Breaking the Ramadan fast in the company of Jews

July 10, 2014

(RNS) Muslim tradition calls for breaking the Ramadan fast in the evening with a date and a sip of water, and increasingly these days, the company of Jews.

Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.

This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.

In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.

“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”

At Muslim-Jewish iftars, particular attention is paid to food. In Los Angeles, the meal will be both halal and kosher, in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, which often overlap. Neither faith community eats pork, for example. Out of respect for Muslim tradition, no alcohol will be served.

Some of these interfaith Iftars will be hosted in mosques or other Muslims institutions — on Sunday (July 13), for example, at the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies in Cary, N.C. Others will take place in synagogues.

French imams gather at the Jewish museum in Brussels

June 9, 2014

On Monday, June 9, French imams gathered alongside members of the Belgian Association Against Anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. The ceremony was held in order to commemorate those killed in the May 24 shooting in which Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche shot four people, three of whom were killed. The gathering included a prayer during which leaders of both the Muslim and Jewish communities joined hands before a moment of silence, followed by a candle lighting ceremony to honor the victims.

Hassen Chalghoumi, the “imam of Drancy,” was present at the ceremony. Chalghoumi is known for his fierce opposition to radical Islam and its violence, his denunciation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and his close ties with France’s Jewish community. In his speech he asserted that “The Muslim majority must end its silence and state that we don’t have anything to do with this type of individual. I also urge parents to engage in dialogue with young people. If I am here, it is to demonstrate that the Muslim community supports the bereaved families. Because we are all victims. One cannot associate Islam with this mentally ill individual. He himself chose this path.” In an effort to prevent the influence of imams trained in countries outside of Europe, Chalghoumi emphasized the need for a “European Islam.”

Writer Marek Halter of the Jewish community also spoke. “It is important to reconcile religions and to remember that those who kill are not part of the majority, otherwise we all would have been killed,” said Halter. The initiative of French imams has touched the Jewish community in Brussels, especially the museum’s president Philippe Blondin: “It’s…a magnificent gesture of openness. I welcome them with great emotion.”

Following the shooting the European Union pledged to combat the “jihadist threat.” It has prepared a series of measures to identify young Europeans who have left to fight in Syria in order to prevent them from committing violent acts when they return to Europe.

Muslim leaders ask for equal billing with Jewish holiday on Montgomery calendar

Muslim community leaders in Montgomery County this week asked that the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Adha be given equal billing as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur on Montgomery’s 2015-2016 school calendar.

They described the issue as symbolic but important.

In 2015, both holidays will fall on Wednesday, Sept. 23, but a calendar draft does not give them the same weight. Yom Kippur — for which county schools will be closed — is listed beside the date. The Muslim holiday is included in a parenthetical notation: Eid al-Adha also falls on this date.

Muslim leader Saqib Ali asked at a school board meeting this week that the calendar be changed to say: Yom Kippur/Eid al-Adha.

“We need to see equal treatment,” Ali told the board. “Here is a case where, on a piece of paper — this is strictly a symbolic issue — but on this day when schools are closed, even on this day, the Jewish holidays are given sort of precedence or elevated.”

The calendar question comes after Muslim leaders have repeatedly asked that at least one of the two major Muslim holidays be recognized with a day off school in Montgomery.

This week’s calendar request, signed by six other leaders of the Eid coalition, “is a very, very minimal request,” Ali said. He said the convergence of the two holidays is a “happy coincidence” for Muslim families, but more is needed.

“If MCPS can’t list the holidays equally, if they won’t even grant that, then I think people are going to start asking questions about MCPS’s general attitude toward the Muslim community,” he said.

Board Member Christopher Barclay asked district staff to look into the request. He also said he believes a standard is needed for school closings.

Italy: Circumcision, Jewish and Arab Doctors ready to cooperate

June 13, 2013

 

For the first time there is a collaboration agreement between Muslim and Jewish doctors on the topic of sanitary practices, including the practice of circumcision, a religious practice important in both Judaism and Islam. The practice is now becoming a true emergency. An ad hoc meeting led by the medical practitioners of foreigners in Italy (AMSI) comprised of a Palestinian Foad Aodi and the president of the Jewish medical practitioners Dario Perugia. A big difference between the two practices is that in Judaism the circumcision is under the control of the synagogue, however, a third of Muslims babies are operated on secretly, with a huge risk of infection and other complications.

 

“These are large numbers,” says Aodi, “because in Italy there are about 1 million 300 thousand Muslims almost all of them believe in these practices.” The Amzi is fighting for circumcision to take place in dedicated facilities within the national health service (circumcision should not to be confused, Muslim officials warn doctors, with illegal and reprehensible practices like female circumcision or female genital mutilation) “First of all, to protect the health of children,” said the President of Amzi. Secondly such facilities would remove the ‘black market’ of circumcision in Italy, with doctors who get paid a thousand Euros for a single intervention, forcing many families great sacrifice and prompting many to return to their countries of origin. The hope is to create specialized surgeries that offer the service by paying a reasonable price (up to 100 €). This is already the case in some regions, such as Emilia Romagna and Veneto. It is, however, important to standardize the rules on a national scale. “Every day we receive phone calls from desperate families who do not know where to turn,” emphasized Aodi.

