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C CAIR-FL In The News

All religions urged to 'own' extremists

By Randall P. Lieberman, For Sun Sentinel, On 01 February 2016, Read Original
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I'm an anti-bigotry bigot," said Rabbi Mark Winer, of Boca Raton, referring to his role as an interfaith activist.

Winer says that "every major religion has a war going on between its extremists and moderates." He added that "the overwhelming majority of people in the major religions are moderates, but unfortunately it's the extremists that get most of the public spotlight and attention."

To address this pressing issue, Winer was part of a five-person interfaith panel (one Jewish rabbi, one Christian pastor and three Muslim leaders) recently at the Vista Center in West Palm Beach.

The panel was titled "Extremism & Terrorism." It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, as well as various religious and Democratic Party groups.

Panelists included:

•Winer — president of FAITH: the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust & Harmony, president of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party Faith-Based Caucus and president of the Florida Democratic Party Caucus of American Jews.

•Pastor Gerald Kisner — pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.

Ghazala Salam — chair of the Florida Democratic Party American Muslim Caucus and, until recently, the director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) for South Florida.

•Junaid Akther — long-time activist in the Palm Beach County Democratic Party and president of the Bangladeshi-American Democratic Club.

•Imam Wilfredo Amr Ruiz — a Muslim who is a United States Navy chaplain and a lawyer and political analyst on the Middle East and Muslim world.

According to an event announcement, the panel focused not just on terrorism committed by people who claim to be Muslims — and do so in the name of Islam — but by terrorism committed by every other ethnic, racial and religious group — making it the most crucial issue to the future of humanity.

"It's very important that we own our own extremists and terrorists," Winer said, according to the Palm Beach Post, noting he has drawn the ire of some fellow Jews when he criticized Israel's response to Jewish extremism.

According to the Post, Salam said a key to reducing extremism and terrorism is to resist the urge to blame a faith for the actions of individuals.

"We have to hold the person accountable, not the whole faith," she said. "Education is the key."

Ruiz said the current political debate is giving Americans the false impression that Muslims are somehow more prone to extremism than people of other faiths, according to the Post.

"Extremism does not have an ethnicity, does not have a race, does not have a religion," Ruiz said.

Winer agreed, according to the Post.

"Extremism, coming from every religion, is a threat to everyone," he said.

Winer clarified in a recent phone interview that he's a fighter against bigotry and believes there's too much anti-Muslim feeling currently in our county.

"It's important we continue to have events like this so people see there are many peaceful, well-spoken Muslims who are a great addition to our society," Winer said. "There are a lot more Muslims living in Florida than people know about.

"One of the great things about America is the mix of people who are so different. The quality of our diversity is outstanding.

"I've talked many times, for example, with Ghazala Salam and she sees the Jewish people as a good example for how a minority can thrive in a mostly Christian society. She and I both believe that Jews and Muslims should be much closer."

If anyone would like to discuss these issues with Winer, or possibly host another panel, contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 917-378-7156.