by Aaron Warner
Though the population of Vermonters who are either Jewish or Muslim is fairly small (both around 1-2 % of the population), the conflict in the Middle East has taken over the news cycle. The ramifications are far reaching given the concerning talk of escalation could mean World War III with some suggesting a mandatory draft coinciding. It is highly unlikely anyone in Vermont wants either, including our neighbors in both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
We reached out to synagogues and Islamic worship centers to hear from our fellow Green Mountain citizens who likely have a greater insight, even personal connection to, the situation in Israel and Gaza. Rabbi Jan Salzman shared her thoughts in an interview we ran on October 19th. Her overriding message was one of peace and reconciliation offered to Palestinians, one that her sister has pursued for many years from her home in Haifa, Israel. Though we hear little about these peace activists there are more Arab-Israeli peace seeking groups in Israel per capita than there are peace makers per capita anywhere else in the world. Despite being the only democracy in the Middle East the will of the people doesn’t seem to be the winning ethos historically or today.
We reached out to the people at the Islamic Society of Vermont with some of the same questions we posed to Rabbi Salzman and we received the following answers from their Vice President Fuad Al-Amoody, a 43 year-old Colchester resident.
How long have you lived in Vermont? 5 years
If you moved to Vermont from somewhere else, where are you from originally? Clifton Park NY
Would you consider yourself conservative, moderate or liberal in your political views? Does that affect your view of this conflict? Moderate with no party affiliation. It does not affect my view of this conflict, as I am careful to do my due diligence in researching political issues of all kinds as they come to light.
What are your thoughts on the conflict? I have many thoughts, but the overarching thought would be that it’s very unfortunate and terrifying that innocent people are being oppressed, targeted, and killed.
How has it affected you, your family, work and/or congregation? I worry about the safety of myself and my family. My children are young, our daughter is too young to grasp what is happening, but our son is in Middle school and he has a lot of questions about the situation. It is stressful for him when he thinks that people may view Muslims in a bad light. He’s a good kid and has a heavy heart over what is happening there. It affects the way that all families in our religious community are feeling about the situation. It’s very concerning for us all that Islamophobia is on the rise again. People in the workplace have been supportive and that is comforting.
What are your personal feelings or insights into the situation? It needs to be addressed peacefully once and for all. It seems the world is beginning to see the conflict for what it is, and that is because social media has changed the landscape of attaining knowledge on the conflict. It’s undeniable what is happening when it is showing up on social media feeds of the people involved in the conflict. Media outlets need to be careful and honest in their reporting. No innocent person should be faulted for the actions of a few, and no one should be persecuted for their religion.
Do you feel threatened by either the pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel responses in cities and campuses around the U.S. or here in Vermont? In the beginning people who were pro-Palestine were being targeted on many campuses. It was very concerning and many people told their children not to speak out about the conflict out of fear of some type of repercussions or retaliation. It was hard to believe people from all walks of life can freely speak their opinions, but freedom of speech in this circumstance was being used against people. Once the infrastructure of our constitutional rights begin to crumble, it is the beginning of the fall of a successful democracy. For instance, several incidents have happened in the US like the stabbing to death of a 6 year old Palestinian boy. I was deeply saddened to hear about this incident and it is impossible to imagine the pain the family is going through. Incidents like this make us feel unsafe.
What do you think America’s response should be? America is a place of freedom and beauty where people from all walks of life can live together in peace. People should not allow this to affect our way of life here. Even though we feel pain for the innocent people impacted, we must remain United in our goal of living in a peaceful nation.
Given the conflict is thousands of years old and between two long-time adversaries along with the potential for greater world war level escalation, do you think America should limit its involvement? America should not be involved in anything but peaceful negotiations between the two state. We should not support any further violence or escalation. We need to set an example to the rest of the world that we will not tolerate violence.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to Jews living in Vermont? We appreciate the outpouring of compassion and support. We consider all of the Abrahamic religions our brethren and we pray for a brighter future for all of us. We hope the rest of the world can follow the example we have set here, where we sit side by side with our Jewish Brothers and Sisters in peace and harmony. This is actually a tenant of our religion, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set the example by allowing Jewish tribes to live side by side with Muslims, and even protected them from external threats. We hope we continue to show the world that we can all live side by side peacefully.