I first reviewed this article posted by Saumya Arya Hass several weeks ago.  It and others to be posted here offer informative insights, redactions, and experiences linked to Vodou.  In order to better “understand” this important, yet misunderstood spiritual system, the inclusion of varied viewpoints connected to my project on sacred world music are critical:

Huffington Post Online
02/25/2011 09:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
What is Voodoo? Understanding a Misunderstood Religion

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By Saumya Arya Haas – ALB candidate in Religious Studies at Harvard University. She lives with challenges due to a Traumatic Brain Injury. Prior to this life-altering injury, she engaged in Interfaith/Intergroup Dialogue and Social Justice work as Director of Headwaters/Delta Interfaith, advising organizations including The New Orleans Healing Center and Hindu American Seva Charities; this work has taken her everywhere from West Africa to the White House. She writes for diverse publications online and in print media. Saumya is a priestess of both Hinduism and Vodou.

(S.A.H.) Before I answer any questions, I have some for you: What do you know about Voodoo?  Where did you get that impression?

Voodoo probably isn’t what you think it is. It might be easier to start with what Voodoo isn’t: Voodoo isn’t accurately portrayed in most movies, TV shows and books. Even some documentaries and non-fiction books are misleading. Voodoo isn’t a cult, black magic or devil worship. People who practice Voodoo are not witchdoctors, sorcerers or occultists. Voodoo isn’t a practice intended to hurt or control others. Most Voodooists have never seen a “Voodoo doll” (unless, like you, they saw it in a movie).

Voodoo isn’t morbid or violent. Voodoo isn’t the same everywhere. Not everyone who practices Voodoo does it in exactly the same way or agrees on exactly the same things. (This document only represents my understanding of Voodoo. I can’t speak for everyone!)

So, what is Voodoo?

Voodoo is a religion that originates in Africa. In the Americas and the Caribbean, it is thought to be a combination of various African, Catholic and Native American traditions. It is practiced around the world but there is no accurate count of how many people are Voodooists.

Voodoo has no scripture or world authority. It is community-centered and supports individual experience, empowerment and responsibility.

Voodoo is different in different parts of the world, and varies from community to community. This is mostly about Voodoo in New Orleans and Haiti.  Voodoo embraces and encompasses the entirety of human experience. It is practiced by people who are imperfect and may use religion for their own purposes.

What do Voodooists believe?

To understand what they believe, you have to first understand how a Voodooist sees the world. Those who practice Voodoo believe that there is a visible and an invisible world, and that these worlds are intertwined. Death is a transition to the invisible world, so our predecessors are still with us in spirit. They watch over and inspire us.

In addition to our ancestors and loved ones we knew in life, there are the Lwa, which can also be understood as archetypes of human personalities (such as Ogunthe warrior) and others that embody more specific concerns or localities (such as Marie Laveau in New Orleans). Each Lwa is actually a family of similar types (i.e. there is more than one Ogun; more than one way to be a warrior). Voodooists develop relationships with the Lwa to seek their counsel and help with concerns in the visible world. In some ways this is not dissimilar to the secular practice of studying and honoring remarkable historic figures. For example, someone who wishes to effect social change might find inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi and feel a kinship with them. They may read their books, keep a poster of them on the wall, place significance on their day of birth or death and try to live by their example. In a similar fashion, a Voodooist develops a relationship with particular Lwa, seeks to understand and embody the principles they represent, connects spiritually in order to affect personal transformation and manifest this energy in the visible world to help the living.

Like Catholic saints or Hindu deity figures, the Lwa are familiar and accessible whereas the “great good God,” although loving, is distant, and somewhat above individual human concerns.

Voodoo has ordained clergy, Hougan (priests) and Manbo (priestesses) that make a commitment to a spiritual path and can offer guidance when needed, but it is believed that each person is responsible for their own actions and capable of self-actualization. Voodooists especially places value on the strength of community for support and enrichment.

Just as there are differences within other faiths, there is great variation within Voodoo beliefs and practices. In places and times where conditions are very desperate, Voodoo is often focused on survival. In my New Orleans community, many Voodooists feel that part of religion is service to their community, so there is an emphasis on healing and social activism. We also have many artists and musicians in our community, further reflecting New Orleans’ unique cultural spirit.

If Voodoo is just another religion, why does everyone think it’s scary?

