Jan 18, 2022 · 6:57 am

Imam Abdullah Antepli

Following the hostage situation in a Colleyville, Texas synagogue over the weekend, Rich and Jarrod are joined by Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University who issued a wake-up call to the North American Muslim community.

Show Notes

[00:00:00] Male Reporter 1: FBI negotiators are in Colleyville talking to a suspect who is holding hostages in a Colleyville synagogue.

[00:00:07] Female Reporter 1: During a service that was being live-streamed on Facebook this morning, some online comments indicated that there was a man inside Congregation Beth Israel holding people hostage.

[00:00:17] Male Reporter 2: The hostage situation at a Colleyville synagogue is entering its 10th hour.

[00:00:22] Female Reporter 2: Right now governor Abbott is tweeting saying, “All hostages are safe. The situation is over.”

[00:00:29] Male Reporter 3: After 11 long hours, the siege was ended when Malik Faisal Akram was killed by an elite FBI team.

[00:00:36] Male Reporter 4: We’ll continue to investigate his contacts. Our investigation will have a global reach. We have been in contact already with multiple FBI [unintelligible 00:00:44] to include Tel Aviv and London.

[00:00:47] Rich Goldberg: Welcome back to Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast. I’m Rich Goldberg.

[00:00:52] Jarrod Bernstein: And I’m Jarrod Bernstein.

[00:00:54] Rich Goldberg: Let’s start, Jarrod, by obviously setting the scene. We had the events this past weekend in a community close to Dallas, Texas, where a synagogue was taken over, during services that were being live-streamed, by a terrorist demanding the release of another terrorist, who was in prison for the last 10 years. The rabbis, several congregants being held hostage, nearly all of Shabbat. Finally, we got the news late on Saturday night after Shabbat had ended that, after long hours of negotiations, an FBI hostage rescue team, having been flown in from Quantico, taking the lead, was able to take out the terrorists and all hostages made it out alive, thankfully.

[00:01:44] Jarrod Bernstein: Yes, Rich, we’re thankful to Hashem. We’re thankful to law enforcement, to the community, to the nation that rallied behind us. I think as we continue to follow the investigation, today we thought we’d unpack some of the underlying ideologies of the terrorists and extremism in this country. We have a very special guest. I’m going to leave the intro to you, but suffice to say I’m very excited that we’re able to have this conversation going forward today.

[00:02:16] Rich Goldberg: I am too. Obviously, there are certain groups out there. I think we’ll talk to the imam about them, hopefully, who many would accuse of incitement over the last several months leading up to this event. I think this is a very timely conversation. Imam Abdullah Antepli is a fellow on Jewish-Muslim relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute and co-director of the Muslim Leadership Initiative.

He is on the faculty at both Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke Divinity School, where, from 2008 to 2014, he served as the university’s first Muslim chaplain, one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at US colleges and universities. He was recently recognized as one of the most influential Muslims in US higher education by The NonProfit Times. Imam, thank you so much for joining us.

[00:03:09] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Good morning, it’s my pleasure.

[00:03:12] Rich Goldberg: Obviously, we’re having this conversation under difficult circumstances. We’d rather be having it without what happened over the weekend, but we are in this situation. I think you’re an incredible person and thought leader to help us discuss some of these issues. I want to begin for our listeners who may not have seen, you had an incredible post on your Twitter feed on Sunday, a brief thread. I want to share a little bit of it for our listeners, and then have you maybe discuss it a little bit more.

“Houston, we have a problem. Now that the hostages are rescued unharmed and safely reunited with their loved ones, we North American Muslims need to have the morally required tough conversations about those “Polite Zionists are our enemies,” “The Benjamins” voices, and realities within our community. We must, without ands and buts, without any further denial, dismissal, and or trivializing of the issues, we need to honestly discuss the increasing anti-semitism within various Muslim communities.” You go on from there.

Imam Abdullah, incredibly powerful statement. I want to unpack it along with Jarrod for our listeners. You declared very confidently, “Muslims living in North America undeniably have an increasing anti-semitism problem.” What makes you so convinced that a problem exists more systemically than others, I would say?

