Play performed by Jews and Muslims is celebrated in Lords

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

On Sunday night, London’s Tricycle Theatre staged a play with a difference about the recent Gaza war — it was performed by a group of young local Muslims and Jews.

Homecoming was the latest project of Muju, the Muslim-Jewish arts group founded four years ago.

“People had warned us against doing it because it’s such an emotive issue,” said Georgina Bednar, who co-chairs Muju with Salman Siddiqui. “But we wanted to face the elephant in the room — which we did to a sell-out audience.”

For Ms Bednar, who works for Streetwise, the safety awareness charity, tackling events in the Middle East was “the biggest test Muju has had so far, but perhaps the result is a deeper understanding between us.

“Emotions ran high during rehearsals, but Muju creates a safe space where opinions can be aired.

“We usually end rehearsals with a meal and a laugh, when the raised voices quieten down and friendships are restored.”

Muju was one of the interfaith ventures celebrated on Monday at a House of Lords reception for visiting members of the European Platform for

Jewish-Muslim Co-operation. The platform aims to provide a continental profile for Muslim-Jewish initiatives, with six countries so far involved: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Its UK Jewish executive member is Richard Stone, president of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.

A two-day visit included dinner in Olive, a kosher Iranian restaurant in north London, and a morning at the Centre for Muslim-Jewish relations in Cambridge.

Bashir Quraishy, a Danish-based anti-racism activist, said he was pleased that “awareness of Muslim-Jewish co-operation is much higher than in many European Union countries”.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, he said, “discrimination is not only about ethnicity and colour, it is has also about culture and religion. This is why it is important for Jews and Muslims... to move forward and solve their problems together”.

But both needed to counter prejudice about each other from within their own communities, he said, citing a Muslim religious leader who rejected his interfaith work as “haram [forbidden]” and an Israeli rabbi who told him that Islam was just “a very bad copy of Judaism”.

The platform was launched in 2007 by the Brussels-based group, Ceji — A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe.

The group is heavily involved in “diversity education” across Europe and has now produced training manuals on antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Ceji’s dialogue co-ordinator, Ruth Friedman, who is originally from London, said: “We started with dialogue, but we realised that it is co-operation that is important — working and creating something new together.”

Last updated: 5:36pm, March 24 2009