Dr. Reuven Firestone Lectures at Ain Shams University in Cairo
The Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilications at Ain Shams
University in Cairo invited Dr. Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval
Studies at HUC-JIR/LA, to present a lecture on "Jewish as a
Chosen People: the Idea of 'Election' or 'Choosiness' in Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam" on July 4, 2007. The event, which was free
and open to the public, elicited extensive press coverage.
Dr. Firestone reports, "The first few articles, which were front page
headlines in three national dailies, were distortions of the lecture
and were amazing pieces of journalistic screed. The article in "Karama"
was written by an attendee at the lecture who was scandalized by the
reporting and came to my hotel to interview me and write a rebutal. The
last piece was written in "October" magazine by a person who was not
present. It is clear that the issue had nothing really to do with me,
but had everything to do with internal arguments and issues that are of
major importance in Egyptian society and actually represent the tip of a
much larger iceberg of issues related to freedom of discourse, critique,
relations between 'east and west,' and other related issues. Dr.
Muhammad Al-Hawari was the person who invited me to lecture and who
supported me throughout. I learned a lot from this experience and am
Tranlsations of the press coverage of Dr. Firestone's lecture appear below:
Al-Masri Al-Yom, July 6, 2007
Headline: JEWISH RABBI ATTACKS ISLAM AT A PRESENTATION AT AIN SHAMS UNIVERSITY
Sub-headline: THE RABBI: THE JEWS ARE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE OF GOD...AND THE STATEMENT [FROM THE QUR'AN], "THE MUSLIMS ARE THE BEST NATION..." IS NOT CLEAR.
By Abu Mas`ud Muhammad.
Ain Shams University invited a Jewish rabbi to give a lecture on Jewish
concepts at a presentation organized by the College of Liberal Arts
yesterday, under the title, "The Chosen People...The Idea of Chosenness
in Judaism, Christianity and Islam."
The Jewish rabbi, Reuven Firestone, who works as a professor of Jewish
and Islamic history of the Middle Ages at the post-graduate institute of
Jewish studies, Hebrew Union College in California in the United States
of America, came to Cairo to participate in the presentation based on
the invitation of Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, the director of the Center for
the Study of Contemporary Civilizations of Ain Shams University, who
introduced him because he is both a Jewish rabbi and an academic
In the course of his lecture, Firestone discussed a number of Jewish
concepts that promote the origin of "The chosen people of God" among the
Jews, critiquing at the same time the idea of chosenness in Islam, and
attacked the [Qur'an] verse that "the Islamic people is the best people
brought forth to humanity," describing it as a characteristic that is
The Jewish rabbi related chosenness in Judaism with the issue of the
intended sacrifice [of Abraham] being Isaac and not Ishmael, suggesting
that the issue of sacrifice appears as an extremely important doctrine
to Judaism, quite opposite to what appears according to Muslims.
The opinions of the rabbi provoked anger among the audience, which
caused them to raise a number of criticisms directed toward him. Dr.
Khaled Fahmi, Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Arts at
Menoufia University, said that he attended the seminar because the
speaker was American and not because he was a rabbi. He also pointed out
that the professor confirmed Jewish racism and acknowledged the idea of
chosenness on the basis of race.
Dr. Gala' Idris, Professor of Arab Studies at the Faculty of Arts at
Tanta University, said that the rabbi's presence was not a problem for
him, as dialogue must be held with those who want to have it, no matter
where. However, while must assume the university's good intention when it
invited the academic rabbi, the latter had only come to publicize his goods
in a stagnant market, but was [rightfully] opposed by Egypt's children and
Not even one month has passed since the appearance of two Israeli
[Govt.] ministers to Egypt for a conference, "Euro-Mediterrania for
Scientific Research," when the professors attending the session were
surprised with [the lecture], "the Chosen People: The Idea of Chosenness
in Judaism, Christianity and Islam..."
