Muslims and Jews Work Around External Tensions

On the first of August, 65 delegates from 25 countries gathered at the University of Vienna for the first Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC). The idea of 27 year old Jewish student Ilja Sichrovsky, the conference aimed at engaging people worldwide about issues pertaining particularly to Muslim and Jewish communities. The conference lasted for five days and included guest speakers, social events, and discussion committees.

With such a diverse group of students and young professionals, the conference acted as a catalyst for peace – initiating relationships between people who believe in a future of better relations between Muslims, Jews, and others. Discussion committees were separated by: Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia, Education and The Role of Education, and played the most integral role of the conference.

Each committee worked to draft a declaration that will later be combined and submitted to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The declaration will outline and specific suggestions for community collaboration, to be implemented locally and globally, in order to foster a worldwide atmosphere that is more conducive to positive relations among Muslims and Jews. Although these suggestions consciously do not touch on Israel/Palestine, it is hopeful that the mere cooperation witnessed in Vienna from the participants, has acted as a necessary foundation of peace.

In Canada, university campuses are often rampant in highlighting political strife as the only source of communication between these communities, and thus creating a foundation of tension. Canadians are no stranger to this polarization, so how can one expect to overcome this tension on a local much less national, scale? After participating as one of four Canadian delegates at the conference, I believe that events such as the MJC, are just what we need to eradicate existing foundations of tension.

Although the work of anyone seeking to bring together Muslims and Jews in a non-political setting, will be hard pressed to avoid criticisms of skirting the more debated issues, essentially it is this kind of work that acts as the ideal alternative for people who wish to have a more meaningful interaction. Realistically, it is nearly impossible to build a structure of positive interaction between those who wish to focus only issues that they themselves are inapt to solve. More realistic however, is to start thinking of new foundations to build on that do not necessarily ignore external tensions, but instead, acknowledges them and continues to be something people are willing to work around.

By: Bianca Canave,  August 12th, 2010


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