Labour peer Lord Ahmed suspended over claims he blamed imprisonment on ‘Jewish conspiracy’

The story today is that the labour party has suspended one of its members in light of comments made in a Pakistani television interview. The peer was suspended after he appeared to blame a Jewish conspiracy for his imprisonment for dangerous driving. The leader of the Labour Party Ed Milliband responded as follows: “There’s no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and frankly anybody who makes those kinds of comments cannot be either a Labour lord or a Labour Member of Parliament”. With the relations between Islam and Judaism tense as it is, the labour peer is reported to have said in the TV broadcast: “My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this.”

Merah affaire reaffirms resentment in Toulouse

Following Mohamed Merah’s killing spree that caused the death of three French soldiers, three Jewish school children and a rabi on 11 March and 19 March 2012, expressions of radicalism against both Muslims and Jews  have increased in and around Toulouse. In a report published by Libération, local authorities have revealed to have dealt with a number of incidents of radical grafiti that sometimes even glorified the hate crimes of Merah.

According to local prefect Henri-Michel Comet, expressions of violence against Islam and Judaism have dramatically increased after Merah’s attack. Toulouse’s district attorney Michel Valet further states that ‘’the Merah affair was a revelation and amplifier of the behaviour of some frail people’’.

Europe’s ”Judeo-Christian heritage”: The Fiction That It Always Was

Contemporary debate over Europe’s identity increasingly refers to the continent’s Christian or Judeo-Christian heritage. But a closer look at the history books belies this theory and teaches us that for centuries, Islam and Judaism have played an integral role in shaping European history and that both religions have been regarded with deep hostility down through the centuries. By Stefan Schreiner

Whenever discussions centre on how Europe perceives itself and in particular on the continent’s values, it is still commonplace – today apparently even more so than in the past – to speak of a “Christian” Europe, or at least to make reference to its Christian roots and to emphasise the Christian character that these roots have produced. But political correctness forbids the exclusive interpretation of the word “Christian” in this context, and particularly well-meaning commentators are quick to define it instead as a Judeo-Christian tradition or Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage, which does little to improve matters.

On the contrary – upon closer inspection, this reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian tradition or its Judeo-Christian heritage is revealed all too smartly as a transparent manoeuvre. After all, those who most vociferously reclaim a Judeo-Christian tradition for Europe generally do this with the sole aim of saying that Islam does not per definitionem belong to the continent.

From a historical point of view, however, the Christianization of Europe was an arduous process that took more than a millennium and followed anything but a straightforward course. In fact it was a process that was repeatedly dogged by “setbacks”. Essentially, the Christianization of Europe never really reached a conclusion or was properly completed. This is because at the point when the last Muslim had been driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the West, and the “last heathens of Europe” – the Lithuanians – had been converted to Christianity in the East (in the fourteenth/fifteenth century), Islam had long begun to spread back into Europe from the East and the South-East (the Balkans). Muslim communities would then maintain a long-term presence in central and eastern Europe (Lithuania, Poland, Belarus), just as they did in the Balkans.

 

Demand for marking of meet slaughtered without the stunning

May 11, 2012-05-13

 

Meet which comes from animals that have been slaughtered without the prior stunning should be marked. This is the opinion of the Swedish Ministry for Rural Affairs (Department of Agriculture). The Swedish Radio reports that the Ministry will propose changing of the EU rules on animal slaughter on the next meeting of the EU ministers of agriculture next week.  The reason for such proposal is that many slaughterhouses in the EU member states misuse the judicial exemption which allows slaughter without prior stunning due to the religious regulations in primarily Islam and Judaism. These slaughterhouses produce far more meet (slaughtered without anesthesia) than there are consumers of such meet. According to the EU Commission report (Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection) 75 percent of all meet produced within the EU comes from animals slaughtered without the prior stunning.

Deborah Baker’s ‘The Convert’ is the true story of a Jewish girl who converted to Islam

The story of Maryam Jameelah is an extraordinary but painfully confused true tale of a young American woman whose search for moral absolutes and emotional security led her to abandon a middle-class Jewish upbringing in suburban New York in the 1960s for a vastly different existence as an exile and convert to Islam in Pakistan, where she experienced both great intellectual productivity and deep personal conflict. Deborah Baker, who based her account of Jameelah’s life largely on troves of correspondence (which Jameelah gave her permission to use), calls her story a parable of Islam and America. But it is hard to find a clear lesson in a life whose multiple twisted strands have included bouts with mental illness, family conflicts, irreconcilable loyalties to rival faiths and versions of history, and ultimate disillusionment in a search for impossible certainties about life and death.

Her tortured relationship with Judaism, Christianity and the West was a jumble of adolescent rebellion, liberal guilt and a desperate search for elusive moral verities. She was first shocked by photographs of Nazi concentration camps, then by the “Zionist propaganda” and the abuses of Palestinians that followed the creation of Israel. “I no longer consider myself a Jew,” she wrote with cold fury in 1949.

 

Abraham’s progeny, and their texts

The sweep of the new exhibition at the New York Public Library — “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” — is stunning. It stretches from a Bible found in a monastery in coastal Brittany that was sacked by the Vikings in the year 917, to a 1904 lithograph showing the original Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue. It encompasses both an elaborately decorated book of 20th-century Coptic Christian readings and a modest 19th-century printing of the Gospels in the African language Grebo.

Though the exhibition does not point this out, the connection between monotheism and such texts is no accident.