Colleyville standoff: Martin Luther King taught us how Jews and Muslims can live together

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Division is not a value of any faith. The extremists of all tribes belong to only one tribe – the tribe of extremism.


In 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached: “Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, lives by the ethic of love that King described. In addition to the caring ministry he provides to his own Jewish community, he pours his energy into building interfaith networks throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He has a special relationship with local Muslim communities.

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Rabbi Cytron-Walker and three of his congregants were freed Saturday after being held hostage by a British national, Malik Faisal Akram, who had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui from federal prison in Texas, according to law enforcement authorities. Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. military officers in Afghanistan.

Akram’s brother, identified as Gulbar Akram, said his brother suffered from mental illness. He said in a statement posted on Facebook, “We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned. It is absolutely inexcusable for a Muslim to attack a Jew or for any Jew to attack a Muslim, Christian, Hindu vice versa etc.”

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Conflict entrepreneurs, to use the term coined by the writer Amanda Ripley, will undoubtedly use this incident to attempt to drive a wedge between the communities we represent, Jews and Muslims. But we believe this is the time to live by the values that guided Dr. King and Rabbi Cytron-Walker – the ethic of love, the path of bridge-building.

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Islamophobia is not solidarity with the Jewish community. Division is not a value of any faith. The extremists of all tribes belong to only one tribe – the tribe of extremism.

Jews and Muslims have much in common

Jews and Muslims have a great deal in common. The two communities bear a striking resemblance in America. Many came to the United States in waves of immigration, seeking a better future through education and professional advancement.

They continue to grow and burgeon with life, evolving new institutions and notions of belonging in our time of rapid change. Both fear external hate and violence and fall victim to staggering numbers of hate crimes, notably at the hands of white supremacists.

There are many cooperation efforts across the country, from the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council that advocates to strengthen national hate crime legislation to the “twinning” programs that bring together synagogues to interfaith service projects led by Jews and Muslims on college campuses.

Colleyville standoff: Martin Luther King taught us how Jews and Muslims can live together

There are more personal examples of Jewish-Muslim partnership as well. Eboo’s cousin who passed away from cancer earlier this year had his funeral at Schwartz Brothers-Jeffer, a Jewish funeral home in Queens, New York.

Among the first people to offer Rabbi Josh Stanton condolences after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was a delegation from the Muslim-based Cordoba House organization.

Our faiths command cooperation

We view these kinds of partnerships as both inspired and commanded by our religions.

In the spirit of Dr. King and in the footsteps of Rabbi Cytron-Walker, we commit to making our bridges of cooperation so strong that the bombs of hate cannot destroy them.

The terror that Rabbi Cytron-Walker experienced must not be weaponized against the cause he espouses. We must walk in his ways – and walk in the ways of Dr. King.

Rabbi Joshua Stanton is spiritual leader of East End Temple In New York, senior fellow of CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and co-author of the forthcoming book “Awakenings.” Eboo Patel is founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core and author of the forthcoming book “We Need to Build.”

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