Jewish-Muslim Relations with Azra Hussain of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona - Conversation with the Rabbi

Episode 2

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Published on:

1st Apr 2021

Jewish-Muslim Relations with Azra Hussain of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona

Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk with Azra Hussain about the essence of Islam, what Muslims and Jews have in common, and the importance of educating our own communities.

Azra Hussain is the President and co-Founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona (ISBA), an organization that just celebrated its 21st anniversary. She is also one of the founders of the Scottsdale mosque, and she has spent the past 28 years educating about Islam and Muslims.

Azra trains speakers, plans and facilitates educational and creative interfaith events for ISBA. As a speaker, she presents mainly on beliefs and practices, gender roles in Islam and conducts Cultural Sensitivity Training for police departments, hospital personnel, educators, and corporations. Azra serves on many interfaith committees and believes that people of faith have shared values and are called to serve and protect humanity and our environment.

Additional Resources:

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

Transcript
Announcer:

From PHX.fm. This is Conversation with the Rabbi, featuring open, honest dialogue, and sometimes unconventional perspectives on the world we all share.

Adrian McIntyre:

Welcome to another Conversation with the Rabbi. I'm Adrian McIntyre. We're joined today by our featured guest, Azra Hussain, President and co-Founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona. Our host for this conversation is Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center. Good morning, Rabbi. Welcome, Azra.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Good morning, Adrian. Thank you for having me. And good morning, Azra. Thank you very, very much for joining us for this session of Conversation with the Rabbi. How are you today?

Azra Hussain:

Good morning, Rabbi. Thank you. I'm well.

Adrian McIntyre:

I'm delighted to have you, Azra, speak a little bit about the organization that you co-founded 21 years ago. Tell us about the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona, about your role and the people you serve. Get us into the world of the work you do.

Azra Hussain:

Well, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona came together because I realized very early on that we live in a world, not just in a country, but in a world where people don't know about each other. And when they don't know about each other, they fear each other. Actually, I was doing the work about 25 years ago, but I formed the organization about 21 years ago. I realized that my children are born and brought up in America. Nobody knows anything about them. And when we say Christmas, when we say Hanukkah, people have an inkling of an idea of what that might be, whereas when you said Eid, they looked at you like, uh, what did you just say? And so I wanted the home that my children were brought up in for their neighbors and their friends to know who they were, at least understand who they were. So I decided that answering questions about my faith on a larger scale than I was already doing was necessary. And so we formed the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona in the hopes of dispelling myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims with accurate, correct, factual information, just educational, and not proselytizing in any way, but just informing objectively about the faith. And about 10 years in, I realized that in America, the general population knows very little about Christianity and Judaism. And so as an organization that is meant to educate, to build community and peaceful communities across the nation and the world, it didn't make sense to educate only about one group. So we then reached out to our Jewish friends and our Christian friends and said, Hey, would you guys join with us and form an Abrahamic panel that goes out and informs audiences about the basics, just the very, very basics of Christianity and Judaism. We didn't look for particular Jewish denominations, we didn't look for particular Christian or Muslim denominations. We wanted our speakers to cover generally what every Jew in the world would say Jews believe in, what every Christian would say they believe in, what every Muslim would say. Now, all the intricacies that come with each denomination and sect and movement, that's different, that's individual, but what generally is covered. So it's a very basic 101 kind of presentation. And along with that, we try and hold interfaith dialogue and workshop forums to make that interaction that we've learned from each other go a little further and actually become neighbors, being neighbors. So that's where we are basically.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you very much, Azra, for your explanation. And I am a little bit more familiar with the organization since you and my wife are friends, have done work together, and still do work together. Let me start by asking you a very direct question. And it's a topic that is bothering me for a really long time. In this country, I often hear people talk about, usually Christians, talk about Judeo-Christian values. And when I think about Judeo-Christians, I do not think that we share any values, theologically. And I think that both historically and theologically, we share many more values between Judeo-Islam. So I think it would be much more correct to speak about Judeo-Muslim values when it comes to theology and our respective traditions, then Judeo-Christian values. Not that there's no commonality. Yes, there is always commonality. We are all humans living in this world and trying to do good work. But when we talk to the core of our respective traditions, I really do not believe that the core theologies of Christianity and Judaism are the same. I think that they are in opposite directions. And I think that Judaism and Islam are more in the same direction.

