Jewish and Muslim communities to break fast for peace

July 15, 2014

NEW HAVEN. The violent actions on display between Israelis and Palestinians is a sight Rabbi Herbert Brockman doesn’t like viewing or listening to.

But instead of hearing about casualties, Brockman, spiritual leader of Congregation Mishkan Israel of Hamden, doesn’t want to stand by.

At sundown Tuesday, Brockman and other members of the Jewish community will head to The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford in Berlin for a date with Muslims, where they will break fast together. Tuesday is Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, a fast day for Jews, while Muslims are fasting during the month of Ramadan, Mongi Dhaouadi, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Connecticut, praised the event. CAIR’s focus is to empower the Muslim community through activism.

“It was well received from both sides,” Dhaouadi of New London said. “It’s a very small gesture. I don’t think sitting on the sideline doing nothing is acceptable either.”

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.

Far-Right Rise Unites Muslims, Jews

May 27, 2014

To the surprise of many, the far-right parties’ overwhelming success in the recent European Parliament elections has united European Muslims and Jews.

In response to such victories, notably the Front national’s, Imam Ahmed Miktar, president of the Association of the Imams of France, told Reuters, “We must learn to work together effectively on both the grass roots and leadership levels…Our communities can no longer afford the luxury of standing apart.”

His comments come in the wake of far-right victories throughout Europe, particularly Marine Le Pen’s Front national party, which garnered 25% of the total votes. The results have sparked worry among France’s religious minority groups who have since voiced the need to unite in face of the extreme parties.

Following the elections, the Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders has promised to “work closely together to fight Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia and prevent the far right parties from realizing their goal of passing a common legislative agenda in the European parliament severely restricting the rights of religious minorities.”

The statement recognized the group’s previous successes by stating that, “Just as European Muslim and Jewish leaders joined forces in recent months in successfully combating an effort by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to outlaw circumcision and to protest Denmark’s new law banning kosher and halal slaughtering, we will now stand together and speak with one voice against efforts by the extremist parties to implement their hateful agenda.”

The Front national’s triumphs, along with those of other far-right groups, is expected to hinder Turkey’s EU bid. France and Germany have been the leading opponents of Turkey’s entrance into the EU. If the country’s bid is successful it will be the first major Muslim country in the EU. Many believe that the Front national fears a Muslim-majority country joining the EU, as this could lead to increased immigration into France.

Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are targets of violence: Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama has acknowledged that even today a number of people from the South Asian origin — particularly those from Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities — are becoming victims of hate crimes in America.

“Even today, South Asian Americans, especially those who are Muslim, Hindu and Sikh, are targets of suspicion and violence,” Obama said in a presidential proclamation that recognised the contribution of Asian-Americans in the socio-political and economic milieu of the country.

“Like America itself, the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures – each with vibrant histories and unique perspectives to bring to our national life,” Obama said.

“Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have helped build, defend and strengthen our Nation – as farm workers and railroad laborers; as entrepreneurs and scientists; as artists, activists, and leaders of government.

They have gone beyond, embodying the soaring aspirations of the American spirit,” Obama said.

Obama reiterated his determination to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would modernise the legal immigration system, create a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants, hold employers accountable, and strengthen the border security.

He said with courage, grit, and an abiding belief in American ideals, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have challenged the Nation to be better.

“Nearly 5 years ago, I re-established the White House Initiative on AAPIs. The Initiative addresses disparities in health care, education, and economic opportunity by ensuring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders receive equal access to government programs and services,” Obama said.