[Virtual repetition of all of the above in the section as it is
continued on p.5, with the extension of the citation of the comments by
Dr. Fahmi and Dr. Idris. Dr. Fahmi is cited as continuing]
[Dr. Fahmi] explained that the choice of Isaac being the intended
sacrifice [of Abraham] was a foundational condition for the priority of
the Jewish people. It is the justification for the application of that
priority to Jewish settlement in Palestine, and it especially shows
that Isaac was born in the Holy Land and that Hagar originated in Sinai.
He also demonstrated the racism of the lecturer in his
preference of racial ideology in Jewish texts and his critique [of racial
preference] in the Qur'an. He explained that [the qur'anic citation] is a
general and not a specific characteristic.
[Repetition of the introductory comment by Dr. Idris, which then
Idris explained that the rabbi spoke about the issue of chosenness in
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that although Christianity does not
recognize the issue of chosenness, it appears in Judaism and Islam. The
lecturer exaggerated chosenness as it appears in sacred
Jewish texts, considering them exaggerated proofs that go against what
is [actually said] in those texts.
He explained that when he spoke about chosenness in Islam and cited the
verse appearing in the chapter, "Family of Imran," " You are the best
people brought forth to humanity, commanding the good and forbidding
evil and believing in God..." he claimed that the sense of chosenness in
Islam is not clear or understood. The lecturer treated issues
with no relation to the topic of the lecture, and linked human sacrifice
that prevailed in the pre-Islamic period and in ancient civilizations
with chosenness, which led to mixing up the topic and causing confusion
among the attendees.
Idris explained that the nature of chosenness in the idea of Islam and
Judaism is divided into chosenness of the individual such as prophets
and messengers, and chosenness of the name or people.
In what is found in Jewish texts, we find the act of choosing did not
begin with the choosing of Abraham, as the lecturer claimed, but rather
the appearance of the human race for doing the pure and the right from
the time of Noah, when Canaan and his offspring were removed from the
children of Noah, then the removal of Ishmael, and chosenness was
allotted to Isaac. Then Esau was removed and chosenness was applied to
Jacob, so at the end the act of choosing was purified and not subjected
to the standards of ideology or ethics, but rather the single criterion
is race or ethnicity. Thus it is impossible for any person to embrace
Judaism unless he is an Israelite to enter into the chosen people,
whereas on the other hand, the act of choosing according to verse 110 of
chapter "Family of Imran," it is limited on the basis of doctrine and
behavior. Therefore, the door of belonging to the chosen people in Islam
is open to everyone, but it is established according to racism in
Rooz al-Yusuf Article. July 6, 2007
Headline: JEWISH RABBI AT AIN SHAMS UNIVERSITY QUESTIONS THE STORY OF THE SACRIFICE OF ISHMAEL AND ACCUSES CHRISTIANITY OF OPPRESSING THE JEWS
Subheadline: Sneeking into the lecture through an American professor's
By Muhammad Al-Sharqawi
The attendees of a presentation by the Center for the Study of
Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University were surprised
Wednesday afternoon by an American university professor who was invited
to deliver a lecture on chosenness in the religion of Judaism, when they
learned he was a Jewish rabbi.
The biggest disaster of the Jewish rabbi, Reuven Firestone, who comes
from the University of California, was when he made the provocative
claim that the famous story of the intended sacrifice in the history of
Islam was not Ishmael but was really Isaac!! And he arrived at the
strange conclusion that the Zionists have a right to the holy lands.
The Jewish rabbi, whose presence did not respect the attendees of the
session from the beginning of his entry into the walls of Ain Shams
University, did not hold back [only] with that, but attacked the idea of
chosenness in the Qur'an, saying that it is not "clear," and tried to
prove that from verse 110 of the Sura, Family of Imran: "You are the
best nation brought forth for humanity..." And the Jewish rabbi limped
on to provoke Christianity also by the statement that they oppressed the
Jews during the Roman age!!
Al-Masri Al-Yom, July 8, 2007
Headline: DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR CIVILIZATIONS: FIRESTONE IS NOT A RABBI. THE QUESTION OF THE INTENDED SACRIFICE IS DISPUTED BETWEEN ISHMAEL & ISAAC
Subhead: Professor at Faculty of Arts at Menoufia [College]: The Speaker
was Biased in Favor of Judaism and not Neutral. He Ended His
Presentation [announcing that] He is a Rabbi.
