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Rabbi Jack Moline’s recent op-ed column (April 27) presents a skewed perspective on the serious debate over Jewish-Muslim dialogue in the post 9/11 era. I trust that student and mentor can disagree.

Jack has been a mentor of mine for nearly 35 years. I agree with him when he criticizes those in our community who see a terrorist behind every American Muslim leader. There are those in our midst who are purveyors of hate and unwarranted mistrust; they must be censured. I agree that there a good and decent Muslim clergy and laity with whom to dialogue.

My only question is, “How do we distinguish?” How do we distinguish between the Muslims who, actively or passively, support such terrorist organizations as Hamas and Hizbullah, and those who oppose them? How do we distinguish between those Muslims who advocate the destruction of the State of Israel in their sermons and teachings, and those who merely oppose Israeli policies in the territories? (Are there any Muslim leaders who actually support Israel as beacon of liberty in a very dark corner of the world?)

I think these are legitimate questions and asking them does not make me into an anti-Muslim bigot.

The Jewish world is not divided into the reasonable advocates of dialogue, on the one hand, and the anti-Muslim bigots on the other. I am convinced that there are a sizable number of Jews, perhaps even a majority, who are merely cautious about exactly which Muslim leaders we can trust.

This caution does not derive from hatred or rigid ideology. It derives from an experience of being duped. Yasser Arafat spoke in English of the “peace of the brave,” while directing and funding the murder of Israelis. Dr. Sami Al-Arian led a “Muslim think tank” at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., while at the same time speaking out against Israel in private Muslim gatherings, and fundraising for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These are two example, but we all are aware of Muslim leaders who have duped us. We do not want to get burned again. There is too much at stake.

I hope that my mentor has the knowledge and expertise to make the correct judgments about American Muslim leadership. I do not. All I can say is “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

The American Jewish community needs to have an open and honest discussion about the issue of dialogue with Muslims. We need to know both the risks and the rewards. And we need to know now.

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