Muslim group honors Jews for empowering Muslims

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Muslim Public Affairs Council is honoring two Jews with an annual award given to those who “champion the political empowerment of American Muslims.”

The recipients of this year’s Empowering Voices award include Stosh Kotler, CEO of the liberal social action group Bend the Arc, and Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who helms the popular blog Lawfare, which covers national security law.

In recognizing Kotler, the council noted among other factors the petition co-organized last year by the two groups against President Donald Trump’s “deeply troubling appointment of Stephen Bannon” as his top strategic adviser. Bannon had helmed Breitbart News, a right-wing outlet that consistently stirred fears of Muslim violence. He has since left his White House post.

The council said in its statement that Wittes “uses his platform to publicly oppose scapegoating communities in the name of national security.” Wittes is a graduate of the Jewish day school system.

Also named was David Karp, who founded the popular personal blogging site Tumblr. It’s not clear whether Karp currently identifies as Jewish, but he has expressed pride in being a descendant of a Max Karp. He does not say which Max Karp, but the most prominent historical figure with that name was a giant of Yiddish theater near the turn of the 20th century.

Karp used Tumblr to promote a petition against Trump’s temporary bans on refugees and travel from seven Muslim majority countries.

“Our honorees go beyond simply acknowledging ‘the other’ to empowering communities’ civic and political engagement, ensuring America’s growth as a pluralistic and inclusive society,” Rabia Ahmed, the Muslim council’s spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement to JTA. “They improve public understanding and policies toward American Muslims so that America continues to be enriched by the vital contributions of American Muslims.”

Over the years, the council has partnered with Jewish groups in a number of endeavors, recently in consultingwith Jewish community experts on security for Muslim institutions. It also condemned a California imam who seemed to call for the annihilation of the Jews after recent tensions in Jerusalem.

The council backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League criticized the group for co-hosting events with anti-Israel activists. An ADL spokesman said the information in that statement was no longer up to date.

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