Al-Hawari: "I am Sending the Text of the Rabbi's Lecture to Al-Masri
Al-Yom. Its Translation will Disclose [if there is] any Offense against
By Abu al-Sa`uud Muhammad
Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, director of the Center for the Study of
Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University, sent a reply to the
article, "Jewish Rabbi Attacks Islam at Ain Shams University."
He said that the lecturer, Reuven Firestone, who gave a seminar,
"The Chosen People: The Notion of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity
and Islam" is not a rabbi nor a religious leader. Rather, his primary
work is as academic professor, studying religious studies. He has
received a religious ordination as "rabbi" just as some graduates of
Al-Azhar University have a [religious] diploma from Al-Azhar and work in
some other field such as a religious judge or professor of Islamic
He added that the visitor has a number of publications in the
field of Islamic history and Jewish history and cultural discourse.
He pointed out that the subject of the lecture he gave was the
notion of chosenness among the three religions - Judaism, Christianity
and Islam - and that it is a notion that is studied by researchers,
students and professors. He explained that the lecture given by the
lecturer is the result of trustworthy scientific research supported by
the texts of the Old and New Testament, the Talmud and the Qur'an.
Al-Hawari added that the lecturer, Reuven Firestone was asked
the question whether the intended sacrifice [of Abraham] was Isaac or
Ishmael. This is an issue with many different opinions. Just as we do
not expect a non-Muslim to come and witness that Muhammad is the
Messenger of God unless he intends to become Muslim, so we should not
expect a Jew to proclaim that Ishmael is the intended sacrifice rather
than Isaac. So why do we assume that the lecturer, whatever his
religion, should believe that Ishmael is the intended sacrifice?
On the other hand, some of those present, such as Dr. Khalid
Fahmi, professor of linguistics at Manoufiya College, are certain that a
recording of the lecture is available and will ascertain that Dr.
Al-Hawari and the translator Dr. Gamal Rifa'i both said that the
lecturer Reuven Firestone is a rabbi.
Fahmi said in his comment regarding the lecturer, mentioned that
he opened by stating that he would be neutral, but he revealed his bias
toward the Jews and described them as special, to which the lecturer
responded by saying, "I cannot abandon my culture, language and creed."
Fahmi pointed out the meaning of the word, "rabbi" in Judaism,
noting that it means Jewish religious scholar at the level of hakham,
though he does not work in a synagogue. Whereas the term hakham applies
only to one who works in a synagogue, the term "rabbi" applies to all
those working in a theological position outside of a Jewish place of
He said that he did not intend to say that the lecturer is a
"good" person or not, but only that these are the words that he used in
Fahmi asked Dr. Al-Hawari to respond to some points, including:
why did he critique the notion of chosenness in Islam but did not direct
the critique to Judaism despite the fact that he presented the notions
in all three religions? He appeared as if he was directing the critique
to holy text.
He said regarding the lecturer that he is vague and not clear in
his teaching, and that he [engaged in] a public attack on the Qur'an.
And he made it clear that the danger of this is that the
lecturer stated firmly that the current Jewish [view of the] notion [of
chosenness] is based on the intended sacrifice being Isaac, that he did
not inquire into the notion of chosenness and election among Jews, and
that [the Jewish notion of chosenness] is based on Isaac having been the
son for sacrifice in the land of Palestine according to their dogma and
that this is the legal justification for the [Zionist] rape of the land
And the last issue is his concentration on the Arab Muslim
people from the descendants of the matriarch, Hagar. What follows from
his interpretation is that the [Arab] people has deteriorated from its
[exceptional] roots and is [therefore] deserving of enslavement.
He referred to the copy of Firestone's lecture that Dr.
Al-Hawari sent to Al-Masri Al-Yom, certified in one of its parts that
was translated, that the lecturer attacked Islam through his words
regarding verse 110 of the Sura, The Family of Imram: "You are the best
people brought forth for humanity, commanding the good and forbidding
evil, believing in God and the Last Day," about which he said that the
notion of chosenness and election is vague and unclear from the verse.
