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We Refuse to Be Enemies

How Muslims and Jews Can Make Peace, One Friendship at a Time

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For readers of The Faith Club, Sons of Abraham, and The Anatomy of Peace, a call for mutual understanding and lessons for getting there
We Refuse to Be Enemies is a manifesto by two American citizens, a Muslim woman and Jewish man, concerned with the rise of intolerance and bigotry in our country along with resurgent white nationalism. Neither author is an imam, rabbi, scholar, or community leader, but together they have spent decades doing interfaith work and nurturing cooperation among communities. They have learned that, through face-to-face encounters, people of all backgrounds can come to know the Other as a fellow human being and turn her or him into a trusted friend. In this book, they share their experience and guidance.

Growing up in Pakistan before she immigrated to the United States, Sabeeha never met a Jew, and her view was colored by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his youth, Walter never met a Muslim, and his opinion was shaped by Leon Uris's Exodus. Yet together they have formed a friendship and collaboration. Tapping their own life stories and entering into dialogue within the book, they explain how they have found commonalities between their respective faiths and discuss shared principles and lessons, how their perceptions of the Other have evolved, and the pushback they faced. They wrestle with the two elephants in the room: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and polarizing material in their holy texts and history. And they share their vision for reconciliation, offering concrete principles for building an alliance in support of religious freedom and human rights.  

"“As members of the two largest minority faith communities in America, we must stand together at a portentous moment in American history. Neither of our communities will be able to prosper in an America characterized by xenophobia and bigotry.”—Sabeeha Rehman and Walter Ruby

Sabeeha Rehman came to the United States in 1971. When her sons were school age, she earned her masters in healthcare administration and began a career as a hospital administrator. In 2008 she cofounded the New York Metro chapter of the National Autism Association and was its president. She has been doing interfaith work for many years and blogs on topics related to the theme of her memoir at www.sabeeharehman.com. She lives with her husband in New York City.

  • Publisher: Arcade (April 20, 2021)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781951627638

"I salute Sabeeha Rehman and Walter Ruby for their important contribution to strengthening Muslim-Jewish relations chronicled in We Refuse to Be Enemies. I am proud to have been involved in this cause since 2006, and to have worked with Walter, Sabeeha, and other pioneers to build a common space between Muslims and Jews for dialogue, communication and interaction. We Refuse to Be Enemies is a gripping account of how our two communities stood up for each other in the face of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and a prescription for how we can work together going forward  to buttress pluralism, democracy, and religious liberty in this country. Not to be missed."—Dr. Sayyid Syeed, President Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
"Sabeeha Rehman and Walter Ruby have written an essential book for the vital and important emergence of a Muslim-Jewish alliance in the United States. It takes more than a shared disgust with Donald Trump's myriad forms of bigotry to bridge the gap between Jews and Muslims in America. Now this book helps light the path. Affectionate and yet unflinching, Rehman and Ruby draw on personal experience, history, theology, and concrete examples of effective partnership to show the hard work that our two communities must continue to do. They model an interfaith relationship in which we can agree to disagree on certain issues—Israel-Palestine at the top of the list—while refusing to subject our alliance to a loyalty oath's checklist."—Samuel G. Freedman,  award-winning author of  Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry, columnist, and professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

""Today, Pakistan and Israel do not recognize each other. But here are two brilliant writers—one rooted in Pakistan, the other in Israel—who do recognize, understand, and respect each other. Sabeeha Rehman and Walter Ruby, a Muslim and a Jew, are both proud of their faith traditions, while being wise enough to see the deep ties and bridges between them. Their stories and insights give us some hope for the future of the world, including the Middle East, at a time when their current state of affairs isn’t too bright."—Mustafa Akyol, Cato Institute Senior Fellow,  opinion writer For the New York Times, and author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty
“This is a unique and remarkably compelling book written as a dialogue between a Muslim woman and a Jewish man. We learn what it takes to understand the many historical issues and experiences of both communities through their lens. They explore challenges as well as the unity among Jews and Muslims in the United States without losing their deep attachments to Pakistan and Israel. A vital contribution for dialogue and peace between Jews and Muslims.”Mehnaz M. Afridi, Phd, Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College
 
“A Muslim woman living in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood; a Jewish man hanging out with Arab Bedouins in Israel. Their stories of transformation and bringing communities together offers hope for America.”Wajahat Ali, author of The Domestic Crusaders and contributing New York Times op-ed writer
 
“Two searingly honest memoirs intertwine in We Refuse to Be Enemies. Rehman and Ruby are each activists in the growing movement of Muslim-Jewish engagement. We Refuse to Be Enemies is an epiphany—a profoundly American book.”Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, PhD, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Director, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary
 
“Having spent a lifetime building dialogue between members of different religious traditions, I am truly excited for the release of Walter Ruby and Sabeeha Rehman's We Refuse to Be Enemies, which focuses on efforts to bring together Jews and Muslims in peaceful coexistence. Given the massive importance of the Jewish-Muslim relationship, I consider Ruby and Rehman’s work to be a prerequisite for anyone interested in interfaith dialogue.” —Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University's School of International Service, Former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and Ireland
 
