This week’s Jewish News featured an article – Music Bridges Faith Traditions – about a Sacred Music Concert held at Temple Beth Israel (TBI), “bringing together performers and communities from Melbourne’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Indigenous traditions”.
The concert was based around composer Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), combined with a series of psalms and prayers, including Psalm 150, with its exhortation for all to praise G-d with music and dancing. The text is beloved by both Jews and Christians, with the message that there are a variety of ways one can praise G-d, and forms a perfect backdrop for promoting harmony and understanding
TBI Cantor Michel Laloum organized this event, which “under the baton of acclaimed conductor Douglas Heywood… featured the 57-piece Camerata orchestra and over 170 choral singers”.
All well and good, but the second half of the concert took on a different dimension, bringing “something new to TBI’s sanctuary, the Muslim call to prayer, and a chanting of the 55th Surah of the Koran. With this recitation Abdul Aziz al Mathkour and Brother Waseem Razvi of the Islamic research Education Academy (IREA) revealed many points of commonality between Judaism and Islam in its languages and texts”
Excuse my cynicism, but what points of commonality can possibly exist when Surah 55 describes how Muslim men will enjoy deflowering virgins in paradise, whilst the unbeliever will suffer the torments of hell.
For a community that prides itself on being progressive, particularly with regard to gender issues, it’s hard to see how they can condone this Sura, especially as there is no promise that women can equally enjoy endless sex. The progressives constantly berate orthodox Jewry for separating men and women during prayer, yet apparently have no problem endorsing men using women for sex, which smacks of hypocrisy. Moreover, if they truly believe in interfaith tolerance, they should surely object to the fate that awaits non-Muslims.
There was also a rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem from the Roman Catholic mass. Cantor Laloum described the piece as “an acknowledgment of the loyalty of each faith to its history and culture while building bridges and fostering new friendships”.
Sorry Cantor Laloum, but you aren’t showing loyalty to your faith, which strictly forbids proselytizing and believes we are all made in the image of G-d. Surely there can be no real friendship with those who show such contempt for women and non-Muslims.
Compounding the offense was the gross deception involved. In previous advertising for the concert, no mention was made of the Islamic Call to Prayer. TBI put out the following:
Sacred Music Concert | A Celebration
TBI has historically been a leader in interfaith dialogue within the Melbourne community. Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger was a leading proponent of interfaith dialogue, as are Rabbi Dr. John Levi and Rabbi Fred Morgan.
TBI will once again be taking the lead in creating a whole new world of interfaith dialogue and exploration through the June 15 2014 concert “Sacred Music – A Celebration”. Based around Ernest Bloch’s major Jewish work, Avodat Hakodesh, followed by a series of psalms and prayers common to various religious traditions, TBI will be hosting the first Victorian gala interfaith choral concert – Sacred Music Concert.
Performers will include members from the Camberwell Choral and the Camerata Orchestra under the baton of Doug Heywood OAM, along with the combined TBI and PJV choirs, members of the Tudor Choristers, the Salvation Army Choir, the Canterbury Anglican Church Choir, and members of several other choirs, all combined to perform these works in harmony. Choir performances will be preceded by an Aboriginal Welcome to Country.
What better metaphor is there than bringing hundreds of musicians and audience together in singing in harmony the words “grant us peace and blessing” in Hebrew (Sim Shalom), Latin (Dona Nobis Pacem) and Arabic (Hablana Asalem)?
Tikkun olam is about acting on our convictions – and so I invite one and all to not simply ‘talk the talk’, but to proverbially “walk the walk” in attending and participating in this opportunity to get to know and to de-mystify the “Other” in our “Sacred Music .
Note how in this TBI preview, there is no mention of an Islamic Call to Prayer. Could it be they didn’t want to deter people from coming? At $35 a ticket ($30 concession), and with 700 attending, ticket sales would have netted between $21,000 and $24,500, which even after expenses, would have given them a tidy profit.
The Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, an Anglican priest and human rights campaigner, has long warned about the folly of allowing Muslims to pray in the sacred spaces of others. In a Washington Times article, he explains:
A prominent element in Islamic daily prayers is the recitation of Al-Fatihah (the Opening), the first chapter of the Koran… After introductory praises, the final sentence of Al-Fatihah is a request for guidance “in the straight path” of Allah’s blessed ones, not the path “of those against whom You are wrathful, nor of those who are astray.”
Who are the ones who are said to be under Allah’s wrath or to have gone astray from his straight path? According to the revered commentator Ibn Kathir, Muhammad himself gave the answer: “Those who have earned the anger are the Jews, and those who are led astray are the Christians.”