Al-Karama 9 July 2007
Title: "Al-Karama interviews the American rabbi accused of doing harm to
REUVEN FIRESTONE: NOT AN ISRAELI...AND DEFENDS ISLAM By Muhammad Abud.
Photo with caption: "I know that the Egyptians distinguish between the
Jewish religion and the Zionist movement."
Second photo caption: "My study of Islam proves that it is a positive
religion for which there is no space for doubt [about it being
positive]." Second caption: "It makes no difference to me whether the
intended sacrifice was Isaac or Ishmael."
Professor Reuven Firestone appears worried and saddened. He had come to
Cairo with the expectation of a broad welcome based on the background of
his efforts to defend Islam in the West, and his attempt to elucidate a
moderate Islam in universities and the American media after September
11. But he was surprised with a violent attack launched upon him by
three morning newspapers. The headline was basically the same and
repetitive: "A Jewish Rabbi Attacks Islam in a Seminar at Ain Shams
University," while the content of the newspaper reports did not find one
single word from the speech of Firestone that was in the category of
attack on Islam. The words [of the articles] were all organized around
his view about the idea of "the intended sacrifice", where it was
Ishmael or Isaac! And his interpretation as a Western researcher about
the concept of chosenness in Islam based on his reading of the
[Qur'anic] verse, "You are the best community brought forth to
His wife also appeared puzzled and somewhat frightened from the
response, and did not understand how the terrible accusation regarding
Islam could be attributed to her husband when he did not make any such
presentation, while the newspapers who followed the presentation did not
produce even one negative expression of reference to such.
In a dwelling in one of the neighborhoods of Cairo, I began
without delay and asked, "do you carry Israeli nationality?" He
answered, "I'm not Israeli, and I have never carried Israeli
nationality, and I know that the Egyptians distinguish very well between
Judaism as a religion and the consideration of the notion of Zionism."
Thus appeared an encouraging beginning to rounding out the
discussion with Professor Reuven Firestone.
- How to you interpret the vicious attack against you in the
newspapers in Cairo?
First and foremost, I am deeply saddened because I never
intended to attack Islam or any religion, including Christianity or
Judaism. The truth is that I did not say that. Rather, I believe that
God is majestic, too great than [something that] human flesh and blood
may be able understand and make sense of His intentions. I personally,
as a researcher in Islamic religion and its study, confirm that Islam is
a positive religion. What I have studied of Islam confirms this without
- Your position on Islam is positive, but your lecture caused
I do not know the secret behind this. There are two
possibilities. The journalists present may not have understood me, and
if that occurred, I bear some of the responsibility because I therefore
did not express myself well. The other possibility is that it was a
purposeful intention to make my words appear badly, but I do not believe
that that is true.
- Was the topic so suspicious that it should cause such an
exaggerated negative response?
I spoke about the concept of God's chosen people and the
revelation of this idea in the three monotheistic religions. I specified
from the beginning that this concept had appeared in the ancient world
and that the followers of all the ancient Near Eastern religions
considered themselves the chosen people to their own god and their
religion a chosen religion. There was no difference at that time between
religion and ethnicity. For that reason, every people felt that their
god had chosen it and that there was a special relationship between the
people and its god. That is, the notion of chosenness was not the
monopoly of Judaism, which took on the idea and incorporated it within
itself. [The notion] appeared also in Christianity and in Islam in
various forms. Christianity developed the idea into one of a chosen
religion that came to take the place of Judaism. Islam in its turn did
not accept the idea of chosenness as a necessity. Islam saw that the
Jews defined themselves as a chosen people of God. When the Qur'an
regards Muslims as belonging to a chosen religion, I assert that the
notion of "Umma" in Islam includes other elements beside Muslims, and I
am not speaking here from a religious perspective but rather from a
- What do you mean that the verse, "You are the best umma
brought forth for humanity" is not clear?
