Muslim and Arab Voices Against Bigotry

By | Jan 23, 2024

Since October 7, many Jews have felt isolated and have reported feeling as if they have no allies in the Muslim and Arab worlds. This is understandable. As Jews we are haunted by traumas of the past, but it’s important to remember that today there is no such thing as a monolithic Muslim or Arab world, any more than there is a monolithic Jewish one. Here are the thoughts of a few of the Muslims and Arabs who have been courageously speaking out against antisemitism and the October Hamas attack on Israel. These Moment interviews and excerpts from other media have been edited for length.

Zainab Khan, a clinical psychologist, painter and community activist, is the cofounder and chair of the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), which nurtures emerging community leaders and unites Americans of all backgrounds to advance constructive solutions to extremism and human rights abuses.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My mother was Indo-Pakistani, my father had fled Afghanistan, and I grew up celebrating the Fourth of July as the biggest holiday. I am proud of my Muslim-American heritage. I started the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) as a platform for Muslim Americans such as myself who aren’t tied down to any political or theological representation, but rather just to our own American journeys and human stories.

“Speaking out against antisemitism doesn’t signal support for bombing Gaza or for Israel’s policies, but rather is a sign of moral clarity.”

After October 7, I reached out to a plethora of our Muslim partners at U.S. museums, mosques and elsewhere to issue a statement of support with our Jewish brothers and sisters. That’s when it dawned on me that speaking out against antisemitism within the Muslim-American community is controversial.

The vicious, hateful rhetoric on social media, at rallies and protests, and the way Muslims are being represented in the media has drowned out the voices of Muslim Americans who do stand up against extremism and who stand together with Jewish community members. This compelled me to write an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal [“Muslim Americans Against Hamas: Equivocation and Antisemitism Serve Only to Feed Suspicion of our Community”]. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Muslim Americans, including people of Palestinian heritage, who are saying, “We need to have a voice at the table.” And I see that there’s a large problem with institutional Muslim organizations—that’s where change needs to happen.

Speaking out against antisemitism doesn’t signal support for bombing Gaza or for Israel’s policies, but rather is a sign of moral clarity. And it’s not Islamophobic to stand up against extremism.

The Muslim-American community has been drilled to think that if you speak out, you’re falling into the trap of an Islamophobic narrative. But what are we doing to counter that narrative?

We need to ask: How are we addressing women’s issues? How are we addressing rape that’s used during war? How are we addressing extremist ideology and the dehumanizing of Jewish communities or anybody who’s connected to or has a sense of identity with Israel? At MALA, we’re planning a series of events amplifying the voices of Palestinian Americans who feel like their identity has been hijacked by far-left protests and hateful rhetoric that is not advocating for positive social change. Many of these protesters don’t understand history, they’re going by hashtags—what they’re able to post on Instagram. We need to help direct the energy of our youth into thinking, “Okay, how do we make the world a better place?”

We also need to ask: How is leadership addressing what’s acceptable, what’s crossing the line of hate and becoming inflammatory and dangerous? Change has to start with the conversations that we have with our colleagues and at the dinner table with our families.

From an interview for MomentLive! by Nadine Epstein.

Mohammed Dajani is a Jerusalem-born Palestinian scholar and peace activist who in 2007 launched Wasatia, a movement dedicated to peace through education within the Palestinian community, including a more rational understanding of Islam and interfaith dialogue to promote coexistence. He lives in Jerusalem.

A Greek philosopher once said, “Truth is the first casualty of war.” And certainly in this war, each side has its own narrative. I think this was the goal of the extremists in starting it, to widen the gap between both peoples. And that’s basically what they have tried to do since the Oslo Accords. Shulamith Hareven, in her book The Vocabulary of Peace, writes that before Oslo, it was Palestinians against Israelis, while post-Oslo it’s been Palestinians and Israelis who were for peace against Palestinians and Israelis who were against peace.

