Sunday, 10 August 2014

HuffPost: Israel-Gaza Conflict Puts Interfaith Relations To The Test By: Jaweed Kaleem

« When a group of Arab college students visiting New York met last week for a Ramadan iftar, they were greeted with an unexpected keynote speech.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of The Hampton Synagogue on Long Island and the leader of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an interfaith-oriented nonprofit, had come by for what initially seemed simple and routine: Sharing about his religion and his belief in Muslim-Jewish friendship. Instead, he addressed the tension in the room full of Muslims, and the space between his views and theirs on Israel and Gaza, now on day 24 of fighting with more than 1,300 dead. Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire that begins Friday.

"I don't see an end to this conflict until more Muslims speak about against terror and evil in their midst," Schneier said in an interview, paraphrasing his speech at Nusantara, a Muslim-run charity, to students who hailed from Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Turkey.

Afterward, prominent New York mosque leader Imam Shamsi Ali, who was hosting the event, had his turn to speak. "I, too, blame Hamas," he said later, recalling his words, "but I also blame Israel, which has killed thousands of innocent lives."

That kind of polite back-and-forth is something she's only more recently learned to finesse through her interfaith experiences, said Chaudry, the former president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut. "You get so committed to the echo chamber, that you don't even see what the narrative is in the other community," she said. "So how do you strategize about how to talk to them about what you believe is happening in Israel and Palestine? In some instances you stand firm, such as that the occupation must end."

During such conversations, Chaudry finds herself turning to words from Imam al-Shafi'i, a famed 9th century Muslim jurist. "I believe my opinion is right with the possibility that it is wrong," she quoted him, "and I believe the opinion of those who disagree with me is wrong with the possibility that it is right."
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Kol Tuv,

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