[Title differs from TWS.]
Dirksen Senate Office Building
What could go wrong in such a worthy enterprise? AJC is a reasonable, credible institution. Its policy-makers doubtless feel more comfortable cultivating "dialogue" with ISNA, which is considered the weightiest American Muslim interest group. But ISNA has in the past been exposed as a channel for the spread of Saudi-based Wahhabi fanaticism in U.S. mosques.
The ISNA co-chair of the MJAC is an Indo-American Muslim named Farooq Kathwari, who hails from Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan. Kathwari is the CEO of furniture maker Ethan Allen Interiors. His son Irfan, only 19, was killed while fighting in Afghanistan, according to Farooq's brother Rafiq Kathwari, and this apparent "martyrdom" was memorialized when Farooq Kathwari endowed a foundation named for his son. In 2006, the Irfan Kathwari Foundation contributed $100,000 over three years, in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, to a program for refugee aid. Farooq Kathwari was appointed by Obama in 2010 to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
ISNA got the message and on November 18 it issued a "Clarification" declaring that "it will honor the agreement reached with AJC and the MJAC members to promote Muslim-Jewish dialogue and understanding." Nevertheless, ISNA claimed, "following the public announcement of the formation of MJAC, an internal inquiry revealed that standard reporting and approval mechanisms were not followed to secure formal approval of ISNA leadership to elevate involvement of ISNA to the level of 'co-convener' of MJAC. We were thus surprised to receive the announcement about ISNA's collaboration with AJC on the formation of the MJAC."
ISNA's statement "reiterate[d] support for the right of individuals and organizations in the US to peacefully work for human rights and the right of self determination of Palestinians." (ISNA removed the "clarification" from its website but it was archived.)
The American Jewish Committee cannot be faulted for its attempt to fulfill its long-established humanitarian mission by initiating contacts with Muslim leaders. Against the bogus charge of "Islamophobia," the Committee's record of diligence in the protection of all victims of bigotry is clear. AJC's courtesy and the graceless reaction of ideologues like Bazian and the ISNA leaders could be filed under the heading of no good deed going unpunished. But Hill mandarins and good-hearted Jewish activists tempted by visions of easy cooperation with "official" American Muslims like those of ISNA should be wary of such accommodation.