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Muslims say Israel is key to dialogue

    Afzal Khan
    Afzal Khan

    Jews and Muslims involved in interfaith work have differing ideas about discussing Israel in their dialogue groups.

    In Manchester, Lucille Cohen, the new president of the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, has said that on the whole she believes that "if it's appropriate, leave Israel on the side".

    Mrs Cohen, the former president of the Zionist Central Council, is also involved with the Altrincham Interfaith Group.

    She said: "We know there is not a lot of common ground on Israel. We also have to work together on the pragmatic issues. But this elephant in the room has to be dealt with. The problem is we need to be able to co-operate and, if Israel would be brought up continually, it might affect things we need to pragmatically deal with on a day to day basis - things like antagonism against the BNP and the mutual issue of ritual slaughter.

    "While there could be movement in Muslim-Jewish dialogue about Israel, I can't see any progress at the moment. But I would like to see it."

    The co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, and its current co-chair, is Afzal Khan, one-time policeman and former Lord Mayor of Manchester. He acknowledges that "while we clearly sit on opposite ends of the subject, still we need to talk about it. My take is that dialogue is ultimately a good move.We can't sweep it under the carpet, but equally, coming to blows in Manchester is not going to solve anything. Having open dialogue is helpful. If you don't even have that, it leads to self-righteousness. But both can't be right and we need to be able to deal with difficult questions."

    Mr Khan added: "It's a mixed moral bag on both sides. The key bit, though, is the commonality between us. That's being covered up by big political issues.

    "After 9/11 we saw both sides are coming from a totally different angle.

    "The Jewish side says 'now you know what we are putting up with', the Muslim says 'now you know what wrongs have been done.'"

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