Praise for Threading My Prayer Rug:
"Rehman’s personal journey is her own, but speaks broadly to all immigrant journeys in contemporary America. With so much discussion about immigrants from Muslim in the national conversation, it’s good to have a story with this unique perspective." —Booklist, starred review

"Rehman’s spirited debut memoir illuminates the challenges of living an authentically Muslim life in America. . . . With sparkling anecdotes about everything from the 'Christmas-ization of Eid' to engineering her son’s marriage, Rehman lends a light heart and an open mind to the process of becoming a multicultural 'hybrid.'" —Publishers Weekly

"A heartfelt memoir plumbs the multilayered experience of being Muslim in America. With a steady infusion of verve and personality, Rehman immerses readers in the traditions of a Middle Eastern culture. . . . Rehman's memoir offers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Muslim lifestyles while imparting a message of unity and international fellowship. A culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle of ethnic faith and intermingled tradition." —Kirkus Reviews

“An entertaining and honest story of one woman's journey to fuse the cultures of her past and present to create her own experience . . . Her story is permeated with hilarious personal experiences and asides as she adapts to the country she will soon call home. Rehman lends a strong and compelling voice to moderate Muslims, and her discussion of her faith and the areas she believes need modernization illustrate the different opinions within the Muslim community.” —Library Journal

"The country needs this counterbalancing personal story to correct the pervasive misunderstanding of what Islam is truly about and the contributions to our American democracy that most American Muslims make every day of their lives. Exceptionally well written and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. . . . Somebody donate a copy of Threading My Prayer Rug to every Republican member of Congress, every Republican member of a state legislature, and every Republican governor who advocates for preventing Muslims from settling in their state." —Midwest Book Review

“A warm, amusing and, for a Jewish reader, a surprisingly familiar story.”—Jewish Week

"That one masterstroke of penmanship and objective thought is the ultimate grand finale to a lifelong effort of understanding not only other faiths, but also her own." —Dawn newspaper (Pakistan)

"Take this journey on Sabeeha's prayer rug, and you will be enchanted as she vividly and beautifully transports you through rich and elaborate threads of a lifetime lived with love, intelligence, and compassion—an inspiration to all." —Ranya Tabari Idliby, coauthor of The Faith Club and author of Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie

"Funny and frank, acute, and compassionate, this story of an immigrant ‘fish out of water’ who falls in love with her adopted American home is for all of us, and for all times—but current events also make it the story for this time. As Americans consider who they were, are, and want to be in the future, they could have no better guide than Sabeeha Rehman. I can’t imagine our country, or my bookshelf, without her." —Susan Choi, National Book Award–winning author of Trust Exercise

"With anti-Islamic sentiments on the rise in this country, Threading My Prayer Rug is a refreshing look at what it is really like to be a Muslim in the US today. With humor, charm, and great insight, Sabeeha Rehman recounts how one can be both a devout Muslim and an American wife, mom, grandmother and community activist." —Jan Goodwin, award-winning author, journalist, and Senior Fellow at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism

"Coming to America is seldom associated with discovering one's faith—let alone Islam. Rich in exotic detail, Sabeeha's true-life story is funny, sweet, beautiful, warm, and deeply touching to any reader, who will note how much the heart and soul of a Muslim mother is like that of any other." —Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of Cordoba House, author of What's Right With Islam and Moving the Mountain

"Sabeeha Rehman’s prose resonates with intimacy, wisdom, and wit. She achieves a richly textured narrative that introduces readers to the rituals and enduring values of her Muslim faith as she, her husband Khalid and their sons Saqib and Asim integrate into the American melting pot. At the conclusion of her classic text, Ms. Rehman affirms, ‘Together we will change the discourse, quell violence with knowledge, and banish phobias to the fringe as we work together in unity of the spirit.’ This reader was moved to respond, 'Ameen . . . Amen.'"—Sidney Offit, former president of the Authors Guild Foundation and Authors League Fund and author of Memoir of a Bookie’s Son

"A charming and engrossing book, Threading My Prayer Rug provides a window to a culture and people we do not know enough about. . . . Readable, easy to relate to, and inspiring!" —Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing

"Threading My Prayer Rug is a beautifully written memoir of a cosmopolitan and faithful Pakistani-American Muslim woman. It’s recommended for all who want to have a sense of how the tapestry of American Islam is shaped by the contributions of a variety of Muslims, including those from South Asia." —Omid Safi, Director, Duke Islamic Studies Center

"Threading My Prayer Rug is a warm, wise, and wonderful book. Ms. Rehman writes in a wry and often humorous style that is understanding of human foibles yet gently pushes readers of all backgrounds to become fuller and more engaged human beings. As an Orthodox rabbi working to strengthen cooperation between Jews and Muslims, I was moved by her involvement in Muslim-Jewish coalition-building efforts." —Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and coauthor with Imam Shamsi Ali of Sons of Abraham

More books from this author: Sabeeha Rehman