Focus Article: An Appreciation of Islam: Q&A with Rabbi Reuven Firestone
by Brad A. Greenberg
Reuven Firestone is both rabbi and renowned Islamic scholar. A professor of medieval Jewish and Islamic studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and senior fellow at USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Firestone’s interfaith work is not focused on reaching political common ground but on understanding shared religious experiences.
Last week, in promoting his book, “An Introduction to Islam for Jews” (Jewish Publication Society, 2008), Firestone spoke at the Jewish Community Library about Islam as a world religion, Muslim views on non-Muslims and whether Muslims and Jews will be able to live in peace in Israel. The Journal caught up with him afterward.
Jewish Journal: What is the No. 1 thing that Jews don’t understand about Islam?
Reuven Firestone: I don’t think they understand that Islam is a complex religion, comparable to Judaism, and that it can’t be reduced to simplistic slogans and notions.
JJ: How do you think the real Islam differs from the generally perceived?
RF: All the fears about Islam, the worst-case scenarios, exist. But they exist in very small numbers, and they are magnified because of our fear and anxiety. And we live in a world where, at least in the last few years, we have been trained and programmed to think the worst. Keep reading…