Muslim scholars seek improved relations with global Jewish community

By staff writers
March 6, 2008

The Cambridge based Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations (CSMJR) is promoting an open letter from leading Muslim scholars to the international Jewish community seeking improved understanding and contact among them.

The letter, written in February 2008, was unveiled in Cambridge following a similar initiative launched in October 2007, when 138 leading Muslims wrote to the Pope and other Christian leaders proposing a dialogue based on Jesus' call to love God and neighbour, and reciprocal Islamc traditions.

Signatories to the Cambridge letter include Dr Tariq Ramadan, a major European Muslim scholar; Mustafa Ceric, grand mufti of Bosnia; and Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian professor from al-Quds university in Jerusalem.

It declares: “As Muslims and Jews we share core doctrinal beliefs, the most important of which is strict monotheism.”

The letter is described as “a gesture of goodwill towards rabbinic leaders and the wider Jewish communities of the world.”

For Muslims and Jews there is much to agree upon, but also much to dispute, The Economist magazine commented in a report on the development.

It noted: "The Hebrew patriarchs, including Abraham, Moses and Noah, play an important role in the Koran (as does Jesus, the son of Mary); but there are differences in the Muslim and Jewish narratives which are certainly not trivial for anyone who regards these stories as primordial revelations of God. The [Qur'an] makes plain that the sacred writings of the Jews offer a valid path to salvation; yet there is also a clear suggestion in the Muslim tradition that the Jews, along with the Christians, misunderstood or even wilfully distorted the messages that they received from God—making a final revelation, that of Mohammed, vitally necessary."

Theological differences between Muslims and Jews have been complicated by geopolitical ones, not least the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of the holy city of Jerusalem, which is claimed in different ways by three faiths.

Among positive Jewish reactions to the letter is one from Rabbi David Rosen, who advises the chief rabbinate of Israel on inter-faith matters.

He said the initiative was especially welcome because the “remarkable co-operation and cross-fertilisation” which had often existed between Muslims and Jews had been “tragically overshadowed” by modern politics.

The Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in Cambridge is part of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths.

The full text of the letter in *.PDF format is here.

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