Racism clouds our view of Voodoo. It is rooted in slavery and intricately connected to this hemisphere’s political and social evolution. Voodoo was first practiced in America and the Caribbean by slaves of African descent, whose culture was both feared and ridiculed. Slaves were not considered fully human. Their religion was dismissed as superstition, their priests were denigrated as witchdoctors, their Gods and Spirits were denounced as evil.

One of the only successful slave revolutions in modern history occurred in Haiti in the late 1700s. Slaves of African descent overthrew European rulers and took control of the country. Many slaves were Voodooists, and some of their military leaders were priests who inspired and organized their communities to fight for freedom. The Haitian Revolution provoked fear in other European and American colonies that were reliant on vast numbers of slaves as plantation labor. The imagery and vocabulary of Voodoo (and other Afro-Caribbean religions) became threatening and ingrained in those cultures as something horrifying, associated with bloodshed and violence. It was brutally repressed in most places. It became taboo.

Over time, American culture became fascinated by this mysterious tradition and began to depict it in movies and books as sensationalized horror. “Voodoo” practices were dreamed up by Hollywood; most of the disturbing images fixed in our minds are something we saw in a movie. Hollywood created a mythology that we have taken as truth. “Voodoo” has become part of modern folklore as something evil that can hurt us.

But Voodoo is widely practiced in Haiti, and it is still relevant in politics there. Politics and religion make a controversial mix. In that regard, Voodoo is the same as any belief system. In the U.S., many Voodooists are afraid of how they will be treated so they hide their religion. While this is understandable, it also reinforces suspicion that they practice in secret to conceal something bad or violent. Fear begets fear.

We aren’t always aware of the origins of our beliefs; now and then we need to reassess what we know and how we know it. There were times in our nation’s history that other groups (e.g. Jews, Catholics) were similarly reviled. It’s only through education and getting to know those with different beliefs that we can overcome our fear and realize that they are ordinary people who enrich our communities.

Citation – This article first appeared on the Huffington Post cite: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saumya-arya-haas/what-is-vodou_b_827947.html

My hope is to interview the author in the coming weeks to learn more about her insights and experiences as a Vodou Priestess.  In particular, I’ll be looking for learning moments regarding her take on the the Africa – Caribbean – New Orleans – Brazil links – Haitian Vodou is certainly influenced by African spiritual practices, though I’m curious to find out if it’s scholarly to state that voodoo “originates” in Africa.  Even with similarities, should it be called more appropriately, “Vodun”?  I’ll share what I discover.  –Jonathan

Next Reviews
http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_ah/vodoo.htm
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/voodoo/
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/haiti-voodoo/
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saumya-arya-haas/black-savagery-and-voodoo_b_5994274.html
-http://amazingplx.com/25-true-things-you-may-not-know-about-voodoo/
-https://my.vanderbilt.edu/blackreligioninamerica/trending/
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/11/voodoo-rituals-in-haiti_n_4234822.html
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pascal-robert/what-is-haitian-voodou_b_3618223.html
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-monroe/haitis-lgbtq-accepting-vodou-societies_b_2639916.html
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debra-devi/voodoo_b_1518269.html
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gina-athena-ulysse/haiti-voodoo-world-of-wonder_b_1196182.html
-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-derrick/evangelicals-throw-rocks_b_476149.html

 

Updated April 19, 2016

After reading an article on Haitian Vodou several months ago, I realized that my research on sacred world music could not ignore or fail to explore the existence of Voodoo in North American culture.  In short, Vodou has historically served as an Afrocentric religious or spiritual system practiced and celebrated throughout the Caribbean.

Haiti’s expression of Vodou has a strong, though marginalized following in Southern U.S. cities like New Orleans. And, like Cuba’s Santeria and Brazil’s Candomble, Haitian Vodou was developed and refitted using traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs brought from West Africa by enslaved captives.  Elements of  Vodou are blended with Roman Catholicism. Several well-written articles (worth reading) on Voodoo as a syncretic religion have been published by the Huffington Post.

What I read in passing back in January, led to a recent excursion to New Orleans on April 4, 2016 where Haitian Vodou still retains strong ties not only to the Crescent City’s cultural and religious traditions, but its musical landscape as well. My inspiration for the journey was equally tied to a good deal of curiosity about the specific role of music in Vodou ceremonies.  In the end I would come away with much more than a cursory understanding of how music is used.

