I received the news while visiting a friend in the heart of New York's Upper West Side Jewish community. Four Muslim men had been arrested, thwarted by the FBI and NYPD from carrying out their plan to bomb two prominent synagogues in New York's Riverdale section and to shoot down military airplanes at the Newburgh, NY air force base. It was reported that the men delighted in the prospect of killing Jews.
The friend I was visiting is the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, many of whose faculty members live and pray in Riverdale. We were horrified and frightened; this one struck very close. And we both feared how this news story might affect the ever-deepening network of positive relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Before 7 A.M., I e-mailed Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the leader of the Islamic Society of North America, the nation's largest organization of Muslims. I know Dr. Mattson to be a woman of vision, sophistication and passionate commitment to the integration of moderate Islam into the U.S. I asked her to issue a statement condemning the violent plot, knowing that such a public condemnation could reassure Jews still wary of the potential for positive relationships between Jews and Muslims.
She was way ahead of me, and so were many other Muslim leaders. By the end of the day, I had received notice of several press releases, including from the Islamic Society of North America, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Muslims for Progressive Values, a press conference planned jointly by Muslim and Jewish leaders in New York City, and multiple expressions of concern from friends and colleagues in the Muslim community in the Twin Cities. There were eloquent statements about the utter incompatibility of acts of violence with Islam, expressions of deep solidarity with the Jewish community, and prayers for the healing of the madness in our world that gives rise to violence.
This morning the terror plot was still front-page news in the New York Times. But what of the powerful expressions of condemnation of violence by an array of Muslim leaders and organizations? Only those of us fortunate enough to be on the right e-mail lists learned the good news. Most citizens read only of the horrific plans of men who turned out to be only nominally connected to the Muslim community. What will it take to convince the news media that the real story in our day is the deep and widespread yearning for peaceful coexistence, an end to violence, and the healing of hate?