"The Congressman, The Mosque And The Temple
In the fierce debate over whether the Islamic Center of Long Island harbors extremists, some of the Muslims’ most ardent defenders are Jews by Walter Ruby."
"Is the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) a hotbed of Muslim extremism or an oasis of tolerance and moderation?
The answer to that question likely depends on whether one is inclined to believe Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) and supporters like terrorism expert Steven Emerson on one hand, or members of Long Island’s interfaith community — including some high-profile rabbis — on the other. King, Emerson and others have been arguing for months that ICLI, the oldest and largest mosque on Long Island, is headed by extremist leaders who spread the lie that Zionists, not Muslims, were responsible for the 9/11 attacks."
"King dismisses as “double talk” an official statement by the ICLI board in October 2001 denouncing the 9/11 attacks and expressing support for military action against worldwide terrorism. That statement and later ones by the mosque leadership condemning terrorism are meaningless in the absence of an explicit rebuke of Khankan, says King.
King also has accused Khan of criticism of Israel that “goes beyond fair debate,” claiming Khan sent him a letter accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing Palestinian civilians. On the other side of the barricades is the editorial page of Newsday, the main Long Island newspaper, which has accused King of “playing with fire” in his attacks on the mosque. Also lined up there are leaders of Long Island’s interfaith community, including the spiritual leadership of Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, a large Reform synagogue that has been engaged in ongoing interfaith dialogue with ICLI since 1991.
Speaking at a press conference held at ICLI on Sunday — after about 100 members of Beth El and ICLI took part in a joint observance of Sukkot and Ramadan that included a reception inside a sukkah built specially for the occasion — Beth-El Associate Rabbi Renni Altman praised Khan as “a dear friend of our synagogue … and a very good friend of the Jewish community.”
The rabbi asserted, “We condemn in the very strongest language the deplorable and false accusations made by Peter King. … Our 15-year relationship with this mosque represents the very best of dialogue and understanding … and offers the strongest testimony that the charges of Islamic militancy and extremism made against this mosque and Dr. Khan are utter nonsense.” Joining Rabbi Altman in calling upon King to end his campaign against Khan and ICLI were Rev. Thomas Goodhue, president of the Long Island Council of Churches, Rev. Mark Lukens, president of Interfaith Alliance of Long Island and Father Tom Hartman of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rockville Centre, one of the stars of the “God Squad” television program on Long Island Cable television. "
"For his part, Khan said King’s focus on Khankan’s September 2001 comments amounts to “hair splitting,” over statements by someone no longer connected to the mosque. Khan explained, “I was in Kashmir when 9/11 occurred and was unable to return immediately. In October, after I returned home, our board met and analyzed the situation and issued our statement condemning the attacks, which is the official position of the mosque, not whatever Ghazi may have said.”
Khankan did not return calls seeking comment.
Khan acknowledges having being critical of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, but calls for a political solution that would guarantee the survival of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
Rabbi Berman, who accompanied Khan to Israel, said Khan “has a very balanced view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Everything he said and did on the trip contradicted the idea that he would back violence to serve a political agenda.” Meanwhile, members of ICLI and Beth-El who have taken part in dialogue spoke of the positive impact of their ongoing communication on their own lives."
"Morris Yohai, a retired food industry professional and longtime Beth-El member, stated, “We’ve been meeting with the people from ICLI for 15 years, visiting each others’ homes and have come to love each other. It is a shame Peter King would choose to speak this way without any foundation in fact and without awareness about how this dialogue has enriched our lives.”