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Muslim letter to Jews

by: JTA and SJ staff - Last updated: 2008-02-27

Muslim leaders have issued an unprecedented appeal to world Jewry for closer relations.

In a letter generated by the Muslim-Jewish study centre at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, Muslim scholars acknowledged the gap in understanding that exists today between Jews and Muslims, and asked Jewish leaders to help them bridge it.

Sheik Michael Mumisa, a lecturer at the Woolf Institute, described 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.

The letter to the world’s Jewish community, Mumisa said, is "a call for positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim-Jewish relations."

"I really think that this letter is a signal that we are ready to call for dialogue," said Professor Tariq Ramadan. "We need to get beyond ‘tolerance’ which is saying that ‘I put up with you but I would rather you were not here’ to a mutual knowledge and a mutual respect."

Signators include Professor Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington.

The letter notes that Judaism and Islam share core doctrinal beliefs, the most important of which is strict monotheism. That theological conjoining should in itself dictate greater communication, the signators urged.

According to the Woolf Institute, the letter’s aim, is to show that Muslims are willing to engage in dialogue with the Jewish community about issues other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I wholeheartedly welcome this most important initiative on the part of Muslim scholars and representatives," commented Rabbi David Rosen, international president, Religions for Peace and Advisor on Interfaith Relations to the chief rabbinate of Israel.

Rosen added: "The benefits from respectful dialogue and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities can be a blessing not only to the communities themselves, but can have a profound impact on wider even global relations between religions and peoples, contributing to the well being of human society as a whole."


(c) JTA