UK: Muslim leaders issue letter to improve relations with Jewish community
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times
February 24, 2008
Muslim leaders from around the world will tomorrow issue a statement to the world's Jewish Community in "a call for positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim - Jewish relations."
In the letter, which has emerged from the Muslim-Jewish study centre at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, Muslim scholars admit: "Many Jews and Muslims today stand apart from each other due to feelings of anger, which in some parts of the world, translate into violence.
"It is our contention that we are faced today not with 'a clash of civilizations' but with 'a clash of ill-informed misunderstandings'."
Signatories include Professor Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington DC and former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain. Professor Ahmed also signed the recent letter from Muslim scholars to Christian leaders around the world, which has led to plans for Muslim leaders to visit the Vatican in an attempt to continue to improve relations between the faiths.
The latest letter states: "Deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices have resulted in a distancing of the communities and even a dehumanizing of the 'Other'. We urgently need to address this situation. We must strive towards turning ignorance into knowledge, intolerance into understanding, and pain into courage and sensitivity for the 'Other'."
The Muslims note that Judaism and Islam share core doctrinal beliefs, the most important of which is strict monotheism.
"We both share a common patriarch, Ibrahim/Abraham, other Biblical prophets, laws and jurisprudence, many significant values and even dietary restrictions. There is more in common between our religions and peoples than is known to each of us," they state. "It is precisely due to the urgent need to address such political problems as well as acknowledge our shared values that the establishment of an inter-religious dialogue between Jews and Muslims in our time is extremely important.
"Failure to do so will be a missed opportunity. Memories of positive historical encounters will dim and the current problems will lead to an increasing rift and more common misunderstandings between us."
The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, is understood to have seen a copy of the letter. Responses from him and other Jewish leaders are expected this week.
The aim is to show that Muslims are willing to engage in dialogue with the Jewish community about issues other than the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
Sheikh Michael Mumisa, lecturer at the Woolf Institute, descibed the letter as the first in modern times sent to the Jewish community with the backing of scholars and Muslim leaders. "The message in this letter conveys to the Jewish community a genuine desire for mutual respect, for dialogue and deeper understanding," he said.
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