It is a difficult choice under the best of circumstances and I have to admit I don’t have the difficult choice between what I want to do and what I should do in order to avoid pissing off people important in my career. On the other hand, maybe that choice is already made for me because of my very public stands on issues and some people have already decided to write me off.
The WA Holocaust Education Resource Center (WHERC) had such a choice before them and tragically, they decided not to piss off a lot of their constituents and raise funds, instead of standing up for their Mission.
Without understanding what they were doing, they invited the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) to be their keynote speaker at their annual luncheon today (Oct 31st, 2013) at the Westin Hotel. As soon as we found out who was being honored by the WHERC, we raised awareness about it which resulted in an invitation to have a conversation with WHERC and Arsalan Bokhari, Director of CAIR-WA and myself; Arsalan could not make it, so I went alone.
Almost the first thing I was told in no-nonsense terms was that the Director of SWC would not be disinvited no matter what the outcome of the discussion…which pretty much implied a closed “discussion”. Had it not been for the fact that two of the three people from the WHERC “side” were people I respected, I would have left the meeting right there. We continued, round and round, with the WHERC telling me what a wonderful man the director was and I should get to know him and appreciate him. I was told “this is a process” we need to understand each other and blah, blah, blah…essentially telling me they refused to recognize the evil work of the SWC. One person present, a friend, tried in his ever gentle way to help mediate, but there was no budging the other person and the third took no position at all.
Finally, I suggested an way out for all of us. I said if the director is really the fine man they say he is, then he should have no problem in repudiating and rejecting the anti-Muslim work being conducted under SWC auspices and he should have no difficulty in condemning SWC’s film product, “EVER AGAIN”. If he were to do this in writing, I would not only withdraw our objections, we would welcome the man with open arms.
They liked my suggestion but said this discussion with the invited director should take place between myself and him and it would be up to us. I could see this would be getting us nowhere and sure enough, the next day I was told the the director of SWC would not be available to even talk with me until after the WHERC luncheon and there was no indication of how long after the luncheon.
A couple of days later I met with a fried of mine who is closely associated with the Holocaust Center. Although we met because we had pre-arranged date for lunch, this subject inevitably came up. After some discussion, I made him another proposal too convey to the Holocaust Center, I told him we would call of out demonstration if the Holocaust Center would put out the following statement:
- The WHERC just discovered that the SWC has been involved in some activities that run completely against the purpose and goals of the WHERC. SWC has been promoting severely anti-Muslim and anti-Islam messages by showing anti-Muslim hate films and bringing speakers who promote Islamophobia.
WHERC rejects and condemns all hate-activities, no matter who they are directed against, including the activities that SWC has been involved in, especially their film, “EVER AGAIN”.
WHERC trusts that when Mr. Weitzman, the director of SWC arrives to give his speech at the WHERC luncheon, he will take the opportunity to also repudiate the film, “EVER AGAIN” and the other Islamophobic activities that have been conducted in SWC’s name
My friend and I agreed that this message would save face for WHERC and at the same time, condemn SWC’s activities, which was of primary importance to us. My friend szaid he would convey this message to the leaders of WHERC.
The next day, my friend called me to inform me that WHERC could not get organized enough to even discuss this issue before the luncheon.
I put out a call for a demonstration outside the Westin Hotel so people could see the inherent contradiction between the purposes and goals (fighting hate) of the WHERC on one hand and the works of SWC (promoting hate against Muslims) on the other.
I guess, if there had been about 50-100 of us demonstrating outside the Westin, it would have had an impact and the media would have come to cover it as well. But there were three Muslims and one Christian who came. We were joined by another Muslim about 90 minutes later. From the point of rallying a lot of Muslims, we had much the same results that we have come to expect, perhaps we were not conveying the message in a manner that is clearly understood and embraced by our fellow Muslims.
