes from Judaism, Islam and Christianity, as well as Rumi poetry.(Music and dancing is forbidden in Islam) Everything all week is free and open to the public.
The idea at each session is to talk, listen, share and learn about the world’s second-largest religion and soon-to-be second-largest in the U.S., one that encompasses as many cultures as the largest – Christianity.
While the recent decision of the International Rescue Committee to locate an office in Missoula has been met with vigorous protest on many fronts, it’s still not known if any or all the 25 or so families sent here the first year will be Muslim. The nation saw an escalation of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the aftermath of Muslim terrorist attacks in Europe and San Bernardino.
Franklin refers to her experience of growing up in the post-Holocaust world.
“I can almost hear Muslims or Mexicans replaced by Jews in some of the conversations,” she said. “For me, it’s all part of a kind of pigeonholing and discrimination that I want to stand against, but I want to do it in a way that respects the fears of those who are really concerned about national security. And I want them to understand that not all Islam is radical Islam.” (Obviously, she has never read the quran)
The perception that Islam extremists are the norm in a religion practiced by 1.6 billion people is analogous to someone looking at an offshoot of Christianity such as the Ku Klux Klan and reaching the same conclusion, Bitar said. “To which we would react: Excuse me? Isn’t this rather absurd that you would take a fraction – less than 1 percent – of a group and then attribute their characteristics to the other 99 point something percent?”
(Even if it is less than 1%, despite the fact that most Islamic scholars put the number at 10%, that means 15 million Muslims want to kill us. Hardly comparable to the number of KKK members)
This is how the majority of people in Montana feel