Interreligious dialogue needed

Interreligious dialogue needed

“Under fire, Jersey City imam apologizes for anti-Semitic slurs” (Dec. 28) was the second article in NJJN recounting the uproar over Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby’s hate-filled sermons at the Islamic Center of Jersey City (ICJC). Ahmed Shedeed, president of the ICJC, denied knowing anything about Elkasaby’s sermon until Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) wrote to him days later demanding he rebuke and publicly discipline Elkasaby. Then Shedeed subjected Elkasaby to mild sanctions: one month’s suspension and “training” with imams with interreligious experience. 

There are a number of disturbing things about this story. Shedeed told the Algemeiner Elkasaby spoke “in angry reaction to the announcement about Jerusalem.” Are we to infer that in Shedeed’s theology anti-Semitic genocide is an understandable — if not fully acceptable — reaction to the Jewish people’s realization of their own state with Jerusalem as its capital? 

None of his congregants complained about Elkasaby’s sermon, nor is there any indication that there were any sanctions for another anti-Semitic sermon on Nov. 24. 

NJJN characterized Shedeed’s responses as “strong” and Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of Hoboken’s United Synagogue “appreciated” Shedeed’s handling of the situation. I respectfully disagree. Could he have done less in response to a demand from a U.S. senator? 

I have practiced psychology in Hudson County for the past 15 years. My office is in a Muslim neighborhood of Jersey City. I also have nearly 20 years of experience running groups in N.J. correctional facilities that include significant proportions of Muslim inmates. 

It is difficult to imagine a more important challenge than facilitating interreligious and cross-cultural dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. As a professional neighbor with relevant experience I am glad to offer Shedeed assistance in promulgating his mission of interfaith understanding and amity. 

In that spirit, I hope, and urge, that Shedeed confronts the venomous sentiments of Elkasaby with appropriate seriousness.

Mark H. Seglin
Activity & Human Performance Center
West Orange
Jersey City 

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