People are also saying that religion is part of the problem. Instead, religion should be part of the solution, because if you study religion well, you see that all religions have many similar values, that we have nothing to fight over. In Islam, the problem is the extremists who misinterpret the Quranic scripture to be anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Other. But this is not the truth within the scripture. And that’s what we are doing in Wasatia as a movement, trying to bring awareness to people about what the Quran teaches and not what extremists say it teaches.

Basically my ideology is moderation to undermine the ideology of Hamas, to stand up and undermine the ideology of extremism. And so, I will keep promoting Holocaust education. I will keep promoting awareness of antisemitism and trying to bring peace in times of hardship and trying to light the candle in this darkness. The people who have died on both sides should not die in vain.

There are more than seven million Israeli Jews on one side, there are over five million Palestinians on the other side, and the only way is for each to swallow the bitter pill and know that their one state from river to sea is not going to happen. We must have two states from river to sea. And eventually, when there is trust, maybe the land can link together like when a wound to the body heals over time and binds together. But you have to address it with medicine. And the medicine here is reconciliation and living in coexistence.

From a recent Moment interview by Jennifer Bardi.

Luai Ahmed is a Muslim Swedish-Yemeni content creator with 164,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter) who also posts videos on TikTok. He received asylum in Sweden because his family was targeted by al-Qaeda when they lived in Yemen.

Arabs and Muslims NEED to understand that condemning and fighting against Hamas and Islamism is important for the peace and harmony of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

If you stand against anti-Semitism, it does not mean that you hate Arabs.
If you condemn October 7, it does not mean you wish for the destruction of Gaza or Palestine.
If you condemn Hamas and the terrorism that comes from Gaza and the West Bank, it does not mean you wish for the genocide of Palestinians.
On the contrary, condemning the extremism in Gaza and the West Bank means you wish for peace.
If you are critical of Islamic extremism, it does not mean you support other forms of extremism.
We need to stop playing these manipulative games because they do not serve Palestinians, they do not serve Arabs, and they do not serve Muslims.
What they do is add more fuel to the dangerous militant Islamism that has destroyed the Middle East and threatens to destroy Western civilization.

A post on X on January 5, 2024.

Ahdeya Ahmed Al-Sayed is a leading Bahraini journalist and was the first woman to serve as president of the Bahrain Journalists Association. She was named 2019 Female Arab Journalist of the Year by the London Arabia Organization.

I was raised in a house that didn’t know hatred, but many people from my generation were raised in homes that hated Israel. Later in life I realized that it was more than that, it was hatred toward Jewish people. They believe that they look classier when they say, “We don’t hate Jews, we just hate Israel as a state.” But deep inside it’s really dark and ugly. Especially when people refuse to even say, “May God rest the souls of the victims of October 7 in peace.” That’s very disappointing and sad. We need to have empathy toward what happened with the Israelis.

Let’s not forget that Bahrain officially condemned Hamas shortly after its barbaric terrorist attack on October 7. I am proud that Bahrain’s crown prince and prime minister asked, “Since when was it right to go into a country and take children and kill people, take children as hostages and take elderly people as hostages?” It was a direct condemnation of Hamas. This is what I expect from the leaders running my country. Bahrain is not stuck where it was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

And yet we need more women involved in decision-making. We women do not feed our egos by winning wars and battles and having our children killed. When we sit around the table, we discuss, “How can I save your child’s life? How can you save my child’s life?” But we are ignored, we are underestimated. I bet that if more women were involved, many issues would have been resolved a very long time ago.

We also need to leave grudges behind. Two nuclear bombs fell on Japan, yet today Japan and the United States work closely together. They resolved their conflict and Japan became one of the strongest economies in the world. And look how far Germany has come since 1945. If the United States and Germany were still holding grudges against one another, Germany wouldn’t be one of the leading countries in Europe today.

From a recent MomentLive! interview by Nadine Epstein.

Mansour Abbas is the chairman of Israel’s Ra’am Party, also known as the United Arab List, which advocates for the recognition of Israeli Arabs as a national minority and seeks to ensure their rights in a constitution. He lives in Maghar in Israel’s Northern District.