[00:04:33] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Well, first of all, my deepest condolences. Love and sympathy and prayers of strength and resilience to Jewish communities, not only in the Dallas area but globally. As many of you were also in the synagogue on that day, around that time, it could have been any synagogue, I can only imagine. As a Muslim, who have been subject to violence and hatred in our houses of worship for the last 20-some years. I can only imagine the shock waves of fear and terror and anxiety has enveloped hearts and minds of many of my Jewish brothers and sisters.

I am sending my utmost sincere prayers. I really, really hope we can turn things around. What makes me incredibly convinced that we have an increasing anti-semitism problem, that post came in the context in which, in the last couple of decades within the American Muslim communities. I am embedded in the American Muslim community. I’m a proud member of the American Muslim community. I love my community, but this community is increasingly becoming vulnerable towards various forms of subtle and unsubtle anti-semitism in the name of pro-Palestinian activism.

We have every right to be pro-Palestinian. I proudly consider myself as such, one of the very few labels that I feel comfortable putting on myself, but pro-Palestinian activism has no place for hate, for anti-semitism of any kind. Regretfully, for complicated reasons, as the Palestinian lives and tragedy and suffering has further deteriorated in the Middle East, many bad faith actors are taking and desecrating Palestinian suffering, solidarity with the Palestinians, and in the name of their suffering, are promoting irresponsibly, anti-semitism, anti-Jewish hatred.

They are taking their legitimate political criticism crossing the line and trafficking in the good old anti-semitism that the Jewish community and others have suffered for the last two millennia.

[00:06:42] Jarrod Bernstein: Imam, do you think this is done consciously or this is an unconscious thing that just happens, or do you think the pro-Palestinian activists who crossover into anti-semitism are doing it willfully and purposefully?

[00:06:57] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Any form of hate has two major categories. Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, one category is “innocent.” People don’t know any better. They don’t have enough knowledge, education, exposure. Usually the majority– Look at Islamophobia, people who hate Islam or feel uncomfortable with Muslims. If you live in a 9/11 era, after 9/11, all you hear is jihad, terrorism, violence, et cetera. You listen to certain media outlets, and constant exposure to toxic information about Islam and Muslims. Inevitably, you will develop this bias, hatred, et cetera.

Most of it, again, majority of it is “innocent.” It could be healed with some education, diversification of sources of information. It could be– or interaction and exposure to various communities. As again in every form of hate and racism, there is a small, growing, and somewhat organized minority anti-semitism industry in the name of pro-Palestine activism, who are intentionally and deliberately organizing disseminating information, and pushing the envelope. It is undeniable to see some of those efforts, and organizations spending money and putting ideological and institutional zeal into this.

Before I make many more fellow Muslims uncomfortable and defensive, all I am saying is just activate the golden rule. What is the golden rule in every religion, in every wisdom tradition, which is embedded, which is the heart and soul of Islam? If you are– Like, treat people the way you want to be treated. Since 9/11, whenever the discourse is toxic, whenever anti-Muslim conversations increase, Park51, or Quran burning, whenever the discourse is so toxic, you see inevitable increase in the hate and crimes against Muslims.

To see this Dallas incident as just one mentally sick person, just an episodic incident, has nothing to do with the broader discourse within the Muslim community, it is unthinkable. It is a moral failure. I am not saying those antisemitic discourse is directly causing this information, but they are not disconnected. It is related. Whenever there was a Park51 controversy, there was a mosque burning in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, what did we Muslims say? What do you expect? Of course, if you dial up the Muslim hate, people will take and resort to violence.

Here at Duke University, the Duke Chapel, about six years ago, on their own, they wanted to do the Assan, the call to prayer from Duke Chapel. I don’t know if you remember that scandal and controversy. Franklin Graham, incredibly a regretful Christian pastor, son of Billy Graham turned this into xenophobic anti-Muslim propaganda. Three weeks later, three incredibly beautiful young UNC students were killed execution style. Three later after this Muslim prayer controversy, and what did we Muslim say? What do we expect?

