Man holds poster of Osama bin Laden at rally in Pakistan 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed)
The recent killing of Osama bin Laden, who epitomized radical and violent Islam,
is being leveraged by interfaith groups seeking to promote a more moderate
Muslim message, as evident in a recent meeting between some 80 Jewish and Muslim
clerics in Kiev.
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“The fact that the person who the world has always
associated with violence in the name of Islam is no longer living should be
understood as a major opportunity for the forces of moderation,” Rabbi Marc
Schneier, founder and president of the US-based Foundation for Ethnic
Understanding (FFEU) said. “Bin Laden’s death serves as a definitive test for
Muslims as to where their true loyalties lie, but I’m confident it will
encourage more and more people to say no to terrorism, and yes to
The “Muslims and Jews United Against Hatred and Extremism”
conference in the Ukrainian capital, held on Thursday, was part of a series of
Muslim-Jewish events in nine European countries during May initiated by the
FFEU; World Jewish Congress; European Jewish Congress; the World Conference of
Muslims for Interfaith Relations; and the Muslim- Jewish Conference –
cosponsored by Ukrainian MP and head of the local Jewish Federation Oleksandr
Feldmanthe Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Ukrainian Jewish Committee
and the Institute of Human Rights and the Prevention of Xenophobia and
Extremism. Speaking on Sunday from Florence, where another similar event
was taking place, Schneier spoke of the opportunity that Europe affords to raise
the voice of religious Islamic moderation.
“We’d like to accelerate the
process that has begun,” he continued. “There is a conflict within Islam between
the voice of moderation and that of extremism. It behooves Jews to strengthen
moderation – but at the same time remind them that this relationship is a
two-way street, and has to be quid pro quo.”
Schneier noted his pride in
how the Jewish community in the US, and other parts of the world, has been in
the forefront of confronting Islamophobia.
The European efforts of
dialogue, he said, were part of an international campaign to strengthen
relations between Muslims and Jews, encouraging each community to fight for the
other – Muslim leaders speaking out in combatting anti-Semitism, and Jewish
leaders speaking out against Islamophobia.
“I’m tired of dialogue – this
is not about exchanging pleasantries,” he said, “rather about each community
fighting for the other.”
“We as Jews cannot fight our battles alone,”
Schneier continued, noting confronting anti-Semitism and the support for the
State of Israel as the two major issues confronting Jews around the world
“It is a very challenging process in terms of having Muslim
leaders speaking out for Jews, but in the last five years Muslims have begun to
raise their voices against anti- Semitism,” Schneier said.
goal is to get Muslims to speak out in support of State of Israel. We aren’t
where we’d like to be, but the good news is that the process has
“I am optimistic, but also patient,” Schneier said of his
feelings regarding the progress in dialogue between the religions.
is a difficult, challenging process, but I’m optimistic because my perspective
is that I compare today to five years ago – it’s night and day to have Jewish
and Muslim leaders holding major events in England, France, Italy, Holland and
elsewhere. There is a whole movement taking place. These are baby steps,
but moving in right direction.”