PA: Muslims, Jews Form Post-9/11 Friendships


On a Sunday afternoon in late September, an unusual group of people got together in a Point Breeze house. Half of them were Muslims, who, in the midst of Ramadan, talked about their beliefs and practices around the holy period. The other half were Jews, who talked about the meaning and rituals of the recently completed holy days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

As the sun set, the Muslims repaired to a side room for evening prayers, while the Jews laid out a meal of Asian, Jewish and American dishes that everyone had brought. Soon all were gathered around the table sampling sweet rice, spicy chicken and noodle dishes, laughing and chatting.

Muslims and Jews elsewhere may be thinking the worst of each other, but this group came together in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, looking for common ground. On Sunday it will celebrate its fifth anniversary.

The Pittsburgh group, one of a few that have formed around the country, has 24 members, and most were present that day: Farooq and Karen Hussaini, Mohammad and Nayyra Ilyas, Safdar and Rahila Khwaja, Kazim Rezaf, and Waseem Ahmed; Janice Gordon and Rob Kraftowitz, Allen Baum and Liz Witzke-Baum, Jean Clickner, Carrie Ban, James Osher and Carol Shubert.

Mostly Pittsburgh-area professionals, they gather every six weeks or so in each other's homes to talk about religion, culture, world affairs and current events.

"When 9/11 happened, after the shock wore off, my response was, 'My gosh, I don't know a single Muslim,' " said Ms. Gordon, of Point Breeze.

"I felt that was a huge problem for me. I was very eager to make a connection with someone in the Muslim community who was like-minded."

She found a partner in Suraiya Farukhi, a public relations specialist from Monroeville and a native of Pakistan. The women met when Ms. Farukhi spoke at a program of Ms. Gordon's congregation. Ms. Farukhi and her husband, Nayeem, have since moved to Chicago for work.

"Suraiya and I got together at Starbucks and found our goals were completely in sync," Ms. Gordon said. "We both wanted an ongoing group of Muslims and Jews who could get to know each other over time and become comfortable in each other's company." (MORE)

 


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