I post this update in Zagreb, in between Ljubljana and Sarajevo, on a listening tour for practical lessons that can be applied in the Middle East. Ramadan Kareem.
This is an update about the first annual Muslim Jewish
Conference in Vienna - a gathering of young professionals from 25 countries. This was a powerful experience for me, from making new friends to learning about myself Thank you to all who support me as I travel. You make it possible for me to learn and grow.
See my photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2323312&id=120081
WHAT IS THE MJC?
The Muslim Jewish Conference is a dream for interfaith dialogue that young students worked hard to realize. The size was right - sixty participants from Indonesia to Israel. A dozen more support the conference in addition the six committee chairs, of which I was one.
The MJC is the brainchild of Ilja Sichrovsky and Matthias Gattermeier, who built a team, secured support and structured the event on the basis of their experience with Model UN. The University of Vienna provided a venue and the MJC was also supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Karl Kahane Foundation, the President of Austria Dr. Heinz Fischer, and many more prestigious individuals. A personal message was also written by President Bill Clinton!
The purpose of the MJC was to initiate a new dialogue amongst Muslims and Jews. The mission was four-fold:
1. Create a new language for interfaith dialogue
2. Offer a platform for new platforms of action
3. Transform the individual through the experience
4. Enable the transformation of a community for interfaith relationshihps
The main outcome of the MJC is an official declaration with calls for action that will br publicized and submitted to the UN Alliance of Civilizations. The official conference declaration, in the process of
being finalized, will be made up of the declarations of the three independent committees
1. Islamophobia and Antisemitism
3. The Role of Media
Together with Fatima Hassanain of Pakistan, I served as co-chair of the committee on Islamophobia and Antisemitism. Our committee's working assumption was that what there is not what it could be. Our work was to see what is and imagine what is possible for us, on three levels:
- Universal - defining terms and identifying existent and necessary legalities
- Community - examining what is and what is possible for communities
- Individual - realign what we can do as individuals
We conducted ice-breakers to enabler comfort and working space, worked as a group and in small groups, filled poster boards chalkboards and eventually our room with our progress and produced this preliminary declaration:
DECLARATION - of the Muslim Jewish Conference on Combating Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism
The world we live in is wrought with inter-religious and intercultural tensions to the extent of hatred. As young leaders, professionals, activists and students; we find this reality unacceptable and wish to emphasize the potential within our communities to eradicate these tensions by listening and understanding each others’ differences. Our collective experiences have taught us that openness towards each other which developed into respect, appreciation and friendship amongst us.
In our committee, young people from various backgrounds, beliefs and nationalities came together to invent a better world. We explored two forms of hatred that plague our world: Islamophobia and Antisemitism. We found the aforesaid is a result of an acute lack of awareness and the manipulation of facts at all levels of state and society. We identified common grounds between our communities and faiths in order to address specific problems on universal, community and individual level.
We believe in an inherent dignity and equality of all human beings and devoted to work towards a society without prejudice and resentment that is respectful of diversity.
We recognize that tensions, negative sentiments, latent and open conflicts between the Muslim and the Jewish communities as well as between them and other communities are present;
Many of the current problems that our communities are facing are a result of a lack of mutual respect, unwillingness within communities to reach out to the “other”, absence of knowledge, imbalance of power and access to resources, social inequality, misuse of religion for political purposes, ineffective and/or negative communication between the communities;
Affirming the right to critical evaluation of Jewish or Islamic religious concepts and their social effects, and conscious that important differences exist between the two phenomena; and recognizing that and Islamophobia and Antisemitism do not necessarily make explicit mention of Muslims and Jews, nor exclusively target people who regard themselves as such,
Antisemitism as the prejudice, discrimination or hatred towards anything perceived as Jewish. It exists or is manifested on a personal, community, state or international level.
Islamophobia as the fear-induced prejudice, discrimination or hatred towards anything perceived as Muslim or Islamic, that is manifested on a personal, community, state or international level.
The issues of Islamophobia and Antisemitism are not about Islam and Jews – they are about Islamophobes and anti-Semites. Hence, communities outside the Muslim and Jewish have to be addressed. On the other hand, ways must be discovered to get rid of Antisemitism within Muslim communities and Islamophobia within the Jewish one.
Intercultural and interfaith communication and interaction are crucial components of combating Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Therefore, we propose this Declaration of the Muslim Jewish Conference on combating Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, presenting recommendations and guidelines that we deem essential to foster a better common future.
