By Stephen E. Lipken
On a mission to build bridges and fight hate, negative stereotyping and prejudice, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS), a national organization, founded in 2010 by Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab in New Jersey, now has 5 different chapters in Westchester County comprised of Jewish and Muslim women.
“We currently have 132 chapters around the U.S. and Canada that includes about 2,300 members. We hope to have at least another 50 chapters by the end of the year as we have a very large list of women who have requested to be in a chapter,” SOSS Chapter Membership Director Sally Karasov proudly states.
With 72 members in Westchester, Chapter meetings are usually held every 4-6 weeks Karasov relates.
In a spirited question-and-answer format, Daisy Khan, founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) discussed facts versus fiction of America’s perception of Islam and Muslims in the Bronxville Public Library Yeager Room on Tuesday, April 10, hosted by Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS), Westchester Chapter 3, attended by approximately 135 citizens from Pelham, Bronxville and other outlying communities.
“Your presence here means that you want to find alternatives to hatred and to the falsehood that gripped our country from the top leadership on down,” SOSS member Kris Oser stated. “SOSS is a national organization, founded in 2010 by two women, one Jewish and one Muslim. There is a lot we can change together…”
The question was raised regarding ISIS’ justification for slaughtering people based on religious reasons.
“The Koran has the same attitude towards killing a person that the Jewish Torah does—if you kill one person it is as if you destroyed the world. If you save one person it is as if you saved the world,” Khan replied, saying that Mohammed defined jihad as a struggle against your lower self, rather than the commonly perceived “holy war.”
Regarding the Koran “Rules of Engagement,” Khan noted that you are allowed to fight an enemy to defend yourself but not kill non-combatants, rape, pillage or poison wells. “And a State has to declare war, not an individual.”
Khan outlined six Koran hedi, sayings, objectives not readily known to the public: 1) Preservation of Life, Fulfillment; 2) Protection of Religion—not just Islam, the freedom to practice religious beliefs freely; 3) Protection of the Mind, right of intellect and education; 4) Wealth and Enrichment, the right to own property 5) Family and Lineage; 6) The Right to Dignity for all people of Adam.
“These laws were in effect 1,000 years ago,” Khan noted. “As for punishment, you have undoubtedly seen pictures of hands being cut off and beheadings as capital punishment in the maximum Koranic proscribed punishment, hudud. By comparison, some American States have capital punishment; others do not. The same applies here. Most of the time there is just compensation.”
SOSS member Rabbi Fredda Cohen commented, “The Sisterhood of Salaam Sholom is a group of Muslim and Jewish women, along with women of various religions and , who have bonded together with the goal of creating a better, more peaceful world... We have been working tirelessly to pursue justice for all people.”