Azra Hussain:

I don't disagree with you theologically that maybe Islam and Judaism are very much more alike in the way we perceive God, in the way we talk about the prophets and their work throughout history and all of that. But I think when people refer to the Judeo-Christian values -- and now I refer to them as the Abrahamic values or the Judeo-Christian-Muslim values -- I think they're referring more to social values in terms of taking care of one's neighbor, in terms of helping the poor, in terms of not lying, in terms of kindness and respect. I think that's where the Judeo-Christian value situation comes in. And I think because this country was founded with the idea that there are more Christians and Jews here than Muslims, people obviously were not aware that a very large chunk of the population was also Muslim, but they had come over as, had been brought over forcibly, as slaves. So unfortunately, they were not part of the conversation at that point, but in terms of the Judeo-Christian portion of it, I think it might just be to the fact that the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible is part of Christian scripture. And maybe that's what they're referring to. So I don't disagree with what they're saying, but I also agree very strongly with you that in practice, Islam and Judaism appear to have a lot more in common than we can find maybe with Judaism and Christianity.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So having said that and having put that as our starting point, that Judaism and Islam theologically share so much, how come, and why, we have seen in the last century, I would say, an increase of disagreements or conflict between our respective religion? Is that only because of Israel?

Azra Hussain:

I don't think it's only because of Israel, but we can't pretend that Israel is not part of the equation. However, I think there's a lot of ignorance on both sides. Muslims in general, the general populace, does not go and learn about Judaism, Jews in general, don't go learn about Islam and Muslims. Unless you know somebody who's Jewish, unless you know somebody who's Muslim, and you actually engage in reasonable, civilized conversation with each other and not in a combative way of somebody being the other, I don't think you're going to get there. And so when people like you and myself and others make an effort to reach across and say, hello, get to know you, get to know you for who you are, what you do and the other way around, I think that makes a huge difference. Now, I think that kind of a person is only a micro percent of what's going on. Everybody else is completely ignorant and doesn't even care to know that they're ignorant and are happy to live in that bubble that they formed around themselves and the bigger bubble of the community they hang out and nobody bothers to learn anything else. So I think that happens even intra-faith, right? Even within the Muslim community, there are Muslim groups that don't get along with each other, just because they never bothered asking each other. I learned this when I was very young. I went to boarding school in England at the age of 11. Pretty much, although I learned about a year later, there was another Muslim girl in school, I was the only Muslim girl as far as I knew. And I used to go to church in the morning at 6:00 AM, Catholic Church for the mass. And then I would go for the Protestant service at 11:00. And then I would stay, come home and do my Dhuhr prayer by myself. And everybody was like, why do you do that? I was like, because I can get out of school. You get to walk down to the church. But what I realized at a very young age was the Catholics and the Protestants had stories about each other that they would say and share with me. And I would look at these people going, but I've been in your churches. You guys say the same stuff. And they didn't know they said the same stuff because nobody bothered telling them that they're learning the same values. So I think that's what it is. So even within our faiths, we tend to not bother educating ourselves, let alone outside.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah. I'm know I'm going to say something that will surprise you, that even among the Jews, we don't get along. I know that it comes as a shock to both of you. It's a huge shock that Jews don't always get along. But it's fascinating because I was born and raised in Italy, in Europe, Catholic. It doesn't get more Catholic than Italy, maybe Mexico or Poland, I don't know. And even though, and I've lived in Europe in many countries, I've lived in Israel for many, many years, and I think over and over how, if you go to Israel today, for example, the number one music that everybody listens is Middle Eastern music, because so many Jews came to Israel from Middle Eastern countries where they had lived for hundreds and thousands of years. So that's the culture that we bring to Israel is the Middle Eastern music, the Middle Eastern food. But if you go back to Israel 30, 40, 50, 70 years ago, as an Arab Jew you could not listen to Middle Eastern music. The only place that you could find, I remember when I was studying in seminary in Israel, so we're talking about the early '90s, the only place that you could find Middle Eastern music in Israel was in the shabby train station kiosk. Fast-forward 20 years, 30 years, Middle Eastern music is the music that everybody listens. So it's amazing how these things evolve. And I bring it back to our conversation that I think that so much of the Antisemitism and Islamophobia that exists has been imposed on us by outsiders. They don't appreciate our culture, they don't appreciate the fact that we speak with our hands, they don't appreciate that we have a conversation by screaming sometimes at each other. By not understanding that we share a world that is different than the European Christian world, but they want to judge us based upon those values. And that's something that I, in my little world, I have been trying to educate my community -- a Jewish community even -- about Sephardi Judaism that is different than Ashkenazi Judaism, and brings with it all of those things. So tell me a little bit about how you go along and how do you teach the community, both the Muslim community and the Christian community about the beauties of Islam?

