Source: International Movement for a Just World
What is the role of the Middle East conflict in Jewish-Muslim dialogue? Is the media a positive force for change in inter-religious relations? How can local communities be successfully engaged in dialogue? These were a number of the questions tackled by representatives of Jewish and Muslim organisations at a Conference on Jewish-Muslim Dialogue held in Brussels last week.
Addressed by speakers including Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid (Chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK), Rabbi Michel Serfaty (Founder & President of AmitiÃ© JudÃ©o-Musulmane de France) and European Commission Culture Director Vladimir Sucha, participants were reminded of their shared religious and cultural heritage and were encouraged to join forces rather than working against each other. A key outcome of the Conference was the establishment of a European Platform for Jewish-Muslim Co-operation to both encourage and to raise the profile of local, national and Europe-wide dialogue and co-operation initiatives. In providing a forum for the sharing of experiences, ideas and good practices, the Conference also witnessed the initiation of new partnerships between organisations and the development of project ideas in the arts, media coverage of Jewish and Muslim issues, religious diversity training, grassroots involvement, academic co-operation and joint lobbying efforts. Awards for best practice in Jewish-Muslim co-operative initiatives were also proposed.
The Conference also saw the release of 'mapping reports' compiling information on partnerships, initiatives and best practice in the field of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK and France. Presented by Dr Richard Stone, Founding Director of Alif-Alef UK, the reports show that although there are real challenges facing dialogue initiatives including not only the Middle East conflict and gender issues but also structural differences between communities and the need for time and effort to sustain dialogue there is nevertheless a great deal of positive contact between Jewish and Muslim communities in the countries studied, and this is growing. Organised by Brussels-based Jewish anti-racism organisation CEJI with guidance from a Jewish -Muslim Steering Group, the European Conference on Jewish-Muslim Dialogue was conceived with a view to promoting dialogue, exchange of best practice, co-operation and partnership between Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe. It welcomed seventy Jews and Muslims from Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK and France who are involved in or interested in dialogue at a community level. Organisations represented included the European Muslim Network, the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) and Islamic Relief.