Of course, if people like Franklin Graham and others are poisoning the well and poisoning the hearts and minds of Americans about Islam and Muslims, of course, these incidents will happen. Before this incident, I speak with conviction because your audience may not have heard, just about a couple of months ago American Muslims for Palestine have put together a regretfully antisemitic report declaring 90-plus percent of American Jews as non-kosher.

In the convention where this report is discussed by very prominent American Muslim leaders, one of the most regretful voices, Ms. Zahra Billoo from CAIR the largest Muslim Civil Rights Organization in the United States on the podium, to hundreds of participants, declared all polite Zionist, every single American Jew and American Jewish organization has any loyalty, sympathy, respect or connection to Israel, as our enemies, as our enemies, this is recorded.

If this is not antisemitic, and if this is not flaming the fans of antisemitism, what is? Here a few weeks later, we are having these incidents. It is a moral call, Muslim community has all they need to activate the golden rule and empathy because we are facing a similar hatred. We shouldn’t do onto others what others are doing onto us. I’m sorry, I went too long, but I cannot express my frustration and anger enough, how sad I am that a vulnerable minor marginalized community like mine, we are exactly doing to the Jewish community what’s being done to us.

[00:12:15] Jarrod Bernstein: Imam, I just want to tell you as a long time Bloomberg staffer, one of my proudest moments working for Mike Bloomberg is when he stood up and made it clear what we ought to be doing as a country with the Park51 mosque, never been prouder. Always proud to work for Mike Bloomberg, but never prouder than that day. I know Rich has a question here, but I just wanted to editorialize for 15 seconds there.

[00:12:38] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Thank you. I was a proud moment, and there were many, not only Mayor Bloomberg, but others, but there were also regretful people like the then CEO of ADL Mr. A. Foxman and other Jewish voices, or rotten souls like Steve Emerson, Pamela Galler, and David Yerushalmi, those Muslim haters. They used the opportunity of the Part51 controversy to declare collective the Muslim community as the fifth column, as a threat to our national security.

[00:13:10] Rich Goldberg: Imam, you touched on something that’s obviously very much right now, top of mind for a lot of our listeners, and that is you, when you’re talking about the organizations that typify that sort of toxicity creation and the divisions CAIR being at the top of the list, Council on American Islamic Relations. Do you believe they represent any large sense, size of the Muslim in community, or is this a very small percentage voice that they are they’re reflecting? Because in the media they have an outsized presence where we’re made to believe this is the view of the American Muslim community.

[00:13:55] Imam Abdullah Antepli: It is a $1 million, an unanswerable question, who represents American Muslim communities? I think that’s part of the main issue for many Americans, including Jewish Americans. They are having a hard time understanding the American Muslim community as it is not organized in any form and shape the way the Catholic community, the way the Protestant community or the Jewish community is organized. There is no denominational breakdown. It is incredibly decentral. It is one of the most ethnically racially sectarian-wise diverse community. The short answer is no, they don’t represent the Muslim community.

If you look into these organizations of the alphabet soup of CAIR and AMP and others, et cetera, at most, if you look into PRRI, and Gallup, those who are studying sociologically American Muslim communities, at most, they represent 10% of the Muslim community. The problem is, as you said, they are the only products in the market. They are the only public voices and faces in the American mainstream, American media, American discourse. The part of my frustration, why are the 90% is allowing these toxic, incredibly problematic, increasingly involved in hateful rhetoric people are representing American Islam? It has a lot to do with the way in which American Muslim communities, still ethnically diverse, and they don’t know how to come up and speak in an organized voice. We will get there in one or two generations, but regretfully, these people are taking advantage of the monopoly in the organized Muslim space and bullying the Muslim community being toxic, hateful gatekeepers, and doing all sorts of damage, hence my frustration and anger.

As angry as I am to the CAIR or these irresponsible, hateful people, I am more angry with the 90% of the sleeping, inactive American Muslim majority. Enough is enough. What would take, as I said, in that post earlier, what would take for a moral awakening that we can finally do not let these people to be the face and voice of American Islam and create different pipelines of leadership, different organizations, so that the mainstream Muslim American quality connection, integration to American society and the representation of the mainstream non-toxic American Muslim Islamic theology will be the main discourse?