I did not ever say that at any point in the lecture. I said
clearly that what is written in the Qur'an is: This umma is the best
umma when it commands the good and forbids the wrong, and I agree with
it completely. I see in this that every umma can be "the best umma
brought forth to humanity" if it is devoted to doing the good and
- How do you understand the repeated claim that you are a Jewish rabbi
who is attacking Islam?
I am a university professor. It is true that I studied Jewish
religious law at Hebrew Union College (Jewish Institute of Religion) for
five years and received ordination, yet I continued to study and
received a doctorate in Arabic language and Islamic studies. The
direction of my study is therefore comparative religion. I consider
myself professionally a university professor and academic researcher.
And I expend great efforts to communicate the meaning of Islam in the
West. In fact I wrote a book, Introduction to Islam for Jews because I
believe that the Jews and the West in general are hostile to Islam. And
I believe that hostility to Islam is growing in the West. That is due to
historical roots that begin with the triumph of the Muslims over the
[Byzantine] Roman Empire.
- Do you consider a book explaining Islam an effort to defend
The truth is that I did not stop with that. After September 11,
on the basis of the book, I came to be considered in America one of
those defending the image of Islam. I also established weekly discussion
groups in the US from the east to the west in which I explain Islamic
concepts. It is often felt in the West that when a Muslim stands before
you he can say whatever he wants, but it is not certain whether anything
of what he says is true. Therefore, when the image of Islam is presented
by a person who is not Muslim, and especially a Jew, it appears more
credible, just as a Muslim writer would defending Judaism. So too, I am
working with a group of Jewish and Muslim intellectuals in California to
build a foundation for dialogue between Judaism and Islam, which comes
under the supervision of the University of Southern California, the
Hebrew Union College and the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation of America.
And I have been participating for five years on a project to resolve a
conflict between Albanian Muslims and Slavic Orthodox Christians in
- You have also written a book on the topic of Jihad. Tell us
the general reaction to that in America.
I wrote that book before September 11, and it is a study of
comparative religion between Judaism and Islam. I intended to look into
the concept of jihad in Islam and whether it is similar to the notion of
wars in the Hebrew Bible or perhaps closer to the notions of war in
pre-Islamic Arabia. I arrived at the conclusion that the motivations
[for the notion] in Islam and Judaism are similar, so while the two
religions call for fighting the enemies of the religion, the definition
of the enemy varies.
- Do you insist that Isaac was the intended sacrifice and not
Ishmael? Would you discuss this?
This is a point of difference between Judaism and Islam, whether
the intended sacrifice was Ishmael or Isaac. I personally engaged in
research around this point. I concentrated on Islamic books of
commentary [on the Qur'an]. In the course of my work, I learned that 131
commentators said that the son of Abraham brought for sacrifice was Isaac,
said that Ishmael was the intended sacrifice. Statistically, the
difference is insignificant, but there are nevertheless problems in the
traditions. Sometimes Ibn Abbas is cited as having said that the son
Abraham went to sacrifice was Isaac, and other times he is attributed as
having said that it was Ishmael.
- Do you believe that it was Isaac?
The truth is that the whole issue makes no difference to me.
October Magazine #1603.
The Imaginary Rabbi..And the Doubtful Investigation By Isma'il Muntasir
"This is a recording. The number that you have dialed is not correct.
Please check the number and dial again." We always hear statement when
we dial an incorrect number. So we double check the number and try
again. Why don't we do this when we make bigger and more dangerous
I am referring to the ugly mistake that the press made, and that members
of the Peoples Assembly got involved in last week. Some newspapers,
among them Al-Masri al-Yawm and Al-Ahrar, published a story about a
rabbi attacking Islam and the Holy Qur'an in a seminar hosted by Ain
Shams University. At the same time more than twenty members of the
Peoples Assembly introduced a call for an investigation of the case
demanding the dismissal of Dr. Hani Hilal, Minister of Higher Education
and Scientific Research and firing of Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr, the president
of Ain Shams University and an immediate investigation.