New Orleans has a number of “Voodoo” shops in and outside of the famous French Quarter. Many of them from my end, target tourists with a curious nose for trinkets and souvenirs like t-shirts inscribed with voodooisms.  In fact, businesses, concert halls, and even bars (which are everywhere), liberate and use the term voodoo quite liberally.  I’m not sure these fairly represent or edify the tradition.  Nonetheless, they exist and appear to thrive on the allure of voodoo!

Looking for a lead on a potential source, I reluctantly entered a shop in the French Quarter called “Voodoo Authentica” and asked to speak with a voodoo priest. Once the owner realized the breath of my interest in voodoo, she briskly, gave me the address of and directed me to the Vodou Priestess, Mambo Marie.  So, I trekked a few miles to Marie’s store, Carmel and Sons Botanica on Dumaine Street.  As I approached, the façade reminded me of corner grocery stores similar to the ones I grew up around in the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The store by the way is located in the Faubourg Treme subdivision – hailed to be America’s oldest existing African American neighborhood where “free” slaves existed among those enslaved.

I gingerly opened the glass door, entered and noticed floor-to-ceiling shelves well stocked with oils, soaps, household goods, herbs and Vodou statues, paintings, books and artifacts – all for sale.  Before I could gently close the door, a woman seated behind a four foot wall greeted me.  “May I help you” she asked.  I said, “well, yes.  I’ve traveled from Wisconsin to interview you about Vodou”.

After a brief introduction, the presentation of my credentials, the setup of recording equipment and the intermittent entrance and exist both visitors, family and cash paying customers, we sat down and began what turned out to be an intriguing, informative and personally transformative conversation – much of it filled with laughter, learning moments for me and the kind of spontaneous exchanges generally reserved for two friends who haven’t seen each other in a long, long while. Perhaps this was fueled by her immediate claim with photos in hand, that I strongly resembled her father in appearance.  She was tickled when I joked that perhaps we were siblings who had finally been united.

With cameras rolling, I asked her to give me an overview of Vodou. The response by Priestess Mambo Marie was stunning and not surprisingly critical of the widespread misconceptions and faulty thinking by those including Hollywood movie makers who continue in her view to showcase deceptive ideas about her beloved religion.

Her first insights centered on confirming that Haitian Vodou “does not, repeat does not” include the drinking of animal blood, the use of dolls and pins or Satanic worship.  It does include animal sacrifice the the spirits with either a chicken, goat or pig”.  She paused to see if I had comprehended the magnitude of her proclamation.  As I nodded in affirmation, I couldn’t help but recall biblical narratives where the sacrifice of animals were used to pay  tribute to the God of the Hebrew children.

She invited me to her May 21, 2016 open ceremony in New Orleans where I would be able to witness and participate in if I chose to do so, in the 12 noon to 2:00 am event – with meals and rest in between.  Such an occasion is rare as most ceremonies are conducted in private homes.

We talked at length about the similarities between the sacred traditions of Cuba’s Santeria, Brazil’s Candomble and the existence of Haitian Vodou in New Orleans.  Priestess Marie shared her keen knowledge of each.  I chucked when she said all three are most than just “distant cousins” – they are in fact so similar she stated, that they are a part of the same intimate spiritual family where many of the spirits are the same (though spellings of their names vary).

Eventually, I was able to navigate the discussion to the role of music used in the ceremonies.  I asked about instruments and learned that there are essentially three: various types of drums including the Haitian (tanbou) drum which requires a “blessing” before being used in a ceremony, the maraca-like cha cha and a ghord  or shekere looking instrument commonly employed in West African music consisting of a dried gourd with beads covering the gourd – the one used in Haitian Vodou (at least the one Priestess Marie displayed), had a bell attached.  Mambo Marie demonstrates the use of the instruments:

Vodou rites are egaged to call upon spirits known as Loas for their aid, instruction, special powers and strengths. Loas are ancestral spirits who have become abstracted through the generations to become embodiments of certain principles or characteristics. A great feast is often prepared to entice the Loas to attend. Practitioners or Vodouists of the religion wear white clothing and are assisted by Ougan and Manbo (male and female Vodou priests, respectively) to become “possessed” by the Loas. Through singing, dancing, and particularly the music of the drums, spirits come to “ride” their mortal hosts and impart wisdom and direction upon the servants of the faith.