Any action that is taken against innocent people—against women, children, elderly—is inhumane and it goes against the values of Islam as well. We categorically condemn this. This cannot be discussed or cannot be justified because it goes against all human values and religious values as well. In order to move forward, the Palestinian militant groups need to throw down their arms. They need to work hand in hand with the Palestinian Authority in order to realize a national movement that will aspire for a state of Palestine…alongside the State of Israel.

From a November 29, 2023, CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Rajaa Natour is a Palestinian journalist working in the Netherlands as a foreign correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. She covers political, cultural and feminist issues.

My Palestinian friends, you will be surprised. The Palestinian narrative can survive and even be reborn if we acknowledge this taking of lives, and denounce it, to create an alternative Palestinian narrative without double standards. We, as Palestinians, will only survive if we decide that the narrative we told ourselves no longer works. We will only survive if we embark on the painful journey to create an alternative story, so all violence will be a red line…

From left to right: Mohammed Dajani; Zainab Khan; Luai Ahmed; Maha Elganaidi; Mansour Abbas; Ahdeya Ahmed Al-Sayed. (Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem (cc by 2.0) / X / ING)

If our just demand for national liberation is first and foremost a human moral demand before being political, then it cannot in any way contain a fundamental moral contradiction that allows us to shed the blood of others, just because the dominant Palestinian narrative defines them as “enemies” who must be fought at any cost.

Dear Palestinian women, “at any cost” is the equivalent of “Israel’s right to defend itself.” “At any cost” is to be endlessly deep in the taking of Israeli lives and refusing to see it. “At any cost” is to feed the wolf thirsty for revenge and not the one thirsty for freedom.

From “We Palestinians Are Also Murderers,” Haaretz, December 21, 2023.

Maha Elganaidi is the founder and executive director of the San Jose, California-based Islamic Network Group (ING), which promotes interreligious understanding and counters anti-Muslim hatred by working to combat antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.

The ongoing crisis in Gaza and Israel has once again lifted the veil on deeply rooted bigotry and racism towards Muslims and towards anyone perceived to be Muslim, such as Palestinians, Arabs and Sikhs. This, however, is precisely what was done by previous crises such as 9/11 and even before, as far back as the first Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s, when ING started working to correct and supplement education about Muslims and their faith—an effort that brought us to the realization that Islamophobia could not be successfully countered without confronting racism and bigotry in all their forms.

Over the years and decades, we have come to an ever deeper understanding that our concern with racism could not be limited to the bigotry against any one group but that we had to view and combat racism globally by working alongside other communities facing hatred, discrimination and violence, including Jewish Americans—the only other religious group that faces hate at nearly the same rate that Muslims do, according to surveys—and other marginalized groups that have historically encountered racism in the United States, such as Americans of Indigenous, African, Latinx and Asian backgrounds. Acting with this understanding, since 2007, we have engaged representatives of all these groups, as well as Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, to work together at ING to counter bigotry by building mutual understanding and respect and offering tools for countering prejudice and racism interpersonally and institutionally.

From a community statement published on

Qanta A. Ahmed is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. She visited Kibbutz Be’eri after October 7.

As a Muslim woman, a physician and a journalist, I have devoted much of my work to battling radical Islam. I have traveled to northwestern Pakistan to meet former Taliban child militants in their years-long deradicalization. I have met with Yazidi and Kurdish survivors of Islamic State terrorism, including girls and women once enslaved by ISIS, and I have spoken with child soldiers forced into the ISIS ranks. Islamism is a monster I know too well. And I know its hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews is especially poisonous…

Now, even as Israel seeks to find and destroy Hamas terrorists, much of the discussion has moved on to considering how to achieve peace between Israel and Palestinians. But what happened on October 7 cannot be consigned to the violent past; it cannot be lumped in with all the other terrorist attacks and massacres that have marked the sorry history of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

What happened on October 7 meets the internationally recognized definition of genocide as acts committed with the intention to destroy, “in whole or in part,” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. That Hamas succeeded only partially in exterminating members of the Jewish state in no way reduces its genocidal culpability.

From “Two months later, Hamas’s Oct. 7 horror cannot be allowed to fade,” The Washington Post, December 6, 2023.

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