The subject is dangerous and it is possible that it could result in the
incitement of fury in the street, igniting fires that would not be easy
to extinguish, especially in light of the crisis of the offensive Danish
caricatures of the Prophet and afterwards, the declaration of Pope
Benedict for which he did not apologize, and which are still in peoples
minds. But the entire story [about what happened at Ain Shams
University] is erroneous, lacks all accuracy, and is simply untrue.
Nevertheless, not one of those who stimulated all the noise thought to
check for accuracy. No one thought to double check the number and try
Listen and read [what was written in the newspapers] and you will find your
nerves reaching the boiling point!
Is there a greater danger than this? Who would wish to wait after these
hot words and inflammatory headlines? Who would be able to
conceal his anger after this and suppress his rage and shout at the top of
voice: "Wake up to the Islamic emergency! Wake up and defend the Holy
- The Minister of Higher Education and the president of Ain Shams
University joined together and contributed to desecrating of the honor
of the university with Zionist settler ideas, just at the time when the
Egyptian people refuse to have normal relations with Israel.
- There is urgent need to take urgent preventive steps to
prevent this mockery of the Egyptian people, and along with them the
members of Parliament.
- How could the son of the prior Minister of the Interior
desecrate Ain Shams University in this unprecedented and outrageous
- Will Dr. Nazif wait any longer before making a demand to dismiss
the Minister of Higher Education and fire the president of Ain Shams
University along with a special investigation of the Jewish rabbi who
attacked the Holy Qur'an and Islam within earshot of the public at
- Is this not an appropriate time to call this Jew to task in
light of the catastrophic situation that the Palestinian people is
experiencing at the hands of these killers?!
- Is it not acceptable at this time to call out against such a
personality known to be an enemy of Islam, witnessed [to express] racism
and damage to religion?!
- Ain Shams University welcomes a Jewish rabbi propagating racism and attacking the Muslim Umma.
Would we be surprised after this if those demonstrators demanded the
head of the Minister of Higher Education and the president of Ain Shams
University and the entire government that allowed the Jewish rabbi to
perpetrate this ugly crime?!
Would we be surprised if the fires of rage were ignited in the souls of
Muslims so that they revolt and destroy Ain Shams University on the
heads of its professors?! [Now] there is an investigation presented by
more than twenty representatives of Parliament with their demand to
dismiss the Minister of Higher Education and fire the president of the
university. Does this mean that these parliamentarians control the facts
that would judge the minister and the university president?
But all of this is untrue and incorrect. It has only one aim: provocation
incitement, despite the expression of good intentions!
The rabbi is not a rabbi, but rather a university professor! His name is
Reuven Firestone, an American Jew who works as a professor of Islamic
and Jewish history at the University of Southern California, and also
teaches at the [Jewish] Institute for the Study of Religion [Hebrew
And the president of Ain Shams University is not the president! Until
now D. Ahmad Zaki Badr works in the position of vice-president of the
university. The president is Dr. Ali Al-Abid, who remains in this
position until the end of this July. Only then will Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr
take the position.
The data [written in the newspapers] has all been confused and mixed up. The
rabbi is really a university professor, and the president of Ain Shams
University who was
called for investigation along with him does not serve in that office.
The real suspicion is that the brothers in Parliament are pushing for
revenge against his father, the prior minister of the Interior, Zaki
Badr. They seem to be pushing for a sacrifice of the first born!
It has moved from simple mistakes to serious mistakes, and the excuse is
an attack on Islam and the Holy Qur'an!
Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, professor of Jewish religious thought and
comparative religion and the director of the Center for the Study of
Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University, organized an
educational seminar series. One of the lecturers in it was Professor
Reuven Firestone, and the title of the seminar was "The Chosen People
and the Idea of Chosenness or Election in Judaism, Christianity and
Islam." It is to be expected that Firestone engage the notion of the
chosen people in Judaism in the course of his lecture, and in that
context Firestone pointed out that Isaac in Judaism is the intended
sacrifice, and not Ishmael as is taught in Islam.
