Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons urges dialogue between Muslims and Jews during Israel visit

To hip hop and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like “a rap beef” that can be resolved through dialogue and understanding.

“A little trust, and it’s over,” he said.

When he isn’t managing his clothing line Phat Farm or promoting artists, Simmons champions an eclectic mix of causes, from veganism to gay rights to yoga.

In Israel, he’s focusing on interfaith trust. He said creating dialogue should be as simple as a mediating a rap battle, were it not for the political deadlock between Palestinians and Israelis.

Muslims and Jews “have the same aspirations and goals that are much greater than the things they call differences,” Simmons said.

Simmons arrived in Israel on behalf of a foundation that aims to promote face-to-face dialogue between ethnic and religious communities. He discussed yoga with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmed Hussein, and received a blessing from the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Simmons even did a headstand in front of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites to Muslims, though he said it was “for the kids” and not for any yogic spiritual reason.

Becoming all-American Muslims

It took Muslims a full three months to figure out a strategy to counter the campaign against Cordoba House, otherwise known as “the Ground Zero Mosque.” This time around, it took about three hours.

I’m referring to the lighting-fast organizing that took place once word got out that Lowe’s had pulled its ads from All American Muslim, pressured by the Florida Family Association who were disappointed that the show didn’t offer enough airtime to Muslim extremists (That’s true by the way. You can’t make this stuff up).

The hashtag #loweshatesmuslims lit up the Twitter-sphere, thousands of people threatened to boycott, mainstream television channels started reporting on the story, star power in the form of Perez Hilton and Russell Simmons jumped on board.

Lots of other people have weighed in on the bigotry at play here. I’d like to comment on a somewhat different dynamic: the Americanization of the Muslim community, especially the immigrant segment. A community that not long ago wanted only the comfort and confinement of its own bubble is learning the great American art of building bridges.
The anti-Ground Zero Mosque campaign showed that it’s not enough to have a bridge to the influence-centers in American society, we needed the ability to respond rapidly. If the #loweshatesmuslims campaign illustrates anything, it’s that Muslims will never be Ground Zero Mosque-d again.