Jewish-Muslim Relations: A Realistic Approach

Session at Limmud Conference

Much has been said about and promoted as Jewish-Muslim Interfaith dialogue in England. Yet, it is a truism that there remains a great gap between the vast numbers of members of the two communities in Britain. This session aims to address some of the core issues of why the dialogue has become at best preaching to the converted and at worst, stagnant and a non-starter.

Dr Tahir Abbas Dr Tahir Abbas, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, speaking

He said: There seems to be too much talk, but not enough action. We need to act on what we say. I made a conscious decision to send my son to King David School in Birmingham because I wanted him to learn about the Abrahamic faiths rather than only Islam. I have visited Concentration Camps and learnt about the Holocaust. But at the same time, I know that there are problems between the two communities regarding questions of Human Rights, Individual Integrity and certain aspects Israel-Palestine. Dialogue involves all these issues. Nevertheless, I am positive about the future of the Muslims in the UK and improvement of interfaith relations.

Dr Tahir Abbas and Mehri Niknam Dr Tahir Abbas and Mehri Niknam

She said: Since the London bombing in 7/7, the focus of Muslim-Jewish dialogue has shifted from its original approach and objectives. It has become individualistic, self-promoting, superficial, unprofessional, parochial and non-realistic. One reason is the mushrooming of non-professional, so-called "dialogue forums" in recent years which has resulted in equating what I call "talking to your neighbours" with genuine professional interfaith dialogue. The other major reason is the non-involvement of the Orthodox community in the dialogue.

Interfaith relations are a necessity not a luxury. The Orthodox rabbis particularly, and the community in general, must make an effort to engage with the Muslim community or risk being marginalised. We must enter this dialogue with a professional understanding and that involves having a clear and constructive, transparent and realistic aims and objectives.