Sharing more than Abraham
I have just returned from Berlin where I attended a conference with the Council of Christians and Jews to look at the possibility of trilateral discussions involving Muslims, Christians and Jews and historical narratives.
The common theme for the future seemed to be what Abraham means to the three faiths, and two fascinating days were spent discussing how this great prophet could be a bridge for interfaith discussions between the three faiths.
It seems that not only do Muslims and Jews share Abraham, we share a lot more. We share a history of persecution, and we as communities can and should unite both strategically and operationally against the increasing xenophobic and anti-migrant discourse that is developing across Europe and other parts of the world.
What seems to be the anti-Muslim chant in Europe should be no cold comfort to other communities, since antisemitism in Europe is on the rise. This kind of unchecked hate and fear will mutate and has the potential to spread, especially in an economically depressed Europe.
Although there was a small step forward last week in Europe for Jewish and Muslim communities over the labelling of meat, this issue is sure to resurface in the future. The proposed amendment 205 on food labelling effectively discriminated against those who eat halal and kosher meat.
The not-so-subtle suggestion made was that those who conduct these practices
and who consume the meat are heartless
and somewhat barbaric in their practice, sending a highly aggressive message out
that Muslims and Jews are different from everyone else.
Muslim and Jewish communities must continue to campaign against such proposals, so that we check any attempt to discriminate simply because of our faith. We must protect our rights to prepare our food in line with our dietary laws. There is much work we can do together.
There is one change taking place that I feel, see and hear regularly. Both of our communities' safety and security is an area that is becoming acutely important and where co-operation is needed urgently.
For example, the Community Security Trust was heavily involved in supporting the Harrow Mosque in 2009 when the English Defence League attempted a march through one of the most cohesive and peaceful boroughs in London. Such co-operation united local communities against the EDL's corrosive and highly dangerous set of narratives.
Our safety is closely linked and I hope to see Muslims working for the protection of synagogues, and Jews involved in the protection of mosques in the future.
The time has come and the social space is opening up for such radical and much-needed approaches to be put into place, so that our communities can work together to protect what is sacred to us.
On a more positive note, growing philanthropy within Muslim communities could result in an era of combined Muslim and Jewish philanthropic giving for positive social change in the UK. What a huge difference this would make to both communities and especially to Muslim communities, given the levels of poverty within it. The cuts to Government funding of social projects will leave a gap in many community organisations budgets, enabling this area of giving to expand exponentially in the next five years.
There is one more obvious area where Muslims and Jews could work together - trade. Social capital exchange and knowledge sharing is an area where joint co-operation will make a huge difference to community relations. There is no social vehicle in the UK today that brings Jews and Muslims together on a regular basis to ensure the exchange of social capital. There is potential for communal organisations to learn so much from each other and share ideas to make these organisations stronger.
Given the number of areas our communities can work together on, and the positive difference greater cooperation would bring about, I throw down a challenge. We should not let others manipulate our fears. We should come together bearing in mind the benefits that can be gained. That decision is ours and ours alone to make and I hope that we heed the call to action to do something.
Fiyaz Mughal is the founder and director of Faith Matters