Regretfully that is not the case. These organizations, part of the problem is, I will be very honest here. CAIR, ANP, and other organizations– Do you have another two minutes for a boring history lesson?

[00:16:45] Jarrod Bernstein: Of course. There’s no boring history lesson.

[00:16:48] Imam Abdullah Antepli: [unintelligible 00:16:48] the American Muslim community-

[00:16:50] Rich Goldberg: For our listeners, AMP, Americans for Muslim in Palestine.

[00:16:55] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Yes, American Muslims for Palestine based in Chicago or organizations like Electronic Intifada and others and various forms of pro-Palestine activism, and which is in itself is not problematic but these platforms are increasingly being unfortunately vulnerable towards subtle and unsubtle hate and antisemitism. These organizations, two-thirds of the American Muslim community came after 1965.

Of course, Muslims, they brought with them, whatever those Muslim majority societies they came from in the Middle East, in North Africa, in South Asia.

Of course, the Islamic organizations, Islamic communities, and centers that they have built had, understandably, some relationship with that country of origin. As we move forward and integrate ourselves, American society, regretfully, we were not able to filter out some of the toxic, hateful, rigid, potentially violent interpretations of Islam represented by [unintelligible 00:18:05] represented by Wahabism, represented by certain fringe elements within the Jamaatu Islami. These names may not be clear to the audience, but these are people who represent the ideologies behind the 20th century, 21st-century extremism, Islamism, and jihadism, et cetera.

There is no doubt these organizations have historical roots with these toxic movements and groups. The American Muslim community, that 90%, is having a hard time how to identify and discuss these toxic roots without being labeled as a fifth column. Because if American Muslim community openly come and said these organizations in their inception, they have toxic DNAs, then people like Steve Emerson, Pamela Geller, David Yerushalmi, these rotten souls, the detractors of Islam, haters of Islam, will be proven correct.

The entire American Muslim community and our loyalty, our space and place in American society will be in question. This is the trick because you will never understand how toxic CAIR is unless you go back to its roots. Unless you see some of the problematic DNAs only manifesting in this form and shape.

[00:19:25] Jarrod Bernstein: No, it’s a perfect setup for my next question, actually. There is a push from some of the members of Congress who are part of the squad to focus on Islamophobia, and the State Department decreed a global envoy for Islamophobia like we have an antisemitism envoy. Do you think that that is a sincere effort, or is it a way to deflect and evade some of the accusations of antisemitism, or can it be both at the same time? If you could discuss that a little bit. I have my feelings, Rich has his, but interested to hear yours.

[00:20:00] Imam Abdullah Antepli: I teach Ethics here at Duke University. From both a secular angle, the Socratic Rational School of Ethics out of Athens, Greek philosophy, or the religious ethics of a kind, Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic. Of course, the field of Ethics is incredibly diverse, but there are a few things incredibly common and universal. Ethics have to be consistent. It cannot apply one way and it doesn’t apply another way. I think what this squad and others are promoting are right message by the wrong messengers. These are people who are not morally consistent. In their demand of islamophobia, they are correct.

We have an Islamophobia problem. We have an increased anti-Muslim hatred problem. There is violence against Islam as a religion and Muslim communities and Muslim organizations, it’s real. Three miles from my house six years ago, three Muslim UNC students, killed in an execution-style. This is not fiction, but being the wrong ambassadors, this squad and others, those who are politicizing the issue by not demanding a similar amount of diligence on issues like antisemitism and others, I think they have no moral ground to stand on.

I hope many more will focus on the message and take away from the politicization of these politicians and really focus on the problem itself, Islamophobia, both Republican and Democrat and others. Those who really uphold hate of any kind will focus on the issue and not allow these people to monopolize the discourse on islamophobia. We need to take hate of any kind very seriously.

[00:21:43] Rich Goldberg: Iman Abdullah, I do want to take a step back for a moment for our listeners. Talk about your journey personally, how you’ve come to this sort of role at Shalom Hartman Institute. What is your personal journey of how you’ve gotten to be where you are today?

[00:22:01] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Thank you. That requires many, many hours of conversation.