Azra Hussain:

First of all, for Muslims, it should begin with just the way I am. I have to be the person I believe is the right person to be. As a Muslim, I'm supposed to be kind to other people, I'm supposed to be respectful, I'm supposed to be honest, in deed and in word, all of those things have to be me in person before I even begin talking. And the second thing that I do is I make sure that everything I share with others about myself, I should be willing to learn from others about themselves. If I don't do that, then what's the point? So to me, that conversation has to go two ways. I have to want to know you as my neighbor, because my first job as a Muslim is to take care of my neighbors so that my neighbors don't fear me, not my tongue, not my actions, not anything. And how do I not have my neighbors fear me? First, I have to get to know what they're scared of. I have to know what they like, what they don't like, what makes them happy, what makes them sad. That comes from conversation, that comes from interaction with each other. And a lot of my friends that I work with, my Jewish friends, my Christian friends, my Muslim friends, all of us, thank God, I surround myself with people who think like me, because we all believe the same thing, that God created all of us and he doesn't want us all to be Muslim, he doesn't want us all to be Christian, he doesn't want us all to be Jews. He's created us different on purpose. He has a reason for it.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But then let me ... allow me to push back a little bit.

Azra Hussain:

Sure.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

You're saying that according to your understanding, God does not want all of us to be Jewish or Christian or Muslim. But don't you have in your tradition, and maybe I'm wrong, maybe I don't know Islam as well as I know Judaism, that there should be a goal that all of humanity should become Muslim?

Azra Hussain:

All right, let me change the wording on that a little bit.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay.

Azra Hussain:

It's not supposed to be my goal to make all of humanity Muslim. In the future, or before the end of time, Muslims believe that humanity will be majority Muslim. Now, again, we're talking about Muslim with a capital M as opposed to Muslim with a little M. The word Muslim in Arabic literally means one who submits to Allah or the one deity, right? That would be Jews, that would be Christians, that would be anyone who submits to the one creator. So this capital M that people have introduced is a new phenomenon because as Muslims, you and me and everyone who's Christian, everyone who believes and submits to the will of God is a Muslim.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So let me, just so that I understand. So according to what you just taught me, the goal of Islam is to achieve monotheism around the globe at the end of times, that's the goal.

Azra Hussain:

Hmmm. I suppose. I've never thought of it in that way. To me, the goal of Islam was to make sure that human beings exist or co-exist with respect and kindness and love. And that's what spreads throughout the world. Not this idea that one is better than the other, because even in the Quran, we have passages that will say, if your Lord had so chosen, he would have created you as one people. He chose to make you different in order to test you. And he will let you know what is right and what is wrong. So us being different is what God created.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

No, but you were talking about the small Muslim versus big M, meaning the goal is that all people should recognize the existence of one God.

Azra Hussain:

I think that ... using the word goal sounds a little odd to me. I think what it is, is more that that is-

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

An aspiration or...

Azra Hussain:

I think that's what will ultimately be the case, that one believes in some creator, regardless of what one calls it, whether you call it Mother Nature or, I don't know what people will call the one creator or creation.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. Adrian, I know that this is an area of your expertise. So please join in.

