Nisa-Nashim, the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network, held an online vigil on Sunday night as members from both communities grapple with feelings about events in the Middle East.
The event, which included prayers, song and the lighting of candles, was an opportunity to share each other’s pain and anguish, explained the group’s chair, Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal, a civil servant from Staffordshire.
“The fact we are all women and all mothers helps us to feel each other’s pain,” she said. “I know, as a Muslim woman, my Jewish sisters feel the pain that I am feeling.”
While attendance was restricted to 100 participants, double the number of women had wanted to take part.
“I think the work of Nisa-Nashim is needed more than ever, and I know that since the vigil, people have been approaching us, wanting to know more. That speaks volumes,” she said.
Founded eight years ago, the group, which has 25 branches across the country, “knew that we would be tested and that is exactly what is happening at this minute. We are all hoping and praying that whatever comes out over the coming days and weeks, we can weather that together,” Haroon-Iqbal said.
The group’s co-founder Laura Marks, the former senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies and founder of Mitzvah Day, said that relationships between women from the two faiths had been built up over many years and “I think, I hope, I believe that Nisa-Nashim is strong enough to get through” the current challenge.
The vigil was “a place to express solidarity, togetherness, a rejection of hatred and division here, and deep, overwhelming grief without a political opinion”, she said. “One of the traps we fall into is to think we can’t feel for the other side. If you are politically aligned one way, it doesn’t mean that you can’t understand the grief, pain or hurt on the other side.”