Imam Mohamad Tawhidi is an Islamic reformer who speaks out against anti-Semitism - and now he is a member of DARA's honorary board of directors.
Read more about this important announcement - plus the critical stories from the past month that you may have missed.
Meet Imam Tawhidi
Dr. Steve Samuel, Imam Mohamad Tawhidi, Dr. Leon Kadish
We are very happy to announce that Imam Mohamad Tawhidi has agreed to join our honorary board of directors.
Imam Tawhidi, an Australian Islamic cleric and reformer, has made waves in both the Muslim and wider community for statements calling into question extremist Muslim beliefs. He shared some of these ideas in The Tragedy of Islam: Admissions of a Muslim Imam.
Along the journey from extremist to reformer, Imam Tawhidi also changed his beliefs about Jews, Judaism and Israel. Dubbed the Imam of Peace, he visited Auschwitz earlier this year, saying that he wanted "to take a stand against anti-Semitism."
Imam Tawhidi joins an honorary board that includes Irwin Cotler, Leslie Dan, Dr. Bernard Goldman, Barbara Kay, Robert Lantos and Mary Seeman.
Welcome, Imam Tawhidi!
“It is not correct that anyone may perform circumcision because circumcision is a religious freedom or because they are proficient in it,” said the ministry's spokesperson. “Of course, we will hold to account the people who break the law.”
Decoding the link between measles and anti-Semitism
Cries of "dirty Jew." Pedestrians crossing the street to avoid visibly Jewish people. Bus drivers preventing Jews from boarding. These are some of the responses Jews in the U.S. have faced this year to an outbreak of measles.
We thought measles had been eradicated in the U.S. But as of May, the Centers for Disease Control had confirmed 880 cases of the disease. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are reporting a disproportionate number of cases.
The nexus with the Jewish community is difficult to pinpoint with certainty.
Part of the explanation lies in the ties between Jewish communities in New York and Israel, which has seen its own disease spike. Jewish communities also tend to be close-knit - especially ultra-Orthodox communities.
Some have pointed to the Ukraine connection: thousands of Jews visit Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashana near the grave of the famed Nachman of Breslov. As it happens, Ukraine is seeing a record number of measles cases.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews are also known for producing many babies, who are more vulnerable to the disease. Standard guidelines recommend administering the first MMR vaccine when children reach their first birthday. While the guidelines move up the guideline for children who might be exposed to the disease, not everyone follows the guidance.
And then there is the anti-vaxxer camp in the ultra-Orthodox community, led or emboldened by several anti-vaxxer rabbis.
Whatever the cause of the outbreak, its anti-Semitic symptoms have challenged one especially visible sector of the Jewish community at a time when anti-Semitism in the U.S. has grown on several fronts.
The myth of Jews spreading disease is as time-honoured as it is false. After this current outbreak of measles fades, will the ugly slurs recede along with them? Or will they remain to poison public minds and discourse?
Mohels under attack in Holland
Dutch Jews may soon need physicians to perform ritual circumcisions.
The Dutch Health Ministry said it will enforce its policy prohibiting non-doctors from serving as mohels.
Many Jewish communities around the world use the services of mohels who were not trained as physicians. The special challenge in Holland concerns the relative dearth of mohels.
The Dutch Health Ministry has zeroed in on two prominent mohels: Herman Loonstein, a lawyer who has performed about 2,000 circumcisions, and Meir Villegas Henríquez.
“If they approach me," said Loonstein to Dutch broadcaster NOS, "I would ask what’s their business with me. I have nothing to do with the Health Ministry’s inspection."
While some legal experts maintain the law prohibits circumcision by non-medical professionals, other claim the law is unclear. They suggest the courts will ultimately need to decide the matter.
In 2010, the Royal Dutch Medical Association advocated against all non-medical circumcision of boys, arguing that it introduced unnecessary risks and violated the rights of underage patients.
Take action on WHO
Last month we highlighted the World Health Organization's latest resolution, which once again singled out Israel for health conditions in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan.
We also announced a DARA collaboration with the new Health Care Professionals Group at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA.
This month we join forces with CAMERA and its members to take action against the WHO. This is our ask:
- Acquaint yourselves with the Eastern Mediterranean division of the WHO as a source of biased information and resolutions. Visit the WHO website. Review the articles and videos related to Israel.
- E-mail Nyka Alexander (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org), Communications Officer for WHO in Geneva. You can cite a few examples of WHO’s evident bias against Israel, and point out the damage this does to WHO’s reputation in the US. Ask her to pass along your message to WHO’s senior leadership.
- You can make the same points in an e-mail to Leticia Linn (email@example.com), Communications Officer for the WHO Regional Office for the Americas. (PAHO is the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.) Ask her to pass along your message to the senior leadership of PAHO and WHO.
- Write proactive letters to the editors of national, regional and community publications, particularly when WHO is referred to as an authoritative source about alleged Israeli restriction of medical care to Palestinians.
- Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you come across articles referring to WHO that you think need to be addressed.