Demographics are not always destiny, as proven by two men whose unlikely friendship has been at the heart of their efforts to bridge religious chasms in the United States since the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001.
Now the pair are bringing their mutual understanding to Forest Hills, where they will discuss their new book, “Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims,” on Dec. 15.
The event will be held at 2 p.m. at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, at 106-06 Queens Blvd. Tickets are available from the Central Queens YM & YWHA, by calling (718) 268-5011, ext. 151, visiting cqy.org/authors or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali were each raised to be distrustful, at best, of members of the other’s religion. But they overcame that to promote understanding and dialogue following the Sept. 11 attacks. In their Forest Hills talk they will address tough issues such as Israel and Palestine, the idea of Jews as “the chosen people” and Muslim jihad.
They may disagree at times, but cordially, and they condemn extremism on both sides.
In a video for the My Fellow American Project, which seeks to provide a greater understanding of Muslim Americans, Schneier says he and Ali know that good people fight not just for their rights but for everyone’s.
“I can always count on my fellow American Shamsi Ali to stand with me in solidarity in combating anti-Semitism,” says the rabbi, who founded the New York Synagogue in Manhattan and the Hampton Synagogue on Long Island. “I can always count on my fellow American Shamsi Ali standing with me when my community and the Jewish community is under attack, as I proudly stand with him in combating anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of Islamophobia.”
When a Muslim terrorist killed three children and several other people in a series of attacks in France in 2012, Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center, condemned the slayings in a statement with no reservations.
“As a religious leader, I wish to make clear that my stand on these terrible events is free of any or all conditions or caveats,” he said in part. “I categorically condemn the gunman’s actions, and urge religious leaders of my own faith and all others to take similar stands as well against these evils.”