In an emerging national conversation about the future of Jewish-Muslim
relations, several experts this week debated the appropriate conditions
under which Jewish community officials should break bread with Islamic
The issue is a growing concern for Jewish leaders across the country as
Islamic groups are increasing their visibility in national and local
politics in the wake of September 11 attacks, which increased the mistrust
between Jews and Muslims.
The October 17 forum, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,
centered on a new study by Raquel Ukeles, a doctoral student in Jewish and
Islamic studies at Harvard University who is critical of the current
standards used by American Jewish defense organizations in determining
which Muslims should be included in dialogue.
Citing her report, "Locating the Silent Muslim Majority: Policy
Recommendations for Improving Jewish-Muslim Relations in the United
States," Ukeles told a gathering of about 75 Jewish community
representatives from across the country that they have a rare, small window
of opportunity to take some risks and engage Muslim organizations that were
previously deemed unacceptable for dialogue.
At issue is whether to dialogue with moderate Muslims who are linked to
organizations or coalitions that do not renounce terrorism against Israel
or that are associated with terror-funding groups — a policy dubbed a