Adrian McIntyre:

Well, less about expertise and more about observation, I guess. As an anthropologist, who's lived and worked in over 30 countries, and who was raised in a deeply Christian community, but then through exposure to many different things -- through the kind of world religions type classes that Azra's speaking about, where you have the chapter on this and the chapter on this and the chapter on this, reducing everything to these neat boxes with boldface terms in the margin and things -- but then realizing that reality is messy and that human beings are incredibly and wonderfully diverse and conflicted and confused and profoundly connected. I would say this, just observing this interaction and connecting it to my observations of the world. It's clear to me that the monotheistic traditions, the Abrahamic traditions, as we're speaking about, share with them a foundational belief that there is but one God, and that that is essential to participation in those traditions and their worldview, and so on. I think Azra is correct to say what she's struggling with, Rabbi, in your formulation is this idea of "goal," because that makes it sound like there's a human mission or task to accomplish this. And for some people there is, there's no question. Just as looking at the history of missionary traditions in Christianity would show people adopted this as their right to compel others to convert. And yes, that exists. We can't say it doesn't. At the same time, from my reading of the Quran, what I see, again as an outsider, is the inherent belief that people will naturally come to this revealed truth. And when they do, it will be the most complete fulfillment of something inherent in that idea of "there is no God, but God."

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Sounds very Maimonidean, in how Maimonides explains the days of the Messiah.

Adrian McIntyre:

And it's no accident that Maimonides was not a typical European Jew.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right, I know. He lived and worked all his life in a Muslim world.

Adrian McIntyre:

What I find to be most fascinating here -- and I don't know, I really don't know, I'm ignorant of this -- is whether or not we've managed to really tell the story of the emergence of these world traditions in the right way. And Azra I loved what you were saying earlier in the conversation about how your desire to educate and inform brought you to the vision and goals of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona. I'm struck by the fact that there's an overarching narrative that I think seems to be missing, not in your work, but in the way we talk about these things that Antisemitism had a good 700 plus years of deeply entrenched history in Europe before anything was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the Arabian Peninsula. And that Christianity in Europe has this deeply problematic foundational Antisemitic core, which has continued to be problematic into our present day. And that with Europe's encounter with Islam over the course of another 1000 years, which was not the same, of course, what was happening in Istanbul in the 15th century, was not the same as what was happening in the ninth and 10th centuries, et cetera. So I'm glossing over so much here. But the way in which European Christianity found a comfortable home for its Islamophobia -- in its Crusader kind of rhetoric and so on -- alongside its Antisemitism. That's one thread that needs to be discussed more. Then we have a very interesting thing in which European settlers in the New World, bringing with them a kind of white supremacy, which also continues to be deeply problematic to the very present day, and 401 years of history in this country have now reached back across the Atlantic, taking a certain kind of nationalism -- which, if we follow Benedict Anderson's treatment of this, is a new world creation -- reaching back to Europe and to what we now call the Middle East, creating containers for identity, which had not existed before. The nation-state is a much more recent idea than any of what we're talking about. Certainly, the caliphate and the Ummah, none of them were equivalent to what we talk about now with nation-states. So when the rabbi asks about Israel, is Israel the problem? I think a more interesting and more troubling question for people who want to reflect on this is, is the nation-state the problem? And the ways in which these traditions of bigotry and exclusion and violence and the atrocities we've seen, whether it was Jesuit missionaries with native tribes in Latin America or the inquisition or, or, or ... I don't know, I have a lot swirling in my head right now. So I'm going to stop and listen as you both react to this kind of sweeping, maybe misportrayal of world history.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Allow me to take a stab at this. I think that Antisemitism starts, and I'm talking as a theologian now, as a Jewish theologian, Antisemitism starts before Christianity. Antisemitism starts because Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Moses, they went against the grain of their entire region. And they proposed a new understanding of nature, the world, God, society, et cetera. We revolutionized what were destructive societies into creating what we hoped were just societies. Hundreds of years later, after what Moses did in its own way, and according, probably to Azra, in a very similar way, Prophet Muhammad did the same in the Arabian Peninsula. He took a bunch of tribes that were behaving in an immoral way -- to their same community. They were killing little girls and burying them alive and other atrocities. And he tried, and he was a revolutionary in that sense to instill a just society. Then the problem starts when you combine imperialism and government and armies and politics into religion. And that happens in Judaism, because if we open the Torah, we find a lot of things that we should not have done and God admonishes us. And again, with all due respect to looking at other traditions, when you have a combination of church and state, or a militarism and religion, we have atrocities that happen because men are men, women are women and when they go to war, it's not pleasant and the results can be atrocious. So I think that's a part of it. And yes, I agree with you that unfortunately, the tale of Judaism and Islam within a Western world has been told from a Western Christian perspective. And our voices from our perspective have been told only from within our communities, but that's not the tale that the world knows. According to the world, my people killed God two thousand and twenty-one years ago. That's the story that the world has. I always question how can a human kill God, but that's, I don't know.

