With a Single Forefather, Muslims and Jews Can Work Together

Cape Times (South Africa), July 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

With a Single Forefather, Muslims and Jews Can Work Together


BYLINE: Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and Rabbi Marc Schneier

As Nelson Mandela endures a grave illness with the same courage and dignity he has evinced throughout his life, including the 27 long years he was held prisoner, Minister of Public Services Malusi Gigaba said recently that in his weakened state, Mandela "is uniting the nation without even saying a word".

Indeed, Mandela's legacy is not only that he vanquished the evil system of apartheid that imprisoned him and deprived all South Africans of colour of their liberty, but that upon finally attaining power, he eschewed the temptation to emulate his persecutors by persecuting them in turn.

Instead, he set a new paradigm by advocating unity among South Africans of all races and creeds. By choosing the path of reconciliation, Mandela was able to end apartheid non-violently.

Nevertheless, South Africa still has a long way to go to achieve Mandela's vision of a country in which racial and religious groups come together for the common good. For example, two of the most influential modern-day constituencies, the Jewish and Muslim communities, which once stood together in opposition to apartheid, have since become progressively estranged from each other.

Tragically, in recent years, these two religious communities have focused on their differences on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of nurturing ties of communication and co-operation.

We addressed these issues head-on last month during a breakfast at the embassy of South Africa to the US in honour of participants in a groundbreaking Mission to Washington of Muslim and Jewish leaders from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The mission was co-sponsored by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Islamic Society of North America (Isna), which work together to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations around the world.

After remarks by both of us and by Dr Sayyid Syeed, national director of Isna, urging Jews and Muslims in all three countries to put aside differences, South African participants in the mission - Adli Jacobs, co-founder and secretary-general of Call of Islam, David Jacobson, executive director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Rabbi Ron Hendler, project co-ordinator at the office of the chief rabbi of South Africa - vowed to work together to end the non-interaction between Muslims and Jews in their country. …

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