[00:22:05] Rich Goldberg: At least two books probably.

[00:22:08] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Yes. You and my wife, keep demanding that I should write at least a couple of books. There are two elements I want to highlight. One as I always publicly introduce myself, I am a recovering antisemite. I have first-hand experience of antisemitism. Growing up in a very secular, non-religious, very chauvinist, Turkish nationals household in the southeastern part of Turkey, my parents, my early teachers, they were all antisemitic.

As I’m becoming a teenager trying to understand the world, trying to understand why Muslims are Muslim, civilizations are going through a dark age, why are we perpetually failing as Muslims economically, socially, politically, culturally? You are trying to understand the complexities of the broken Middle East. I was exposed to a very sophisticated antisemitic propaganda who answered all these complicated questions. That’s the power of hate. It gives convincing, simplistic black and white answers to very complicated questions that literature cannot be all the misery that Muslims around the world are going through because of the Jews.

They were behind media, behind banks, behind everything, they were the enemies of Islam and wanted to humiliate and destroy Islam. The first book I read about Jews and Judaism at the age of 12, or 13, was Henry Ford’s International Jew, or I’m sorry, it together with the children’s version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Children’s version, updated through Israeli-Palestinian conflict and then Henry Ford’s International Jews, and then Mein Kampf a few times before the age of 15.

Look at this, a Russian literature translated a German literature, antisemitic literature, translated into “beautiful” Turkish and given to me as part of my education. What saved me is my religion. When I became religious, when I attended the religious schools, with the moral framework that religion is trying to build in me, I couldn’t reconcile the fact that I was feeling and convinced that Jews as people, Judaism as a religion are irredeemably evil. Learning religion and embedding myself in the ethical-moral literature in my religion has slowed me down.

Then after coming to the United States, meeting God-loving, God-fearing Jews like yourselves, it was a slap in the face. If you’re an ethical-moral person, once you realize you’re a hater, you have to take that incredibly seriously. It’s not a switch on and off. I took the nearest exit driving in the opposite direction since then. I am trying to take my recovery seriously so that I am not alone. There are many other Muslims around the world as vulnerable and expose to similar kind of poison as well. This as Jarrod’s earlier question, there is organized campaigns and industries of hate trying to corrupt souls and hearts and minds of Muslims. In the same level of intentionality, commitment, and zeal, we have to work against this hate. This is where I’m coming from.

[00:25:27] Jarrod Bernstein: Wow, Imam, that’s incredible. I look forward to the book. Count me among them.

[00:25:38] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Thank you. I need to write a couple of books. One of them will be recovering antisemite’s journey. I say recovering– Also, many people could look into my work at Shalom Hartman and all the things that I’m trying to do in Jewish Muslim space and considering as recovered, but I don’t believe so because hate is like a viral infection. If it gets into your system early in your developmental stage, it requires a lifelong commitment to contain that virus because it never goes away. It always comes back in the most vulnerable ways,.

Therefore, I will keep the recovering antisemite label, which morally rings in my ears, and in my heart that I have to work hard. Look, one of the largest and existing civil rights organization in the United States in the name of my community, in the name of my religion, spewing antisemitism at a time where antisemitism is an all-time high. At a time 60% of the religiously affiliated or religiously inspired violence is against Jews and Judaism, its antisemitic literature. These people have no shame.

[00:26:50] Rich Goldberg: Imam Abdullah, I’m curious for some of your views for some of the issues that we’ve grappled with as Americans and foreign policy, but also those who study the Middle East, those who are living in the Middle East, different countries, Israel, our Arab friends, and neighbors as well. and that is where we are 20 years on from 9/11 with radical ideologies within the Muslim world, not in the United States but abroad. More importantly, one of the lessons we really talked about in the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 was that the American military can do a lot of things, it can’t win an ideological war.

That’s something that has to happen from within the Muslim community. What is the state of that war, if you will, from within as far as the struggle between moderate or as some would say traditional Islam versus those who exploit it into extremism?

