Imam was invited because of recent controversy over mosque plans in Temecula
By AARON CLAVERIE – firstname.lastname@example.org North County Times – Californian
Editorial comment: Apparently Rabbi Stuart Wald doesn’t understand fully the concept of submit or die. Another delusional soul that thinks he can communicate and play nice with Islam. Attention Mr. Stuart, how did our current presidents negotiations go with Iran? Wake up and smell the coffee, J.C.
Two faiths that count the Old Testament’s Abraham as a central figure will converge this weekend in a meeting that organizers hope will help resolve tensions surrounding a proposed mosque in Temecula.
The meeting was organized by Temple Beth Sholom of Menifee, which invited the imam of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, Mahmoud Harmoush, to a Selichot (s’lee-KHOHT) service Saturday night.
The center is working to build a mosque on land near a Baptist church in Temecula’s Nicolas Valley, a rural part of the city’s northeastern corner that features large ranch homes.
The plans, criticized by Southwest County residents concerned about the spread of Islam and Nicolas Valley residents worried about traffic issues, could be discussed by the city’s Planning Commission in November.
Harmoush confirmed earlier this week that he has accepted the invitation to the Selichot service and that he is scheduled to give a half-hour presentation on Islam and the similarity of Jewish and Muslim holiday seasons.
This type of service, a series of special prayers for forgiveness, is held in the days leading up to Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which this year falls on the evening of Sept. 8.
“It is important to get to know each other and see the commonalities between our communities and to have better understanding of who we are,” Harmoush said.
Stuart Wald, past president at the temple, said the invitation was extended out of a desire to “dispel some of the illusions” about Islam and discuss the common heritage of the two faiths, a heritage that stretches back to the biblical patriarch Abraham.
To underline that connection, Wald, during an interview at the temple Monday afternoon, read a passage from Genesis that talks about two of the most important figures in Islam and Judaism —- Abraham’s sons, half brothers Ishmael and Isaac —- gathering for their father’s funeral.
That meeting was significant, according to some religious scholars, because it shows that Jews and Muslims, historical adversaries in the Middle East, can and have set aside their differences in peace.
According to the Islamic faith, Abraham, through Ishmael, is the ancestor of Muhammed, the holy prophet of Islam.
For Jews, Abraham is the father of the Jewish people through Ishmael’s younger half brother, Isaac.
Christians believe that Abraham is the ancestor of Jesus, also through Isaac’s branch of the family tree.
The shared link among the religions has caused all three to be known as the “Abrahamic faiths.”
After Harmoush’s presentation, Wald said, the imam has agreed to answer questions from the audience, but Wald said that session will be held only if the discussion is civil.
“We don’t want it to be a yelling and screaming session,” he said.
In late July, a rally in front of the Islamic center’s offices on Rio Nedo in Temecula featured people on each side of the debate shouting at each other across the street.
Addressing the possible Q&A forum, Harmoush said he is expecting a positive discussion that focuses on local issues and avoids hot-button topics such as the Israeli and Palestinian clashes of recent years.
Talking about the shared heritage of Muslims and Jews, Wald said both believe in one god and both ended up in the U.S., in part, because of the freedom to practice their religious beliefs.
And that freedom, he said, means the center has the right to build a mosque in Temecula, provided they have met all of the zoning requirements.
Although there is disagreement among members of the temple about the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York, Wald said there is no such division on the Temecula project.
“That raises a lot of issues that don’t apply here,” he said.
Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.