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author biography
Stephen Schwartzis the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington DC. A world renowned expert on Jewish and Islamic history, he regularly appears on major TV networks, and his articles have been published in the world’s major newspapers
Born in 1948 to a Jewish father and Protestant mother, Schwartz is a practicing Muslim and vocal critic of Islamic terrorism. Schwartz has also developed, among Westerners, a unique position as a confidante of Shia Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals, notably with Iraqis as well as Shias living in the U.S.
In 1990, when he first visited Yugoslavia to research the history of Jews in the Balkans he developed close relations with Balkan Islamic intellectual, religious and political leaders. In Yugoslavia he researched Jewish-Muslim spiritual sites and has returned to the Balkans annually since 2003.
Schwartz is the author of ‘The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role In Terrorism’ and ‘Is It Good For the Jews? The Crisis of America’s Israel Lobby’. He is also author of ‘Sarajevo Rose: A Balkan Jewish Notebook’

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What Israel Means to Me,
Filed under Islam, Judaism, Jewish history & culture, Islamic history and culture, Muslim Zionism, Jewish diaspora, Opinion Editorials, Jewish Muslim dialogue – on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 – By: Schwartz, Stephen

From Alan Dershowitz, ed., What Israel Means to Me, Hoboken, John Wiley & Sons, 2006.
 
Israel , to me, is the historic, sacred land of the Jews.  Neither more nor less.  It was given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by the Almighty as their eternal home.
 
In making this affirmation, I offer no opinions on the legal or political system that exists within Israel .  It is up to the Israelis themselves to define their constitutional and other arrangements.  That said, I support the maintenance of halacha as the fundamental law of the land, and of aid to the religious educational institutions and norms supported by the pious.   Were I Jewish, I would most likely be Haredi.
 
This latter statement requires some explanation, as does my entire position on this matter.  My father was Jewish, but my mother was Christian, and I was brought up without a religious education of any kind.  My parents were of the radical left, and extremely antireligious.  I was never once taken to a religious service or inside a synagogue or church, except during tourist trips to the Spanish missions in California and the American Southwest, where I lived most of my life.  I am now 56, and left California at age 50.   
 
Nevertheless, I have been a believer in the Almighty since childhood.  And I have contributed extensively to Jewish periodicals, especially the Forward but also including The Jerusalem Post. 
In religion, I am an American Sufi.  I became a formal adherent of the Islamic way of spirituality while working as a journalist and writing on the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  From 1999 to 2001
 
I resided in Sarajevo , Bosnia -Hercegovina.   I am closely associated with Balkan Sufi traditions.  But I have also worked extensively on interfaith projects with Catholics, and while in the Balkans did extensive research on, and contributed to efforts at preservation of, Jewish sacred sites: synagogues and cemeteries that had often been neglected since the Holocaust.
 
I argue for the legitimacy of Israel on the basis of Qur’an, the Islamic Holy Book.  While Jerusalem is never mentioned as a holy city in Qur’an, therein we read the following unequivocal statements:
 
Chapter 2, verse 47:  “Children of Israel, remember the blessing I have bestowed upon you, and that I [the Almighty] have exalted you above the nations.”
 
Chapter 5, verse 21: “Bear in mind the words of Moses to his people.  He said, ‘Remember, my people, the favor which [the Almighty] has bestowed upon you.  He has raised up prophets among you, made you kings, and given you that which He has given no other nation.  Enter, my people, the holy land which [the Almighty] has given you.  Do not turn back, or you shall be ruined.’ ”
 
Chapter 17, verse 104: “[The Almighty] said to the Israelites, ‘Dwell in this land.  When the promise of the hereafter comes to be fulfilled, We shall assemble you all together.’ ”
 
 I believe it is necessary for traditional Muslims around the world to free their global community, or ummah, from the grip of radicalism, fostered above all by Saudi Arabia and its cult of Wahhabism, and to restore pluralism and moderation among Islamic believers. 
 
The Prophet Muhammad himself said,
“I want my ummah to be a community of moderation.”
 
 A necessary step toward cleansing Islam of the taint of extremism and terrorism, a purification that is inevitable, is represented by recognition of the state of Israel as the home of the Jews, and advocacy of true, lasting peace between the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faithful, all of whom worship the same Creator, and all of whom are children of Abraham.
 
The opinions and views articulated by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Israel e News.

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