[00:27:53] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Richard, thank you. You’ve been asking, both of you have been asking profound questions. Regretfully, we are nowhere in defeating the evil ideology behind 9/11. We are nowhere, and regretfully American foreign policy or national security, regretfully, do not know how to fight and defeat the enemy on the ideological and civilizational ground. All we know is how to fight militaristically, but what we are ultimately fighting is not just terrorists with weapons, we are fighting with the evil, sickening, distorted perverted ideology and interpretation of religion. You cannot put a bullet through an ideology.

We didn’t defeat Nazi Germany only militarily. We also defeated them ideologically as a global community, so much contribution from the American society, government. We remain and get involved in the process of defeating Nazi ideology, thankfully. It’s still there, but still in the margins of German society. We didn’t defeat Imperial Japan, and that Imperial colonial ideology only militarily. We also were part of a solution and defeated this ideologically, socially, economically. Regretfully, we lost that culture it seems, we are going after this only militarily, almost primarily militarily.

Therefore we are defeating them in Afghanistan, they show up in Syria and Iraq. We are defeating them there, they show up in East Africa and West Africa, and this regretful cycle and the tragic cycle will continue unless we take this very seriously. Terrorism, jihadism, Islamism, violence, and extremism in the name of Islam is a product of three things, one, evil perverted ideology, much of which are rooted in the Wahhabi teaching of Islam. Here we are after 20 years of 9/11, we are nowhere even close to discuss Saudi Arabia, its involvement with the Wahhabi ideology. Our allyship, our inconvenient marriage, being in bed with this evil ideology is as strong as it gets.

We are nowhere even critically analyzing even 9/11, 17 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens. We never even questioned this relationship and this evil ideology’s ability to export itself around the world through petrol dollars, nowhere. We are nowhere there. Ideologically we have to go to the root causes of Wahhabism and other forms of perverted violent extremist ideologies, I can’t say more. There is an ideology and interpretation of religion that we need to go after, but that’s not the only religion. Second source of root causes are economic, social, political, and cultural.

These people are not just reading somewhere in the desert Saudi Arabia of some version of Quran and getting violent. The political, economic, social, cultural, deeply broken societies only produce nothing but violence, death, and destruction. We are nowhere like marshal plans and other ways of helping these deeply broken societies and communities who keep producing terrorists to recover their civilization health. The third is incredibly toxic patriarchal, tribal, cultural practices and norms and forms of government and dictatorships and lack of democracy and human rights and civil liberties in this region.

We have to recover, we have to help and enable. We have a moral responsibility to our Muslim majority societies in all three fronts to recover their overall civilizational health, only then, only then we can say we are making progress. I am not even sure if we are militarily making any progress. Look, there are more terrorists now than 20 years ago, there are more terrorists’ safe havens than 20 years ago. There are more deeply held frustration, anger towards the West and American foreign policy than 20 years ago. I am sorry to present a very bleak picture, but that is the reality.

[00:32:20] Rich Goldberg: I think our listeners would be curious to your views on some of the political manifestations in different parts of the Middle East. How do you grapple with the concept of political Islam? How do you view groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?

[00:32:36] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Political Islam, and/or any form of politically embedded religious ideology is pure evil. You see it everywhere, including Turkey. Look at what Erdogan is doing right now in the name of political Islam. It’s destroying one of the most democratic, economically prosperous country in the Muslim majority world. It was an ideal Muslim majority society who could have been a bridge between the West and the East, who could have produced potentially the first indigenous homegrown Muslim democracy, but look at this political Islamists ideology. Once they grab the power, they go back to their factory defaults.

They are power-hungry, hegemonic, and toxic ideologies. You are either with them or against them, and they are there to destroy unless they see their political Islamist agenda is fully established. You can never trust these people. I despise every form of political-religious ideology of any kind, and my community and global Muslim community is suffering many different forms of this political Islamism. That’s why it’s imperative for American Muslim organizations to analyze, fight against and defeat the political Islamist agenda within American Muslim organizations like CAIR and AMP, and others.

[00:34:07] Jarrod Bernstein: Imam, you’re a fellow and you co-direct the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute, which is based in Jerusalem. How do your colleagues in the Muslim community react to an affiliation with an Israeli-based institute?