One of the attendees interrupted the American professor and said that
the intended sacrifice was Ishmael and not Isaac. This is what caused
Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari to intervene, saying: "It is clear that we honor
those who follow the text of the Qur'an, and it is clear that we honor
also what is found in the text of the Torah. Professor Firestone did not
come here to convert to Islam and articulate the Islamic statement of
faith. Rather, he came to speak on an academic topic and expresses his
ideas, but he is not imposing them on us!"
In the same context, Professor Firestone pointed out that the qur'anic
verse that says "You are the best people brought forth for humanity" is
intending to convey that this people is the best people when it commands
doing good and forbids engaging in evil.
This is Firestone's crime?! This is his attack on Islam and on the Holy
The strange thing, says Dr. Muhammad al-Hawari, is that the American
Jewish professor, Firestone, whom the press and the parliamentarians
described as hostile to Islam, did not utter one offensive word in
relation to Islam as a religion. And for some twenty years, and this is
known history, he has not taken a single hostile position toward Islam.
On the contrary, he is a contributor to taped [television] programs that
bring together Judaism and Islam during the most difficult times that
Islam has faced during the vicious attack of the West after the events
of September, 2001.
Dr. Muhammad al-Hawari added that Firestone wrote a book called Children
of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims along with a Muslim
writer, Khaled Duran, who wrote Children of Abraham: An Introduction to
Islam for Jews. The strange thing is that Islamic Organizations in the
United States of America fiercely attacked the book of the Muslim,
Khaled Duran, and considered it negative toward Islam while at the same
time praising the book by the Jew, Firestone.
Not only that, at a scientific conference that took place recently in
the United States in which Dr. Al-Hawari participated along with the
American professor Firestone, an Israeli professor related to Islam
inappropriately. Dr. Al-Hawari got up in defense, and Firestone
supported Dr. Al-Hawari and demanded an apology from the organizers! Dr.
Al-Hawari wondered after that, "Why do we demand freedom and yet not
practice it?! Why do we call for freedom of expression and not implement
it in our schools and universities?! Why do we resort to breaking the
pens of those who differ with us and muzzle the mouths of protesters?!
Why do we not understand the language of dialogue nor know the way of
dialogue and accept only dialogue?! Why do we impose ideological
terrorism on everyone who hears us or reads us?!" He is right.
I think, after all of this, that it is necessary to listen to the view
of the minister that the parliamentarians demanded be dismissed for
allowing the desecration of university honor by Zionist and settler
ideas! I think it is necessary that we listen to Dr. Hani Hilal, and
hear the moral of the story.
Dr. Hani Hilal says that he was [recently] in Paris as an educational
advisor along with Dr. Mustafa Al-Haluji, professor in the Department of
Languages at Al-Azhar University, engaged in an initiative to correct
the image of Islam in French educational curricula. It was organized at
the highest level with a large group of writers, publishers and officers
in the French Ministry of Education along with a large number of French
educators specializing in the field of history. And in the course of a
broad conversation, Dr. Hani Hilal rose with his colleague, Dr. Mustafa
Al-Haluji to correct many erroneous notions about Islam and presented
proof and evidence. The result was corrective to a large portion of
these erroneous notions in French books!
As the minister Hani Hilal says, "Defense of religion comes through acts
and not words, and he added, "We will not accept excess, not from a
foreigner or from an Egyptian, for at the same time, we believe in
absolute freedom within the university."
I was struck after that by the words of my colleague, Professor Muhammad
Aboud that were published by the newspaper, Al-Karama, right after the
episode [at Ain Shams University]. My colleague said, "If I had not been
present at the entire seminar, I would have thought like the readers
that an offense had been committed against the honor of the university.
But when I read the press coverage a second and third time looking for
the alleged wrong, it became clear that the offense of the American
professor was that he was a Jew!
The press must be responsible. Their responsibility does not include
cheap incitement! And the parliamentarians must be responsible. Their
responsibility does not include provocation!
I am not writing a defense of the Jewish professor or the Egyptian
minister. Rather, I am writing a defense of Egypt, that was once a
beacon of civilization. Right now, within it is a world of shadow!
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR’s scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement’s congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR’s campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish history, identity, art, and archaeology, and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.