Today I had a business meeting that involved a Muslim lady. She was clearly uncomfortable with my presence as a visable Jew, and in addition to not speaking, her body language was very telling. She would not make eye contact and had literally frozen up. Whilst whatever it was that was causing her discomfort, it isÂ her problem, not mine. I will be courteous to anyone who wishes to speak to me, and will happily do business with anybody who wants to mutually benefit from a transaction.
There were some interesting comments posted in response to the previous post on religious tolerance. Whilst constructive in nature, few attitudes will change as a result of that discussion.
I also saw an interview by Sheikh Hillaly, who is apparantely still teaching in Australia, despite being dumped as the lead cleric of the Muslim community. He was asked what he thought about Jews and his response was that he had no problem with Jews, as long as they weren’t Zionists. He went on to say that Zionism is racist and a threat to world peace.
Anybody who understands Judaism will understand that Judaism is not just a religion. It is not just an ethnic identity or race. It is an intrinsic combination of the two, and the nationalism associated with that is the land of Zion, very much part of the biblical covenant that constitues the being of the Jewish people.
I believe we have to do more locally to foster dialogue between Muslims and Jews. Some attempts have been made by various groups, and even Carmel School has a program that allows students to interact. Yet there has been an uneasy tension surrounding all of this activity. Setting the right groundrules, and entering encounters with genuine objectives of why we, as Australian religious minority communities, need to understand each other is very important. ICJS has posted a newly released article about interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims by Isi Liebler. He calls it straight. But with an acknowledgement of the cautions provided, surely some steps need to be taken in 2008 to establish better links between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Perth. As was my experience today, I would like to better understand my Muslim counterparts, and certainly would like them to better understand me. We won’t agree on everything, but we can at least acknowledge and respect our differences.