Community Briefs

Opera Collaboration Continues to2005

The New Israeli Opera of Tel Aviv and the Los Angeles Opera will extend their ongoing collaboration with a production of Camille Saint-Saens’ “Samson et Dalila” during the 2005 season.

Academy Award-winning film director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist,” “The French Connection”) will direct the opera, which will premiere at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center in June, and in Los Angeles in October.

Placido Domingo, general director of the L.A. Opera, will sing the role of Samson in Los Angeles for one night only, to mark the company’s 20th anniversary season.

Another well-known movie figure, actor Maximilian Schell, will direct the production of Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” due in Los Angeles in May 2005 and in Tel Aviv the following year. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Muslims Ally With Christians in Ads

The large advertisement in five California weekly newspapers has a photo of Jerusalem’s Old City, showing a Christian cross in the foreground, fronting a nearby mosque.

Its headline is, “More in Common Than You Think,” and the text proclaims Islam’s reverence of Jesus, ending in the paragraph: “Like Christians, every day, over 1.3 billion Muslims strive to live by his [Jesus’] teachings of love, peace, and forgiveness. Those teachings, which have become universal values, remind us that all of us, Christians, Muslims, Jews and all others have more in common than we think.”

The ad is part of a long-term campaign, launched after Sept. 11 by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to correct “misconceptions” about Islam and present a kinder, gentler image of American Muslims.

Future ads may well cite the Quran’s respect and reverence for Abraham and Moses, to show Islam’s kinship to Jews, said Sabiha Khan, communications director for CAIR’s Southern California chapter, which initiated the current Jesus ad.

CAIR, which describes itself as “America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group,” is headquartered in Washington and has 25 regional chapters in the United States and Canada.

Its national spokeswoman, Rabiah Ahmed, speaks of CAIR as a “Muslim NAACP,” referring to the African American civil rights organization.

Founded in 1994, CAIR’s declared purpose is “to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America and to empower the Muslim community through political and social activism.” Critics have charged that this benign mission statement hides more militant attitudes and policies.

But according to Ahmed, “the American media now generally presents a negative picture of Muslims and we are trying hard to correct the misconceptions.”

CAIR’s ad campaign, which up to now has appeared mainly in the New York Times, runs under the overall motto, “We are Americans and we are Muslims.”

Its skillfully produced ads generally feature attractive young Muslims, of different ethnic backgrounds, contributing to American society as Girl Scouts, nurses, teachers and parents.

“We have received very positive feedback, but we still have much work ahead of us,” Ahmed said.

The current ad, appealing directly to Christians, owes some of its inspiration to the popularity of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ,” and has been limited so far to five small weeklies in Burbank, Claremont, Anaheim, Irvine and Sunnyvale.

Amanda Susskind, Southern California director of the Anti-Defamation League, said she had not received any comments about the ad so far.

CAIR enjoys a generally respectable reputation and its leaders have been invited to the Bush White House and have testified before Congress.

However, CAIR’s aura of moderation has been sharply questioned by critics, who say that the organization has consistently defended Islamic terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.

CAIR’s particular bete noire is Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and author of four books on Islam.

In numerous articles and lectures, Pipes has charged that CAIR has regularly promoted anti-Semitism, intimidated moderate Muslims and served as apologist for extremists.

In return, CAIR bitterly fought Pipes’ appointment by President Bush to the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace, but lost its battle. — TT