[00:34:20] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Diversity of reaction to this MLI program is a very helpful window in which you can really, through the controversies and scandals, public discussion, and the private discussion that not many people see. There is a very loud, incredibly loud, and vicious reaction opposition to this program mainly by the absolute followers of the BDS movement, which CAIR and AMP and Electronic Intifada, and others are involved. Regretful it’s the same situation we are discussing, public discourse about this program is vilification because we crossed the picket line because we violate the academic BDS, because we are engaging with Zionist and Israeli economic educational institutions.

It’s an educational program, as you know, where American and Canadian Muslims are learning about Judaism, Jews, Zionism and Israel trying to make sense of the world or understand the world through the eyes of our fellow citizens who happen to be Jewish. There is also again, a silence or private support, love and appreciation and impact.

Regretfully much of the support of the program and respect for the program, admiration of the program, or the real desire to see this program fulfilling its promise and healing the divides within Jews and Muslims in North America, regretfully remain to be silent and private, not public because of the incredible power of these belligerent bullies that CAIR and AMP, and the Electronic Intifada people are represented by.

[00:36:03] Jarrod Bernstein: Imam, we have something we do. We’ve talked about a lot of heady, thoughtful, serious topics today, and we’re happy for it. We like to do something at the end of each one of our podcast where we lighten things up a little bit, and ask a series of questions to get a little bit more of a sense of you, who you are when we’re not talking about the great questions of our age. We’re going to go through and ask you three or four questions–

[00:36:31] Imam Abdullah Antepli: I have one in mind myself in addition to your questions.

[00:36:35] Jarrod Bernstein: What is your favorite phrase in Arabic and your favorite phrase in Hebrew?

[00:36:40] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Can I blend the two?

[00:36:45] Jarrod Bernstein: Absolutely.

[00:36:46] Imam Abdullah Antepli: My favorite Hebrew/Arabic term is Baroque Allah. You know [foreign language] is so central, you don’t even have to be religious. You go to the state of Tel Aviv and on the beach, the citizens of the state of Tel Aviv casually would say [foreign language] when you ask them, how are you, what’s up? Same thing with Muslims, Alhamdulillah is such “praise be to Lord” and that sense of gratitude. I always, in the Jewish Muslim circles, blend the two.

It unlocks incredible amounts of goodwill and creative energy and the spiritual presence of the Hashem, God almighty. I always– when people, a Jew or a Muslim, in the Jewish-Muslim context asked me, how are you? [foreign language] I say Baroque Allah.

[00:37:34] Rich Goldberg: Imam, do you have a favorite restaurant or favorite food when you’re in Israel or anywhere else in the Middle East?

[00:37:41] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Absolutely, two. The Azura in Machaneh Yehudah. I think that place is a– I don’t work for them, I don’t take their commissions. I have no commercial business relationship with them, but I think in terms of the Holy Land and the sanctity of the place that Azura restaurant the Jerusalem market in Machaneh Yehudah, they are Sephardic Jews, people who came from northern Iraq and Syria, built this cuisine there. If you haven’t eaten, it is incredible. My second favorite restaurant is the Palestinian restaurant in Jaffa, Old Man and the Sea.

It oversees the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and it is an incredible place. Unfortunately, it’s not fully kosher, but for those who eat or who have a little bit more flexible cultural practices, the fish and the kind of vegetarian meta and the appetizers there are heavenly. I experienced in both Azura and The Old Man and the Sea, a semi-religious transcendental spiritual moment whenever I go there.

[00:38:55] Jarrod Bernstein: Excellent. I actually think I’ve been there. Last question, Imam, favorite Jew basketball player of all time? I’ll go first. Mine is Reggie Love because if Reggie hears this and I don’t say, Reggie Love, he’s going to be very upset with me. Who’s your favorite Jew basketball player of all time?

