Interfaith dialogue seems like such a noble cause. In this age of religious-inspired terror, what could be better than bringing preachers of different faiths together in search of a common good?
However, it seems that interfaith dialogue is increasingly being exploited by extremists, who have learned to praise other faiths in public, but curse them behind closed doors.
Take Shamsi Ali. He is an imam from Indonesia who currently leads the Jamaica Muslim Center – one of New York’s largest Muslim community centers. He spends many of his evenings taking part in prominent interfaith events. On May 6, for instance, Ali spoke at a screening of a film about the world’s different faiths, described an “intimate documentary … full of profound wisdom, love and respect.” The event organisers assumed Ali would be the perfect commentator, describing him a “religious scholar and interfaith bridge builder in New York and beyond.”
Ali would have been a familiar face to many in the audience. For years, he has been building his interfaith credentials, speaking at hundreds of events. Just a week before the film screening, Ali spoke on a panel at a Catholic community center alongside Christian and Jewish leaders to commemorate the life and work of Pope John Paul II, and to share “stories of their Interfaith journey.” Ali’s interfaith fame goes beyond weekly speaking events in New York City. In 2013, the BBC published a lengthy profile of Ali, which reported that he had been forced out of his former mosque because of his “friendship with the Jews.”
On the face of it, Ali is a perfect subscriber to the interfaith ideal. But what does Ali preach when he’s not delivering homilies about his “journey”? A closer look at his social media posts, all written in Indonesian, reveals a rather different set of views.
“Since 1947,” Ali writes, “the Zionist Jews has been subjugating Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Elsewhere, he adds: “Protecting the Jewish state is not the West’s real interest; to the contrary, the West aims to cover up as well as strengthen its influences in the region. Of course, the only goal is maintaining the interests of world capitalism, particularly in regards to the discovery of oil fields in the Gulf States region.”
In one particular angry sermon, Ali declares: “Jews are working to destroy Islam and the Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community].” Of course, opposition to the Jews means support for Islamist groups dedicated to their eradication. Ali expresses “respect for the fighting spirit of Hamas.”
Not all of his venom is reserved for Jews and Israelis. Ali describes homosexuality as “an unbearable epidemic,” and laments the West’s acceptance of homosexuality, claiming that Muslims who oppose it are “considered to be against human rights and freedom as well.”…