Iran's new President Ahmadinejad has recently called for the destruction of Israel, and has marched in the streets with thousands of Iranians who rallied behind his call. This must seen for what it is: hateful bigotry and deceptive manipulation.
Anti-semitism is a big problem in the Muslim community, and we need to clean it our house. While I have issues with the way Israel was created, and with the ongoing occupation/usurption of what little is left of Palestine, the day to day humiliation and abuse of the Palestinian people, that in no way justifies the kind of sweeping anti-semitism that I often see in majids or in the proclamation of the leaders of Muslim communities.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political reality that has little to do with the Jewishness or Muslimness of its inhabitants -- that is, there is nothing about Israel's actions in Palestine that stems from the Jewish faith, identity, or Jewish values of its citizens, just as the Palestinian reactions to discrimination and occupation are a reflection of the nature of resistance movements, rather than particularly Islamic values, identity, or creeds. The conflict has its roots not in religion, but from the experience of the holocaust, from centuries of oppression in European lands, from historical colonial interests who couldn't care less about Jews or Palestinians. Until the Muslim world can accept the basic humanity of Jews and the sanctity of their faith, and until Zionists can accept the basic humanity of Palestinians (and by extension all Arabs) and the sanctity of Islam, I don't see much hope for a solution to the problem.
Beyond this anti-semitism, however, is the callous and cynical use of the issue and of Islam to galvanize the population of Muslim countries behind corrupt rulers and focus their attention away from problems at home.
The ayatollahs who control Iran with an iron grip, are using the pain of the Palestinian occupation in order to divert people’s attention from pressing matters at home. They talk about wiping out Israel, but in reality since coming to power all they have wiped out are Iraqis and fellow Iranians. After a reign of terror that killed thousands and drove many more into exile, they have used torture, arbitrary arrest, vigilante justice, and murder to silence fellow Muslims in Iran. Steady and high rates of unemployment, a drug addiction problem that affects some 2 million Iranians, as much as 40% of the population living in poverty. These are some of the real problems facing Iran.
Before President Ahmadinejad postures as the self appointed guardian of the Palestinians, he should take care of his own. He insults Islam (as do many "Muslim" rulers) by usurping it to serve his own political interests, and divert attention from problems at home. With friends like the Iranian ruling ayatollahs, the Palestinians do not need enemies.
We see the same use of Israel, and "the West," throughout the Muslim world to divert attention from more pressing problems at home, and to rally citizens behind unpalatable rulers. As long as there is a worse enemy, a bigger threat to their Islamic identity (whether it be in the form of Israel and the Jews threatening the Palestinians, or America and Western permissive culture threatening the Islamic way of life), the mass of Muslims will overlook their discontent with their own corrupt governments, in preference to defending against these outside threats.
At the same time, I hope the US government does not take advantage of Ahmedinejad's speech to make Iran into another Iraq. While the Iranians posture about pan-Islamism and display their racist, hateful view of the world, President Bush and the American government has not done much better. While Iran misuses Islam to oppress its people, the United States abuses "democracy" and "freedom" to advance its agenda. Next-door Iraq serves as a window of truth where both Iran and the US have cooperated to destroy a nation. Central America is still reeling from America's "defense of the democratic world." Let us not forget Irangate.
As an American Muslim, I know that people will use these irresponsible comments to smear Islam and Muslims. I cringe every time some idiot makes stupid, hateful, bigoted comments in the name of Islam, because it makes it all that more difficult for me to live with my neighbors, and to present the beauties of this religion that made me adopt it as my own. These comments belie the Golden Era of Spain where Islamic and Jewish philosophers thrived, working together, where our communities co-existed without hatred and animosity. That is the promise of Islam that I want to live -- the tolerant, inclusive Islam that respects people of other faiths and helps them to flourish as much as it helps Muslims to flourish. It makes me ill that our community has fallen upon such narrow-minded times when it has such a glorious potential.
The answers are never easy, never simple and never one-sided. We must unreservedly condemn the Iranian president's bigotry -- and Muslims must take concrete steps to counter the anti-semitism that is so rampant in our communities -- but at the same time we, Americans non-Muslim and Muslims alike, also cannot remain silent about Israel's continued occupation of Palsetinian territories and the their treatment. Nor should we allow the American government to continue posturing as a deliverer of freedom while occupying Iraq, especially given its history of contributing to the downfall of countless democratically elected regimes that did not serve our financial interests.