Conviction in Ramadan- ouch.

Oi. The Imam of Masjid as-Salam (which translates as “Mosque of the Peace”) has been convicted on some counts, and one of his members on all counts, of being willing to aid terrorism through money laundering. (They didn’t actually do it, because the plot was a story made up for the “sting.”) The counter-claim is that Imam Yassin Aref and Mr. Mohammed Hossain understood that the man who lent Mr Hossain money was fulfilling a basic principle of Islam, supporting a needy fellow-Muslim by giving him a loan, and that they weren’t aware of where the money purportedly had come from.

Making loans to community members is a basic Jewish principle too: When Jews came to America from Eastern Europe in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, one of the many societies and organizations that they routinely set up were gemilus chesed funds, Free Loan Societies. (The Hebrew can’t be directly translated, but it roughly means, “treating someone with lovingkindness.”) It’s not so different from the microcredit that works such wonders today, particularly in agricultural economies around the world — as acknowledged today by the announcement of the Nobel Peace prize. (See the TU article.)

On the other hand, laundering money that has been gained through illegal arms sales is not ok. A jury of our peers gave it careful thought and decided that Imam Aref and Mr. Hossain did know that part of the story. Now, I don’t know what they knew, thought, or suspected, and you probably don’t either. God alone knows for sure, and I hope that if Imam Aref and Mr. Hossain are innocent, this is a comfort to them and to their families. But the legal system has delivered its verdict, and the verdict is guilty.

The TU blog responses to the verdict are, not surprisingly, pretty polarized. What’s missing, and understandably so, is a response on the blog of Imam Ahmed Kobeisy. He is Imam of The Islamic Center of the Capital District in Colonie, and has been a TU blogger long before I was invited to become one. But it’s Ramadan. He’s the Imam of a large mosque. There are many demands made upon him during this month, both personally and professionally. And this cannot be an easy post to write. I’m having trouble figuring out how to write about it, and all I’m worried about is trying to be thoughtful and evenhanded; Imam Kobeisy must find it much harder.

And how aching must he, and all local Muslims, be. Whatever the actions and intentions of Imam Aref and Mr. Hossain, the entire thing is a shanda fur die goyim, as we say in Yiddish — an embarrassment for the community in front of outsiders. It’s not the way you want your community to make the news. It’s not how you want to be thought of, because it doesn’t represent the best of who you are.

How ironic that the verdict was delivered in the month of Ramadan. Ramadan, as I have learned from another Imam with whom I study from time to time, is much like the day of Yom Kippur for Jews: a time of fasting, introspection, and resolution to improve one’s conduct in many areas. It is a time of increased spiritual practice and introspection, of course varying in intensity from person to person. The community is together and already contemplating the nature of what matters eternally. Like guilt or innocence. Like human imperfection. Like teshuvah and forgiveness. Like how to face and respond to adversity, individually and communally.

My thoughts are with the local Muslim communities, and particularly the community of Masjid as-Salam. In spite of everything, may it be a Ramadan mubarak.