This fall, guest editors are helping to shape Forward Forum by commissioning opinion pieces. This week it?s Samuel G. Freedman, who writes the ?On Religion? column for The New York Times. In this section, he presents the voices of five Americans ? Sunni, Shia, Christian, Muslim-Jewish; male and female, with ancestral roots in Pakistan, Iran, Syria and England ? voices of ?The Other,? who actually have so much in common with us.
Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has risen to unprecedented levels. A recent Washington Post poll found that almost half of all Americans have a negative view of Islam, nearly a 10-point jump from a similar poll taken shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
We are a brother and sister of Pakistani descent who grew up in Arizona and are now enrolled at two of America’s finest universities. We are passionately interested in Jewish-Muslim dialogue because we believe the only way to decrease religious tensions is through engagement on a personal level. At college, we’ve found a lot of opportunity for such engagement — and a few challenges, as well.
When I was a teenager in the early 1990s, several young women at my Boston-area high school converted to Islam and began to wear the hijab, a trend that raised some eyebrows. Several months later, the school administration asked my mother, a Pakistani American, to offer her perspective of Islam. As my mother described her relationship to her faith I noticed how my classmates were riveted. I learned the power of personal testimony and saw how curiosity can open up an opportunity for learning.
As the two-state solution in Palestine/Israel continues to dissolve, there is much consternation in the national media about what Jewish Americans think of current developments. Will their support of President Obama wane if he presses Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu too strongly on settlements? What will they demand regarding Iran? What do they make of J Street and its sources of funding?