EDMOND — When you hear about Jewish-Muslim relations, initially one thinks about politics. It is unfortunate that the media often focuses on divisive stories between Jews and Muslims instead of stories where people of both faiths can come together as they do so often locally.
There are other stories that need to be told. For example, the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation that hosted Muslims for their weekly Friday prayers and conducts Jewish services on Saturdays for the Sabbath. The lack of coverage of stories like this in the mainstream media is contributing to the widening gap between Judaism and Islam. I think we should try to bridge this gap in hopes of establishing common ground between these two Abrahamic faiths.
Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace for centuries in Spain before the Spanish Inquisition and in the Middle East before European colonialism. Muslims respect both Jews and Christians as “People of the Book,” as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.
Muslims and Jews share a similar religious outlook or concept of the Creator, jurisprudence, religious structure and practice. Muslims and Jews are both very strict monotheists, believing in the absolute oneness of God, who is the Creator of the universe and everything in it. In Islam, God is the same as the God of Jews and Christians. Muslims prefer to use the Arabic word for God, Allah, because it is linguistically unique, as it has no plural (gods) or gender (goddess) as it does in English. In the Islamic tradition, all prophets, including Moses and Muhammad, are brothers in faith.
The jurisprudence of both Islam and Judaism are similar, as there are religious laws that govern both the religious and daily affairs of its adherents. This includes everything from criminal justice and business ethics to family and politics. The guiding principles of each faith are rooted in the Ten Commandments, which are respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Both religious communities share practices of daily prayers, giving of charity, fasting and dietary regulations. It is widely known that Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan, abstaining from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to dusk, but Jews also fast on a number of occasions, one of which is on Yom Kippur.
Jews and Muslims can break bread with one another very easily since the dietary restrictions are almost identical; the Islamic “Halal” and Jewish “Kosher” dietary codes prohibit the consumption of pork, and animals must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner, pronouncing a blessing first.
Both Abrahamic faiths follow the lunar calendar. At the end of this past September, both Jews and Muslims celebrated their very special and historic holidays as they coincided: The end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Muslims see Ramadan as a time for forgiveness, new beginnings and spiritual awakenings on the path to becoming a better person.
I want to encourage my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters to explore new beginnings of friendship and mutual understanding, based upon the foundations of faith that unite these two Abrahamic traditions. If that may be difficult for you, consider justice as the call to unite us all.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are diseases which plague our society, but they do not need to. Anti-Semitism is the hatred of Jews. Islamophobia is the unfounded fear of Muslims and Islam. These are derived from a lack of understanding of the two Abrahamic traditions, which we all must reconcile.
Since 9/11, the demonization of the Muslim community has become accepted by a vocal fringe, but should be and is rejected by a majority of Americans. As Americans who believe in the ideals and beliefs of this great nation, and especially religious pluralism, it is our civic duty to ensure that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Anything short of that is denying the promise of the American Dream.
Muslims, Jews and Christians need to unite against these forms of hatred and ignorance. Let us not forget the reminder from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., which states, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
We all may have our differences, but that does not mean we cannot come together on those issues that unite us all. Christians, Jews and Muslims are descendants in faith of Abraham, but we are all children of Adam.
RAZI HASHMI is an Edmond resident and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org