Al-Fatihah is as central to Islamic devotion as the Lord’s Prayer is to Christians: It is recited at least 17 times a day as part of daily Muslim prayers. Yet according to Muhammad himself, this prayer, which is on the lips of every pious Muslim day and night, castigates Christians as misguided and Jews as objects of Allah’s wrath.
…Churches should not welcome into their buildings the veneration of Isa the Islamic Jesus, who, as a true Muslim, is intended to bring about the final, violent destruction of Christianity. By all means, let Christians show kindness to their Muslim neighbors, but the sentiments embedded in Islamic daily prayers, which curse Jews as the target of Allah’s wrath and Christians for going astray, can have no place in a Christian church – even if recited in the cadences of classical Arabic.
The Blog, ‘ Political UNCOMMON Sense’ writes:
Muslim Prayers in a Synagogue – spectacular case of useful idiots!
The guests include: IREA (Islamic Research and Education Academy) which promotes Dawah (objective of converting non Muslims to Islam)
Gosh, it’s hard to know where to start on this one. This is absolutely typical of jihad by stealth when Dawah meets useful idiots who are ignorant regarding Islam but do like feel- good schmoozing. It is wrong from a hallachic (Jewish legal) perspective.
The most generous view one could take is that Temple Beth is so carried away with its left wing progressive reform philosophy that they really have no idea.
In each of the five daily ritual prayers, Muslims around the world pray the opening Sura of the Qur’an ending in the two verses,
“Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favoured with guidance, not [the path] of those against whom there is wrath, nor of those who are astray.” [Sura 1:6-7]… Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement that “those against whom there is wrath” are the Jews… While “those who are astray” are identified as being the Christians.
Thus embedded within the formal daily prayers of all muslims (1.6 Billion Muslims worldwide) is a condemnation of Jews and Christians which is essentially a curse. (For those of you who would really like to know about this subject, I recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Al-Yahud-Eternal-Islamic-Enmity-Jews/dp/0971534632 )
Here is the posting on IREA Facebook page. Make sure you watch this video clip which contains the Islamic prayers.
(By way of contrast, non Muslims are not even allowed to enter certain Islamic venues including the entire city of Mecca! And of course conversion FROM Islam has the potential penalty of death.)
Such a level of ignorance and its consequent behaviour is frankly grossly inappropriate and potentially dangerous.
I would like to see Temple Beth Israel get some feedback from our readers. Please do a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on 03 95101488.
In the Jewish and Christian tradition, we tend to think of prayers and supplications to G-d as an expression of the individual’s desire to connect with the Divine.
The phrase ‘those who have incurred your wrath” comes from Surah 2:61 which says,
Shame and misery were stamped upon [the Israelites] and they incurred the wrath of Allah; because they disbelieved Allah’s signs and slew His prophets unjustly; because they were rebels and transgressors.
Surah 63 condemns “hypocrites,” those who have renounced their Muslim faith.
“They are the enemy. Guard yourself against them.”
Sadly, I have to agree with ‘Political UNCOMMON Sense’ that Temple Beth have proved once again to be useful idiots par excellence. But this goes back a long way: in 2005 former TBI Rabbi, Fred Morgan, held an inter-faith model Passover seder for Jews and Muslims. The Intercultural Society reported –
“As part of the joint B’nai B’rith-Australian Intercultural Society Building Bridges project, around 80 Jews and Muslims gathered for an abridged version of the ritual Passover meal, led by Rabbi Fred Morgan.”
Why abridged, you may ask. The answer –
“To accommodate the Muslim participants, grape juice was served instead of wine and the invocation “l’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim” (Next Year in Jerusalem) was omitted from the edited Haggadah.”
“It reminds us that we are required to speak out for freedom for all people” Morgan said.
How on earth can denying your own customs be speaking out for freedom? The four glasses of wine are a part of the Jewish ritual. As for preventing Jews’ expressing their yearning to return to their ancient homeland (which has never been the homeland of the Palestinians, despite historical revisionism by the Islamists and their far-left fellow travellers), this is just craven behaviour unworthy of a Jew.
Rabbi Morgan claimed the omission was made so as to “be sensitive to the foundations” of the Building Bridges project — and to avoid the event from becoming political. But surely it was he who politicized the foundation, by denying freedom of religion to Jews, in order to appease a political movement. Moderate Muslims would respect the right of of Jews to practice their religion. Isn’t reciprocity what building bridges is supposed to be all about?
By staging this concert with an unannounced call to prayer, TBI has betrayed those who came along in good faith to hear the music. At the least, they should offer a full refund to those who came, and an apology to the Jewish community at large for their appalling lapse of judgment.