Muslims. Jews. What’s the next word you think of? Two religious leaders in Huntsville are among those working to make “friendship” the word associated with their faith groups’ relationship.

“We know what we have to do. We have to cross the street,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Ballon Monday as he and Imam Mohammad Razavi met at the Alabama Islamic Education Center to discuss their faith traditions. “The achievement of peace is not easy, or it would have been done a long time ago.”

Allah. Elohim. Al-Ilah Eloha.

Ask the two religious leaders to name God, and their sacramental languages of Arabic and Hebrew show the commonness of the names for God, the closeness of the cognate roots. When they are sitting, as they were Monday, with copies of the Quran and the Torah on the table, very quickly the books are open and the Arabic and Hebrew are compared.

“This is the same God,” Ballon said. “The terms are absolutely interchangeable. This is the same, not a separate God.”

This year, the end of Muharram, the month of commemoration of the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, nearly coincides with the beginning of Passover, the annual Jewish feast to commemorate the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian slavery. The two events point out that both peoples have a history of tragedy and both cling to their faith despite difficulties.

The conversations between Ballon and Razavi, both of whom have long been active in interfaith exchanges here and, for Razavi, also in London, began in earnest about a month ago at the urging of Dr. Richard Brooks.


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