"There exists in this country among all Americans, whether Jews, Christians, or non-believers, a huge and profound ignorance about Islam," said Yoffie
CAIRO — The president of the US largest Jewish movement has accused US media and politicians of demonizing Islam and portraying Muslims as "satanic figures", reported Haaretz on Saturday, September 1.
"There exists in this country among all Americans, whether Jews, Christians, or non-believers, a huge and profound ignorance about Islam," rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), told the opening session of the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
"... there is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion, and that violence and even suicide bombing have deep Qur'anic roots," he said.
Many critics have blamed Western media for promoting prejudice and stereotypes against Muslims and Arabs in the West.
Famed US academic Stephen Schwartz had criticized the Western media for failing to meet the challenge of reporting on Islam and Arab issues after the 9/11 attacks.
A recent British study accused the media and film industry of perpetuating Islamophobia and prejudice by demonizing Muslims and Arabs as violent, dangerous and threatening people.
"We know nothing of Islam – nothing," the Jewish rabbi, who leads 1.5 million progressive Jews in the US, told ISNA audience.
He said that Americans need to know "how far removed Islam is from the perverse distortions of the terrorists who too often dominate the media, subverting Islam's image by professing to speak in its name."
ISNA convention, the largest gathering of Muslims in North America, was opened on Friday, August 31.
This year's convention, to run through September 3, features a series of seminars on how to shake off stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.
The Jewish rabbi called for dialogue between Muslims and Jews to better understand both faiths, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"The time has come to listen to our Muslim neighbors speak in their own words about the spiritual power of Islam and their love for their religion," he told ISNA audience.
"Our view is that it's important to talk to people that you don't agree with and not simply those that you do agree with," he added.
"It would be impossible to enter into this kind of program with a group that is
He called for ending discrimination and racial profiling against US Muslims.
Since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was targeting their faith.
Yoffie said that it is high time for Jews and Muslims to overcome their divisions triggered by the Middle East conflict.
"Will we, Jews and Muslims, import the conflicts of the Middle East into America, or will we join together and send a message of peace to that troubled land?" Yoffie asked.
"As religious Jews and religious Muslims, let us do everything in our power to prevent a political battle from being transformed into a holy war," he said.
Yoffie has remained the unchallenged head of the URJ, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, since 1996.