Azra Hussain:

That's a whole other podcast, rabbi. That's a whole other podcast.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yes. That's another podcast. Yes. So that's one problem. On the other side though, we need to do a lot of introspection. And I think that we need to realize that all of our traditions and our texts, if they are read in a specific way, they can lead to atrocities. And if they're read in a different way, they can lead to wonderful communities and cooperation and helping the others, et cetera. Christianity, in its own way, in my opinion, was saved by its own internal wars because the internal wars within Europe and then eventually the Reformation, and eventually the French Revolution took away the power from the church, which basically gave a huge slap on the face to Christianity and said enough of those militaristic conquest and crusades and missionary, and all of that, try to behave in a proper manner. Judaism, we had our slap in the face multiple times, but the first was with the destruction of our Temple. It is at that point that we are not, we become dispersed throughout the world and we needed to reinterpret our religion and our texts in a way that can live side by side with other traditions. I am not sure if Islam had that yet. Because Islam since its own beginning, the Prophet Muhammad was successful. And he was successful all the way until the end of his days. And Islam has been successful in spreading the words of the Prophet Muhammad. And so I think that's why there are still people that interpret or misinterpret Islam for their own political gain, because maybe that slap in the face that Judaism had and Christianity had, it didn't come yet to Islam, but maybe I'm completely wrong and off base. Please enlighten me.

Azra Hussain:

I think where you're going is correct. You're not wrong, but I think Islam as a religion has been slapped in the face left, right and center for quite a bit. It's just that it's such a large group of people, you're talking about a quarter of the world's population, that if a slap in the face is happening to even a quarter of that, it's not affecting the other 75%. So they don't come around. The problem is first, I want to go ahead and address what you said about the scriptures. The scriptures are what they are. The Torah, the Bible, the Quran, and all other scriptures, they are what they are. And they only come to life through the person that reads them. Now if I have nothing but evil intent and greed and lust, that's what I'm going to bring out of any scripture that I read, whether it's the Quran, whether it's the Bible, whether it's the Torah. If my intent is goodness and peace and building community and I come to these very same scriptures, the words haven't changed, the books haven't suddenly developed into something else, it's how I've brought them about into action.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I completely agree with you 100%.

Azra Hussain:

This is where we fail as humanity. We don't teach our people the essence, the beauty of their faith. We're so busy teaching them the practical rituals, pray like this, stand like that, do this and this direction so many times, make sure you get to church on time. Nobody says why you're doing it. You're doing it to be a good person. You're doing it to save the world. You're doing it to build good community. Nobody says that. They say you're a good religious person if you pray like this, if you stand like this, if you dress like this, and then we let go of the essence. Then how do we expect anyone to come to the scripture, looking for beauty and looking for love. They're looking for the right rules and regulations. They're not looking for beauty and love. And that's, I think, a generational problem that's been going on throughout the world, and not just in one or two religions, I think with everyone. It's easier just to say, oh, if you stand like this, if you pray like this, if you do this so many times, you're okay. Instead of giving the difficult thing, what I'm talking about is quantitative versus qualitative. If you tell somebody a qualitative thing about making yourself kinder, nicer, honest, respectful, that's very difficult to gauge, that's very difficult to judge, so nobody bothers with that. So now we have generations and generations of people who are proving how good they are by how much they pray and not how good they are by how they take care of their parents or their neighbors.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So I agree with you. And at the same time, I think that the quantitative that is so common in our both traditions on how many times you pray and how many times you fast and what foods you eat and how you behave, the behavioral side of our traditions is so crucial and has to go side by side with all of these, the behavior is to make me a better Jew or a better person or a better Muslim or a better Christian.