Loas are divided into several nations or families of spirits from the same ethnic group and serve a similar function. The most prominent nanchons are Rada, Nago, Djouba, Petwo, Kongo, Ibo, and Gède.  Each has their own assigned drums that are unique to a specific nanchon in order to call upon its loas.

Rada – The loas of this nanchon are strong, but benevolent, balanced in their treatment of their servants. These are the most revered spirits, and many Vodou rituals begin with adulations for them. They originate from the Fon people of Dahomey (present day Benin). In Fact, the word Vodou comes from the Fon word for “God”. There are many loas in this group. They include: Papa Legba – Guardian of the Crossroads; Marassa – twin spirits who represent childhood; Dambala – the serpent spirit who represents energy and life; Ezili Freda – spirit of love and femininity; Lasirèn – mistress of the sea and music. Rhythm and dance styles played for the Rada nanchon include: Yanvalou, Parigol, Zepol, Mahi, Fla Voudou and Daomé.

It should be noted that Rara Vodou music, a Lenten processional music performed between Ash Wednesday up until Easter Sunday.  This link underscores the relationship between Vodou and Catholicism.

Nago – The rhythm and dance style associated with these rites is also called Nago.

Djouba – The rhythms and dance styles associated with this nanchon are Djouba and Abitan.

Petwo – The rhythm and dance styles associate with Petwo include Petwo, Makiya, Bumba, Makanda, and Kita.

Kongo – The rhythm and dance style associated with this nanchon goes by the same name.

Ibo – The rhythm and dance style associated with this nanchon also goes by the same name.

Gède – The Vodou ceremony almost always ends with the rites for Gède nanchon. The rhythm and dance style associated with this nanchon is called Banda.

more about the interview coming soon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…unless one is ready, willing and able to sleep, eat and live as though you are part of humanity at home and around the world, and not self-righteously positioned at the center of it, you will in my view, likely remain at best, just another passing inclusion enthusiast…

Far too many individuals and groups author misplaced determinations about others from a comfortable non-interactive distance.  Those who live in this setting are in some cases comfortably perched upon a non-threatening branch where conveniently affirmed ideas and predeterminations about those who are different are forged.

January 18, 2016, Wisconsin celebrated another Dr. King tribute.  For the production viewed on WPT, heard on WPR, I crafted the follwing narrative based upon the event’s theme, “Stand Up, Stand Out”. 

It was a call to not only reflect on Dr. King’s life, but more importantly, it was a call for each of us to stand up for those in our great nation, who cannot stand up for themselves – the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised.

In the spirit of Dr. King’s dream for America, I invited the audience, watching, listening and attending, to seek ways to embrace the stranger, by traversing to some of our nation’s and our state’s finest moments when we offered hospitality to those who are different in spite of and not just because of today’s lingering hatred of those who are not like us.

Dare to Stand Out as a practitioner of love and a celebrant of others, even in the face of horrific and violent episodes here at home and around the world I stated.  Stand Up and Stand Out against mean-spirited rhetoric, authored for social, religious or political gain.

One of the gifts of being an American citizen I added, is that we are free to argue – we don’t have to all agree.  Discourse is a benefit of democracy.  It is a part of the American landscape rooted in freedom of expression.  Even in intimate settings, I quipped, what would a good old family gathering during the holidays be like without a few spirited exchanges.

However, differing assessments about life’s troubling issues private or public should not cause us to withdraw our commitment to acts of kindness, benevolence, generosity or the offering of love to those whose terrible acts, words and beliefs are an affront to humanity.  Let us not forget that these principles were at the core of Rev. Dr. King’s ministry. 

Let us Stand Up here in Wisconsin by reconciling our differences, our distrust of each other, or those who are different be they women or men in blue, a young man of color walking the streets of his neighborhood-hoodie fully deployed, or an international student walking across campus whose non Western attire definsively transports us to a place where suspicion and fear linger.   

Today, let’s stand up and stand out for women, who played by the way a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, with little tribute then or now. Be they our daughter, niece, sister or wife, let’s make them a priority as Sweet Honey In The Rock sings, a priority in our lives and communities. Lets inspire them to consider a life of leadership as a pathway to improving our neighborhoods and our nation.  Brothers, it is (perhaps) long past time we sit down and let sister’s run stuff.    

