An Open Letter to Imam Ahmad on the Murder of Ezra Schwartz

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ezra schwartzBy Stephen M. Flatow

Dear Imam Abdul Rahmam Ahmad,

I read the text of the condolence letter that you wrote the Jewish community of Boston following the recent murder of 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz by Palestinian terrorists.

As the father of a young woman who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Israel in 1995, I appreciated the fact that you, as the imam of the Islamic Center of New England, spoke out.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of your expression of “great sadness” that Ezra “had his life brutally cut short in Israel….” I am glad to know that, as you put it, “The Islamic community at Sharon has always categorically condemned such violent acts based on our firm belief that Islam enjoins us to be a people who bring peace and harmony to the world.” Especially poignant was your statement that, “Although I cannot comprehend your loss, please know that during this time I share in your pain…Your families will be in my and my family’s hearts, and in our prayers.”

And you concluded with the ancient Hebrew expression that we say to Jewish mourners, “Hamakom yenachem et’chem b’toch shar avay’lay Zion ve’Yerushalayim [May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem].” That was a nice touch.

Yet after reading your letter, dear Imam, I found myself a bit puzzled. For some reason, you made no reference to who it was that “cut short” Ezra’s life, and what motivated the killer. Those are important points. After all, Ezra did not die in some random accident. He was murdered in cold blood. By Palestinian terrorists. Who were acting out of self-declared Islamist motives.

To combat such heinous murders, dear Imam, we need to be frank about who the murderers are, and why they are murdering. Anything less impedes our fight against the killers. Anything less undermines the struggle for justice for the victims. Anything less is a slap in the face to the families of the murdered.

I fervently hope, Imam Ahmad, that your failure to refer to the Palestinian Islamist killers was just a careless oversight. I hope it does not represent a reluctance on the part of some American Muslims to explicitly denounce the Muslims who are murdering Jews — including American Jews — in Israel.

Dear Imam, you wrote in your letter, “I hope that I can serve as a resource and ally for you during this trying time, and that this terrible incident will be a catalyst for bringing our communities together, rather than pulling us apart.”

One way in which you could fulfill that pledge is by becoming the American Jewish community’s ally in the struggle for justice for American victims of Palestinian terrorism.

Do you know that there are streets and parks in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) capital, Ramallah, that are named after murderers of Americans? In response, you could join American Jews in urging Obama administration officials to refrain from visiting Ramallah until those insulting street names are changed.

Do you know that the US helps to train PA policemen? You could join American Jews in calling on the Obama administration to make future training conditional on the PA firing police officers who have been involved in attacks on Americans.

Do you know that US courts have ordered the PA to pay compensation to terror victims’ families? You could join American Jews in calling on the Obama administration to deduct those payments from the annual US aid package of $500 million to the PA.

Becoming our genuine ally in this fight for justice, dear Imam, would be a meaningful way to, as you put it, “bring our communities together, rather than pulling us apart.” I eagerly await your reply.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.




  1. Very well put. Words are cheap unless they are followed by actions Mr. Imam.
    May Hashem bring you comfort
    May we see the geula shlayma in our days.

  2. Mr. Flatow, the Imam does seem to acknowledge his connection to the murderer, ym”sh, while distancing himself and saying that he doesn’t believe and act as his evil coreligionist. I would say to the Imam, use this as a springboard for further discussion and action as you detail in your letter. If he does not follow up, then I think he can be taken to task.
    Meanwhile, there are a number of students out there whose Israel study time has been directly linked to your tragedy. Any positive growth and change and actions in their lives (and all of us who have been touched by her loss) as a result of that year will surely be an aliyah to your daughter, and be a start at filling the void of her absence.

  3. This article is absolutely disgusting. We have an Imam who is trying to show that there are Muslims out there who are good, kindhearted people, and you are trying to show where he is lacking? Do you really think that will help improve relations between different groups of people? Take Imam Ahmad’s message for what it was – sharing in the sorrow of a horrible murder, and hope for a better future, where Jews and Muslims coexist peacefully.

    When you look for the differences, instead of the common ground, you will never make things any better. Shame on you.

  4. I disagree with #3. Yes, the Imam’s letter was ok, but we need to show him that more needs to be done. If he decides to stand up for Jews, he needs to be reminded of the urgency of the situation. I have no issue with this .

  5. A Jewish grandmother takes her baby grandson to the ocean for the first time. For the occasion, she has dressed him in a smart little sailor outfit. Without warning, a large wave folds over the young boy and swoops him out into the ocean. The grandmother looks up at the sky, “Please God, save my grandson. I will do anything if you return him to me. I will pray daily, I will volunteer weekly. Please God, I will do anything.” In a flash, another wave hits the beach, and the grandson washes up on the sand. The grandmother looks the boy over, then looks up at the sky and says, “He had a hat.”

  6. I agree with #5. Shame on YOU for not being able to understand the sorrow of a father whose daughter was murdered in cold blood and is sincerely thanking the Imam for his condolences while also sincerely asking him to do more. What’s wrong with that?

  7. I find this letter very harsh, but let us think for a moment what Dr Flatow has been through. I wish someone had suggested Imam Ahmad and Attorney Flatow met in person, before any letter was written and published. Preferably a meeting away from cameras, so it does not turn into a photo-op. Then perhaps the letter would have sounded different.


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