A new era: Chief rabbi meets Emirati sheik in historic moment

The pair appeared together in conversation at the Palace of Westminster


Appearing together in parliament, the Chief Rabbi and leading Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah have hailed the Abraham peace accords as kickstarting a new era of interfaith relations.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the 2020 agreement marked a “paradigm shift” in cooperation between Jews and Muslims.

Sheikh bin Bayyah, who founded the UAE-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, said that since the deal was signed: “The record of Israel is a move to a more peaceful existence.”

The meeting was an “exceptionally special occasion” held “in a spirit of friendship”, the Chief Rabbi added.

He said: “Let’s discuss the deepest elements of what might divide us and I have no doubt we will emerge strengthened knowing that there is so much that unites us. 

“One already sees that the sands of change have shifted and as a result there is a positive movement in regards to a new reality, that provides so many extraordinary opportunities for us as adherents of these two faiths and through us for the entire world. It is a thrilling moment, let’s make the most of it.”

Sheikh bin Bayyah said his aim in meeting with the Chief Rabbi was “peace with all nations and peoples.”

Emphasising the common links between Islam and Judaism, he said: “The Quran and the Jewish tradition affirms the quest to save one soul is the quest to save all souls…

“The call to do good is to do good for all, not just believers.”

The meeting comes two years after the landmark Abraham Accords were inked, establishing peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. 

Sheikh bin Bayyah, who is thought to be close to the country’s ruling regime, said the UAE was now stepping up efforts to fight religious discrimination against Jews.

Israelis have flocked to the gulf state since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. In June, Abu Dhabi’s first kosher restaurant opened, capable of serving thousands of Jewish tourists a day.

Emphasising the importance of faith in fighting conflict, Sheikh bin Bayyah added: “By returning to our core texts we can counteract peddlers of hate and violence.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis said Sheikh bin Bayyah’s support for peace and coexistence was “music to my ears”.

“We must strengthen our friendship and reach out,” the Chief Rabbi added.

The Anglo-Jewish community had demonstrated its belief in interfaith work by supporting displaced Muslims during the refugee crisis, he claimed, noting that World Jewish Relief provided halal sandwiches.

“I cherish our friendship,” he added, “and I look forward to working together more.”

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