Azra Hussain:

The balance isn't there, the balance has to be together.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. We have to find that balance again. Yes. And that's why I was never really bothered by verses in the Quran or in the hadith that speak negatively about Jews, because, hey, we got plenty of ... as you said, if we want to cherry pick, we can go into Torah and find plenty of statements about others that I am cringing like, whoa. And it's all about understanding when the text was written, putting it into its historical context.

Azra Hussain:

Yes, reference to context.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

We don't have to agree on all and every text. We had a wonderful conversation earlier with a Lutheran pastor, and he was admitting how Luther -- Martin Luther -- was Antisemitic. And at the same time, he is a follower of Luther, and he's able to dissect and say, I disagree with the Antisemitism of Luther, but I accept the good teachings of Luther. And I think that that's okay even to do it within Judaism, for sure. And I think that you would agree also within Islam that we can look at it and it's very important to look at it from an historical perspective, because otherwise, it's a hodgepodge and we lose sight of what is what.

Azra Hussain:

Yes, absolutely.

Adrian McIntyre:

One of the things that I think would be interesting for you both to respond to is the way in which these dynamics play out in our contemporary shared reality here in Arizona. I know Azra, your organization does a lot of work with police departments, you've dealt with law enforcement at many different levels, trying to do cultural sensitivity training and so on. It's very clear that in an environment where hate groups have never been more active and more open in recent memory, although they're not wearing hoods these days -- they're not wearing masks either, but that's a separate conversation -- there are grave threats to Muslims, or people who are mistaken to be Muslims, like Sikhs, as there are to Jews. The rabbi has spoken about his own direct personal experience of Antisemitic attacks here in the Valley. So let's talk for a minute about some of the ways in which you both see some of these threats and some of the opportunities for addressing them.

Azra Hussain:

Well, first and foremost, the fact that the threat is there is very real. It's very real. And as a mother of young Semitic-looking men, young men, it is very scary for me. It is very scary every time my children step out of the house. It is very scary when my grandson who looks a lot like his father steps out. I worry for their safety every single day. But we're not the only ones that are being harangued by this, right? Rabbi can speak to the Jewish community being attacked just for being Jewish. My Black American friends can tell you how haranguing it is for them. When they wake up every day, they worry for their children stepping out of their homes. This seems to have become a reality in our home country in America. This is what's happened. Now, unfortunately, how do we address that? I think the only way I know how to address it is what I've been doing for 21 years, is reaching out piece by piece, telling people who we are, what we do, why we do it and allowing Christian and Jewish voices to come along with me and do the same. Who we are and what we do. And if each one of us talks about and shares about and understands the other and learns about the other and teaches about ourselves, hopefully, somewhere along the line, a generation from now, there'll be more of us who are understanding each other and reaching out to each other and less of the people who are against. We had a group, a tri-faith group that got together and would have discussions. And a gentleman showed up in this tri-faith discussion who is Jewish and a complete Islamophobe, self-declared, and every time he opens his mouth, anytime he says, it's always against Muslims. And he sat in this meeting of about 80 people and we're in round tables having a discussion and he started haranguing and harassing the one Muslim woman at his table. And he kept saying, well, that's not it and Muhammad is like this. And he went on and on and she was doing her best. And an Israeli Jewish woman got up from the table she was at, came and sat next to him, and she let him have it left, right and center. She said, "Have you ever read the Torah in Hebrew? Have you ever read the Quran in Arabic? What do you know about this?" And she literally addressed him up and down and wouldn't stop. That's where we need to be. We need to be at a place where I get to stand up for my Christian neighbor, you get to stand up for your Muslim neighbor. And we all stand up and say, no, that's right. I know better because I talked to them and that's all I can do is a little at a time.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Azra, I really agree very much and appreciate very much what you're saying. I don't fool myself. I don't think for a moment that I will eradicate Antisemitism from the world. That's not happening.