I ended my remarks with these words: Let us Stand Up, and Stand Out against hatred, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism or racial discrimination. Today, let’s Stand Up, and Stand Out for efforts that promote “good community” and inclusive values that we who call Wisconsin home, can share in, (celebrate) and invest in.   

As always, your reflections are welcomed.

To Understand Is To Know #101
Leadership Epistomology…when you understand, you know…

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As a faculty member in the Doctoral Program of Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin here in the U.S., I have had the privilege of instructing students pursuing a doctorate in Administrative Leadership in Higher Education.  The last of the student’s content courses centers on exploring Leadership, Governance and Policy Making .  Some of the students enter the course with significant leadership experience.  Others are just beginning their leadership journey.

Each of the students has been encouraged to think experientially, deeply, ethically and morally about a series of critical aspects linked to leadership.  A number of those in the program are international students from various countries around the world.  Some have hailed from China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.  It is (say the students), a challenging course.  That’s by design and as it should be in my thinking for students at this level of their academic careers.

And like many of the students who hail from the United States, the international students share insights, experiences and ideas on the topic of leadership based upon leadership in their homeland as well as reflections and reactions to leadership here in North America.  Such offerings have richly informed the content and the construct of course elements wedded to what I term “learning moments” for the students and myself as well.

One of the templates to the course centers on Leadership Epistemology – meaning the study of leadership with the adage that, when you understand, you know.  I’ve taken the liberty of linking this idea to truth, justice, compassion, partnership and community – the core mission values of Edgewood College.  It is because of these values, ones I struggle with, highly respect and attempt to model in my professional and private life, that I share the following published story authored by CNN host, Fareed Zakaria.

The inspiration for assigning this as my first post is not to showcase my alignment with Zakaria’s message.  It is however, rooted in the idea of fostering conversation about varied leadership styles, understanding of those who are different, how best to use or not use political capital in leadership, social etiquette, political correctness, inclusion and much, much more.

In fairness, posting the article is also not an attempt to posture my own political, social or religious views, though I do have such and they are strongly rooted in my own personal narrative that includes being a patriot of the United States.  However, I remain a dedicated celebrant of other cultures, people – their customs as well as nations around the globe.  My celebration of others has transformed how I embrace those who are different.

That said, I’m equally committed to religious inclusion not just as a passing enthusiast, but as an invested practitioner in my own faith.  This practice (which does not dismiss the customs of other religious traditions), is sustained in part through the investigative inquiry of, interaction with music makers around the globe, travel, lectures, personal reflection, performances, attendance and participation in diverse liturgical settings.

It has been along this pathway of practice and learning, that I have lingered – transformed and amazed at the beauty of people around the world and their daily rituals where crafted musical expressions (often linked to sacred or religious beliefs and practices) are grounded in people’s daily living.  Many of their musical stories have become my own and not just because of the differences, but in spite of them.

It is my hope that my first blog post (as well as those that follow) on the thoughts of Zakaria, offer and stimulate others to discuss, argue and explore how we all might better understand and know each other even if we don’t necessarily agree.  This premise serves in part as the foundation of the leadership course I teach where expressed opinions, experiences and insights are treated inclusively.

In response to this post and others down the road, I invite you to read and share your (civilly rendered) reflections.

Asante Sana, Jonathan

http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/12/13/cnns-fareed-zakaria-i-am-appalled-by-donald-tru/207469

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “I Am Appalled By Donald Trump’s Bigotry and Demagoguery”


Photo c/o of povodebaha.blogspot.com

FAREED ZAKARIA: I think of myself first and foremost as an American. I’m proud of that identity because, as an immigrant, it came to me through deep conviction and hard work, not the accident of birth. I also think of myself as a husband, a father, a guy from India, journalist, New Yorker, and on good days maybe an intellectual. But in today’s political climate I must embrace another identity.

I’m a Muslim. Now I’m not a practicing Muslim. The last time I was in a mosque, except as a tourist, was decades ago. I’m completely secular in my outlook. But as I watch the way in which Republican candidates are dividing Americans, I realize that it’s important to acknowledge the religion into which I was born.  And yet that identity doesn’t fully represent me or my views.

I am appalled by Donald Trump’s bigotry and demagoguery, not because I am a Muslim, but because I’m an American. This is the real danger of Trump’s rhetoric. It forces people who want to assimilate, who see themselves as having multiple identities, into a single box. The effects of this rhetoric have already poisoned the atmosphere. Muslim-Americans are more fearful and will isolate themselves more. The broader community will know them less and trust them less. A downward spiral of segregation will set in.