CORE ISSUES AS IDENTIFIED BY THE COMMITTEE ON ISLAMOPHOBIA AND ANTISEMITISM OF THE MUSLIM JEWISH CONFERENCE
Use of religion for political purposes
There is a widespread acceptance of Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the political sphere as a legitimate part of reality. This ranges from failure of mainstream parties to stand up against the radical fringe to parties’ subliminal endorsement of Islamophobic and Antisemitic agendas and in some cases to an official endorsement of Antisemitism and Islamophobia as part of the ruling ideology by public authorities.
Lack of responsibility and accountability
There is a lack of empathy and initiative within civil societies to stop and prevent manifestations of Islamophobia and Antisemitism. Voters do not hold their elected representatives accountable for Islamophobic or Antisemitic sentiments. The rule of law is not used by the civil society as a democratic tool in order to combat Islamophobia and Antisemitism. Communication
There is a widespread absence of communication between the Muslim and Jewish communities and the surrounding societies. Media often offers biased and polarized representation of the Muslim and Jewish communities and seeks out and sensationalizes negative news. This aids to perpetuate Antisemitism and Islamophobia on an individual, community, or/and state and interstate level.
Recent legislation that is being introduced in several countries worldwide to place limits on the practice religion in public space contributes to escalation of tensions between communities. On the other hand, in other countries, the use of legislation as a way to protect citizens against Islamophobia and Antisemitism is absent or
Individuals and communities are often unwilling to collaborate and interact respectfully. It is necessary to raise interest and to actively engage on an individual, community and universal level in meaningful exchange and dialogue and contribute to broadening and deepening the knowledge about each other.
We urge governing bodies, global organizations and people all over the world to take on responsibility for maintaining universal welfare, sustainable peace, understanding, and interconnectedness between communities within a wider society;
We call upon governing bodies, global organizations, and people all over the world to be conscious of the fact that the use of religious and political symbols should be done responsibly;
We call upon governing bodies, global organizations, and people all over the world to protect personal rights and freedoms;
We urge governing bodies and global organizations, and people all over the world to promote equality while recognizing and celebrating diversity;
We encourage governing bodies and global organizations, and people all over the world to protect religion from being used for political manipulation;
We recommend governing bodies, global organizations and people all over the world to demand media organizations to highlight intercultural and interreligious successes;
We call upon governing bodies, global organizations and people all over the world to provide universal comparative religious education to spread awareness, knowledge and contact with different world faith communities.
SUGGESTION FOR ACTION
Provide sufficient security to places of worship.
Allowance for all individuals to celebrate their respective religious holidays at the place of their work.
Organized civil action to monitor and hold accountable political representatives who endorse and incite Antisemitism and Islamophobia;
A network to support activism, advocacy, and the promotion of positive news, results, progress, and successes in interreligious, and inter-community cooperation into the mainstream traditional and online media worldwide.
We call upon communities to recognize that Antisemitism and Islamophobia exist within and between Muslim, Jewish, secular, and other communities;
We encourage interreligious education initiatives that bring together teachers and students from different communities
We endorse the establishment of community based media cooperation to ensure responsible reporting;
We recommend communities to reach out to other groups and their members for participation in communal activities and religious practices;
We strongly recommend collaboration on legal issues that affect different communities;
We endorse an ongoing dialogue amongst communities within and across national borders;
We encourage communities to promote an atmosphere of inter-communal solidarity based on trust, empathy and understanding;
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
Reaching out to the members of one’s own and other communities is most effective in teams composed of activists hailing from a diverse religious background such as Muslim-Jewish collaboration “Lines of
Interreligious collaboration at the level of small businesses already exists and can be expanded beyond their original scope;
Invitation to visit places of worship and other religious establishments together;
Muslim and Jewish fundraisers should collaborate to raise funds for projects of common interest, such as aiding those effected by natural disasters;
Advocating for legal rights effecting religious freedoms (practices)
Sustained long-term action-oriented dialogue such as the twinning of local places of worship to facilitate on-going programming
We encourage each individual to actively engage in reducing and combating prejudice and discrimination when encountering it.
We emphasize the necessity to critically question information received through media, educational and social channels
We encourage people to be open-minded and to make an effort to understand and teach.
We call for responsiveness, openness to conflicting ideas and values, critical thinking, questioning one’s own values, embracing and nurturing universal human values and beliefs.
We strongly recommend the utilization and reinforcement of formal and informal avenues to express personal beliefs.
We reaffirm the need for mutual respect on a personal level.
We support individual efforts to resolve contentious issues within and between communities.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
Individual interaction through sharing relitious celebrations such as the Passover Meal , Iftar, Shabbat Dinner or Eid;
Muslims, Jews and other individuals takıng part ın charitable acts together.
Collaboration between Muslim and Jewish organizations such as the Muslim Students Assocıatıon and Hillel provide individuals with opportunities to interact;
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