[00:39:14] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Until this year, it was Zion, but this year Paolo, he was a student in my class, so I am incredibly biased. He’s a freshman and a rising star, he will make all of us incredibly proud. I was in the Miami game only a couple of days ago, I think he’s becoming one of the upcoming incredible stars of the religion of Blue Devil. He will be the ambassador and the prophet of this basketball religion, and he will make all of us proud. Let me add one light-hearted thing. I saw it on Twitter, his name is not very clear, but I mentioned his Twitter account on my tweet. I hope everybody will say Amin to his statement.The only hostage situation in a synagogue should be the hostage by the rabbi’s bad sermon. There should not be any other hostage situation, only acceptable or tolerable hostage situation is because the sermon is just unbearable and you are held hostage by the length of that sermon.” Let’s take this very seriously. This incident is in the context in which antisemitism is all-time high by non-Jewish organizations are verifying, and it’s appalling. It’s disgusting. It’s reprehensible. It’s not who we are.

Especially our achievements and success and progress that we have made in defeating antisemitism on religious grounds, on ideological grounds, on nationalistic grounds, we are regressing, and old habits are dying hard. We are all recovering antisemites, and these viruses, as we relax, our healthy pressure on them is coming to haunt us. Let’s take it seriously and let’s make sure our next podcast will be over not any other tragic incident, antisemitic or Islamophobic or otherwise.

[00:41:16] Rich Goldberg: Amen, as you say, Imam. Imam Abdullah, thank you so much for joining us on Jewish Insiders Limited Liability Podcast.

[00:41:23] Imam Abdullah Antepli: Thank you very much. Greetings and peace to all of you and your audience.

[00:41:26] Jarrod Bernstein Syukran.

[00:41:26] Rich Goldberg: And to you. Jarrod, that was an incredible conversation and an important one for not just Jewish listeners to hear, I think everybody should be listening to this podcast and this interview and following the Imam on his Twitter feed and his writings. Did not hold back punches on a group like CIAR, which obviously is very much front and center on people’s minds right now, after many months of incitement.

Also not being whataboutism or anything like that, calling out antisemitism. It’s a strong and welcome voice, and we need more partners, and we need to be partners with the Imam and his community as well.

[00:42:10] Jarrod Bernstein: I found really powerful what he said about talking about being pro-Palestinian, advocating for Palestinian rights, but not having that cause conflated with antisemitism. More people who want to be for the Palestinian cause really need to understand that is something that’s possible. I was really happy that the Imam addressed it and talked about Islamism and some of how we got to where we are now and where we’re going.

[00:42:40] Rich Goldberg: I will say for those who have tracked the long war, the war on terror, we obviously talked a lot about this at the 20th anniversary last year of 9/11. Some very real comments that we need to take to heart on the state of radical Islamism in the Middle East, especially, and what we are going to do about that ideology going forward. We need more Imam Abdullahs.

[00:43:07] Jarrod Bernstein: We do, we do. Inshallah.


[00:43:10] Jarrod Bernstein: You liked the show? Help us get the word out to other people. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Most importantly, tell your friends, because it’s the best recommendation we can get.

[00:43:21] Rich Goldberg: Until next time, this is Limited Liability Podcast. Thanks for listening.


[00:43:40] [END OF AUDIO]

About the Podcast

Limited Liability Podcast is a new weekly podcast for readers of Jewish Insider. Hear from the key players generating buzz and making headlines in conversation with two top political operatives, Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg. One Democrat, one Republican. Both hosts have extensive experience in the political arena and a deep rolodex to match. It’s Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff brought to life.


Jarrod Bernstein

Jarrod has 20 years of experience counseling institutions with complex organizational structures through times of uncertainty and crisis. He has advised on and executed ventures in both public and private sectors on a wide variety of topics. Bernstein served in both the Bloomberg and Obama administrations in senior communications, community outreach, and counterterrorism positions, including assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and associate director of public engagement at the White House. He has been featured on CNN and other networks as an expert commentator on a variety of Homeland Security topics. Bernstein regularly advises clients in communications, government relations, disaster management and combating bias.

Richard Goldberg

Rich is a Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Rich previously served on the White House National Security Council and led the Trump administration’s efforts to counter Iranian weapons of mass destruction. A Chicago native, Goldberg previously served as chief of staff to former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and as a senior adviser to former United States Sen. Mark Kirk. As a devoted Cubs fan and former Navy intelligence officer, Rich enjoys his whiskey neat.

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