Once you start labeling an entire people by characteristics like race and religion and then see the whole group as suspect, tensions will build.

I remain an optimist. Trump has taken the country by surprise. People don’t quite know how to respond to the vague unworkable proposals. “We have to do something,” he says.

The phony statistics, the dark insinuations of conspiracies. “There’s something we don’t know,” he says, about President Obama, and the naked appeals to people’s prejudices. But this is not the 1930s. People from all sides of the spectrum are condemning Trump, though there are several Trump-lites among the Republican candidates.

The country will not stay terrified. Even after San Bernardino, the number of Americans killed by Islamic terrorists on U.S. soil in the 14 years since 9/11 is 45, according to New America. That’s an average of about three people a year.

The number killed in gun homicides this year alone will be around 11,000. In the end, America will reject this fear mongering and demagoguery as it has in the past. But we’re going through an important test of political and moral character.

I hope decades from now people will look back and ask, “what did you do when Donald Trump proposed religious tests in America?”

– Fareed Zakaria

Suggested Reading

September 17, 2013

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Review

A prominent Rabbi and an Imam, each raised in orthodoxy, overcome the temptations of bigotry and work to bridge the chasm between Muslims and Jews

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic. Imam Shamsi Ali, who grew up in a small Indonesian village and studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seems unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye. Yet in the aftermath of 9/11, amid increasing acrimony between Jews and Muslims, the two men overcame their prejudices and bonded over a shared belief in the importance of opening up a dialogue and finding mutual respect. In doing so, they became not only friends but also defenders of each other’s religion, denouncing the twin threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and promoting interfaith cooperation.

In Sons of Abraham, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends and offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that frequently divide Jews and Muslims, clarifying erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behavior. Rabbi Schneier dispels misconceptions about chosenness in Judaism, while Imam Ali explains the truth behind concepts like jihad and Shari’a. And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two speak forthrightly on the importance of having a civil discussion and the urgency of reaching a peaceful solution.

As Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali show, by reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can realize that they are actually more united than divided in their core beliefs. Both traditions promote kindness, service, and responsibility for the less fortunate—and both religions call on their members to extend compassion to those outside the faith. In this sorely needed book, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali challenge Jews and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones, find common ground in their shared Abrahamic traditions, and stand together and fight for a better world for all.

Sons of Abraham represents the culmination of years of work by Rabbi Schneier, my partner at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Imam Ali, and myself to bring Muslims and Jews together all across the world.  Few people thought that these orthodox religious leaders could be friends, and even fewer believed their work would succeed, but Sons of Abraham shows how their friendship has created a model for a worldwide Muslim-Jewish reconciliation.”
—Russell Simmons, Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-founder of Def Jam Records“Through a robust discussion of the history and mindsets that define both Judaism and Islam, Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier offer that the truest illustration of faith lies not in traditions or a myopic approach to piety, but rather in a deeply held belief in one God, a concern for human dignity, and a commitment to mutual respect.  The authors—in their friendship and in their service—offer a rare example of cooperation and provide a beacon of hope as we pursue peace between peoples torn apart by millennia of misunderstanding and mistrust.  Sons of Abraham is a work of political, social, and religious significance and a roadmap for how we should and can move forward.”
—Congressman André Carson“In this book my friends Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali show us that Muslims and Jews are not enemies, but friends who are united by our belief in a monotheistic god and our lineage to our forefather Abraham. The Rabbi and Imam’s friendship is a reminder that peace and friendship are possible between our peoples.”
—S. Daniel AbrahamChairman, Center for Middle East Peace  

About the Authors

Rabbi Marc Schneier serves as vice president of the World Jewish Congress, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (where he works with Russell Simmons), and founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach. He has been honored by the US Congress and the State of Israel as an advocate for human and civil rights and religious and ethnic tolerance.

Imam Shamsi Ali
 is the spiritual leader of Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest Islamic center and former imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Imam Ali also serves on the boards of the Tanenbaum Center, the Federation for Middle East Peace, the Asean Muslim Federation of North America, and the Muslim Foundation of America, among others. Both men live in New York City.
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Reprint edition (June 16, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807061190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807061190