24 April 2007

Dialogue of Civilisations

  • What is the role of the Middle East conflict in Jewish-Muslim conversation?
  • Is the media a positive force for change in inter-religious relations?
  • How can local communities be successfully engaged together?
I made reference a couple of days ago to the dialogue of civilisations. The concept of a dialogue among civilisations was originally introduced by the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in response to an increasing emphasis on and belief that there exists a "Clash of Civilisations." Khatami's ideas were also the basis for the United Nations naming 2001 as the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations.

Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and Dome of the RockThis civilisational dialogue is usually thought of in the context of Muslim-Christian and Muslim-Western secular relations. However, another often forgotten but crucial dimension is Jewish-Muslim relations. In a new development, Jewish and Muslim organisations met together last week in Brussels and discussed questions such as those listed at the beginning at this post. They also compiled information on partnerships, initiatives and best practice in the field of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in Europe.

Initiatives such as these are crucial in helping to remove mutual prejudices and misunderstandings. Here in the UK, there was a recent conference of rabbis and imams in Manchester, but to date the Government's favoured body for interacting with the Muslim community, the Muslim Council of Britain, has not even recognised Holocaust Memorial Day.

The fact remains that Jews, Christians and Muslims both here in Britain and worldwide have a common history dating back thousands of years. Now, more than ever, it is time for us all to draw upon and learn from our shared heritage and positive cultural experiences.


Katy Nicholson - CEJI said...

Driven by the desire to go beyond dialogue to confront prejudice and hatred within and towards their communities, European Jewish and Muslim grassroots organisations have now joined to create a European Platform for Jewish Muslim Co-operation.

The Platform is a key outcome of the first European Conference on Jewish Muslim Dialogue held in April 2007. It was felt that, whilst dialogue is an important first step in bringing Jewish and Muslim communities together, it is essential to move beyond dialogue to co-operation, to show solidarity with each other and to build trust between the two communities. The Platform was set up to address these issues.

The Platform was launched at an event held at the European Parliment on 27 November 2007. A key moment of the event was the official opening for signature of the Declaration in Support of Jewish-Muslim Co-operation. Open to all, regardless of religious or cultural background, the Declaration pledges support for Jews and Muslims ‘committed to foster positive intercultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations based on mutual acceptance, respect and understanding’.

The Declaration has been signed by representatives of 35 organisations in 9 countries to date. Signatories include Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg René Gutman, CIDI (Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel) Director Ronny Naftaniel, musician Sara Alexander, Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Dultz of the German Muslim League and Islam and Citizenship (Islam en Burgerschap) representative Famile Arslan. MEPs Richard Howitt, Jean Lambert and Cem Özdemir have also signed the Declaration.

The full text of the Declaration and a list of signatories can be found at www.ceji.org/dialogue/declaration.php

The European Platform for Jewish Muslim Co-operation is a key outcome of the first European Conference on Jewish Muslim Dialogue, held in April 2007. The Platform aims to support and empower grassroots dialogue and co operation initiatives between European Jewish and Muslim communities while providing a forum to showcase good practice at a European level.