Azra Hussain:

No.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Maybe I will be able to convince one, two people. And that's okay. That's good work. But what I want to do, sometimes even more than addressing the Antisemite is addressing my own Jewish community to appreciate Islam, to appreciate the LDS community, to appreciate the Christian community. Not every Christian is an Antisemite, not every Muslim is a Daesh card carrying member, not every LDS person is there wanting to convert you. I think that I can have more of an impact within my community in showing them how I have awesome, good, great relationships with Christians and Muslims, and that we can create a better neighborhood and a better community in that way and good friends. I think that is where I can impact the community more rather than go to the Nazi skinhead and tell him, hey, by the way, you're wrong.

Azra Hussain:

Absolutely. Absolutely. But rabbi, I think that, even if you take the smallest little pebble and drop it in a little pond, the little ripples, they make a difference, but after a while, they stop. So you have to take a bucket full of little pebbles and keep doing it. And that will keep going. And I don't think I'm going to get to the oceans, I don't think we're going to change the seas, but you know what? If every single one of us decide to take a little pebble, buckets of pebbles, and do it everywhere, somewhere it's going to make a difference. And I don't think I'm dreaming up lovely things that cannot happen. I think it's doable. It's just that we have to be persistent and we have to believe in the good that is in amongst most people. And I really believe, and I 100% agree with you, it has to start within our community first. And that's why I do what I do is I do the teaching and then I also want to do the learning. So alhamdulillah.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Alhamdulillah. Thank you so very much for joining us at this session of Conversation with the Rabbi. I really appreciate it.

Azra Hussain:

Thank you so much for including me. This was wonderful. Very nice to meet you, Adrian. And Rabbi, thank you.

Adrian McIntyre:

Azra Hussain is President and co-Founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona. For nearly 30 years, she's been educating about Islam and Muslims. Thanks for joining us for this conversation.

Announcer:

If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe to Conversation with the Rabbi on your favorite podcast app. You can also find the latest episodes online at conversationwiththerabbi.com. For all of us here at PHX.fm, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Thanks for listening. And please join us for the next Conversation with the Rabbi.

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About the Podcast

Conversation with the Rabbi
Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, talks with an eclectic mix of faith-based and secular leaders from around the world.
In an era of political division and polarized debate, we are losing our ability to hear each other. The volume of our disagreements is at an all-time high, while our ability to communicate with kindness and empathy is at an all-time low. This podcast seeks to change that by engaging people from different backgrounds and beliefs in good old-fashioned conversation.

Listen in as Rabbi Michael Beyo and anthropologist Dr. Adrian McIntyre spend time listening, sharing, and discovering common ground in an effort to understand and appreciate the wondrous diversity of our human family. From interfaith dialogues to discussions with business and nonprofit leaders, this podcast shines a spotlight on the different ways we can learn to live, work, and worship together in a contentious and conflicted world.

We invite you to use these conversations as a lens to open up new understandings of self and the other, to develop empathy for diverse viewpoints, and to explore what is possible when we listen to others with respect.

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

About your hosts

Rabbi Michael Beyo

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Rabbi Michael Beyo is CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center in Chandler, Arizona. He was born in Milan, Italy and has lived in Italy, England, France, Israel, and the United States. An Orthodox Jewish scholar with a successful career providing religious guidance to all the Jewish denominations, he was ordained as a rabbi in Israel, where he earned three Rabbinical Ordinations of the highest honor. In 2015 Rabbi Beyo moved to Arizona from Atlanta, where he had served as the Chief Development Officer for Hillel of Georgia, overseeing 12 colleges and universities. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director and Rabbi of Boston University Hillel, as well as the Jewish Chaplain for Boston University. Rabbi Beyo brings over 25 years of professional, entrepreneurial and non-profit experience in education, cultural, humanitarian, social and religious sectors. He successfully ran several start-ups in Israel before dedicating his career to the nonprofit world.

Adrian McIntyre, PhD

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Dr. Adrian McIntyre is a social scientist, storytelling strategist, and internationally recognized authority on effective communication. His on-air experience began in 1978 at the age of five as a co-host of "The Happy Day Express," the longest-running children's radio program in California history. Adrian earned his PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Fulbright scholar and National Science Foundation research fellow. He spent nearly a decade in the Middle East and Africa as a researcher, journalist, and media spokesperson for two of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world. Today he advises and trains entrepreneurs, executives, and corporate teams on high-performance communication, the power of storytelling, and how to leverage digital media to build a personal leadership brand.