I was standing on the 6th Ave side where cars drive up, people get out and valets take the cars away. It was quite interesting to see the expressions on the faces of those who were coming to attend the luncheon. Noses were crinkled, scowls and dismissive faces looked at the signs I held. Some people shook their heads while a few gave me the thumbs down sign and a few rolled their windows down and said, “You’re wrong!” as they passed by. On the way out, one well-dressed lady showed me the finger, one man said, “Way to promote anti-Semitism Siddiqui!”. I saw a couple mouth words that are better left unrepeated. One woman yelled, “Go back home!”
One man actually engaged with me and asked how I could attack a respected name like Simon Wiesenthal. I explained to him that the name was appropriated by the organization much like the name “Washington” or “Lincoln” may be appropriated by businesses today…without any connection with the original personality. It turned out he was thinking Elie Wiesel.
ONE MAN, Robbie Stern, spoke with us, walked in and told the registration desk he had come to attend the function but now that he knows more about who is the honored speaker, he is leaving…and he walked out.
God, we need more principled people like him!
The few that engaged with me spouted numbers; 1.5 BILLION Muslims against ten million Jews, so much hate against Jews among Muslims and you are protesting the SWC?!! Even if 5% of you (Muslims) are terrorists, that means 75 MILLION people looking to kill us.
No wonder so many Jews have become so paranoid about Muslims.
As I stood out there in the slightly chilly breeze, I could not help but be impressed by the various Jews represented among the people who attended. Seeing one (or two) of their cherished organizations attacked, they closed their minds, closed their eyes, closed their hearts and closed ranks on me. They did not want to know what was going on and I suppose they all thought I was an anti-Semitic nutter, the likes of which brought on the last Shoah. None of them knew or were told by others, that we were protesting the folk who were promoting the same kind of hate that the Nazis promoted when they began their political rise. I suppose, as long as the targets were Muslims and not Jews, they really did not care.
In the end, the Simon Wiesenthal Center emerged from Seattle as more influential, more powerful and more respected among its Jewish constituency. SWC will continue to spew anti-Muslim hate, Jews will continue to love SWC and excuse the SWC message as necessary to fight “terrorism” and REAL hate and suspicion will continue to flourish.
Isn’t it always the same?
Some people are quiet because they feel a sense of loyalty towards the perpetrators, others are quiet because they need the money from their salaries (and their fundraisers), others are quiet because they don’t want to be the ones to make waves and others just want to keep doing their jobs. The vast majority of the people allow hate to flourish because of loyalty, money, position or, simply lack of interest.
Then it starts to snowball and get out of control and fewer and fewer people even think about the issues until finally, there is the genocide and by then, only the loud, vicious ones are the ones who can say anything and their message is not a good one.
Germany, Israel, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Kampuchea, Pakistan, Bahrain, Syria…examples of genocide continue to dog us as we keep repeating the now vacuous, meaningless slogan, “Never Again” almost as a hypnotic mantra, as if it will solve our problems.
What to do now?
Jewish organizations will invite us to “a process”, a “dialogue”, so we can “understand each other” and there will be an invitation to “explore our common Abrahamic traditions”. We will probably talk about how hate is raising its ugly head everywhere and how we must fight it…peace, love, understanding, Bible, Quran. But these serve only as narcotics to our sensibilities. If we cannot side with each other in spite of who is involved, then no amount of “dialogue” will ever efface the suspicions. We will always remain friends to each other’s faces while we “know” the other is really the enemy…and will act accordingly.
The main problem Muslims have, is the lack of will to face what endangers us and our children, a lack of commitment to get involved. The problem Jews have is that they are so scarred by the Shoah, that they are wide open anything being done in their names, just as long as they feel they are being protected (Incidentally, this attitude is much the same among Americans who are willing to tolerate any excess against anyone…Muslims again!…as long as America is safe). To that end, any “attack” seen as directed against any Jewish institution or against Israel, is immediately translated as an “Anti-Semitic” act against all Jewry.
Unlike Muslims, Jews are very good about protecting themselves against real AND imagined attacks.
Still, giving up is not an option for Muslims, each of us must do what we can and who knows, some day, our children will not need to pretend they are not Muslims in America.