Personal accounts of current events in Palestine and Israel; commentary and analysis from the Middle East, the USA and Europe
Faith Perspectives - p4

Uri Avnery's Column

Gideon Levy articles & opinion

Avraham Burg - Opinion

Commentary by
James Wall

The Two-State Illusion
by Ian S. Lustnick

A Palestinian Pastor's Advice for President Obama
by Rev. Alex Awad

Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's path to Palestinian Solidarity  by Rabbi Brant Rosen

"Change without Progess in the Middle East"
by Ambassador Chas Freeman

"Justice Requires Action to Stop Subjugation of Palestinians"
by Desmond Tutu

"Why I Refuse"
by Moriel Rothman

Messages from Janet Lahr Lewis, UM Liaison to Israel-Palestine

Personal Accounts: Testimonies of Methodist Ecumenical Accompaniers


"Goldstone's Legacy for Israel" by Naomi Klein

"Mourning the Jewish New Year" by Prof. Marc Ellis

"Palestine Papers Expose US as Dishonest Broker"
  by Alison Weir

"Top 10 Reasons for  
Skepticism on Talks"

  by Josh Ruebner

"Boycotting the boycotters"
by Gideon Levy

"Apartheid in Holy Land"
  by Desmond Tutu

"Nakba Day is a Reminder"
    by Yousef Manayyer

"Israel's racism spreads"
   by Zvi Bar'el

Holy Land Christians' Decline
  Al-Jazeera video report

Two articles on Israel's
Independence Day 2010
  by Burston; Avnery

Presbyterian General Assembly 2010 - News and Commentary

"End US Tax Exemption 
for Settlements"

  by Sama Adnan

"A Call for Livable Futures"
  by Rela Mazali

"Israel 2007: Worse Than

Ronnie Kasrils, SoAfrican

"Israel's Greatest Loss:
Its Moral Imagination"

by Henry Siegman

Can Muslim & Jewish  
Narratives Co-exist?

Jewish Respect for Islam

Muslims & Jews Closer  

Tragedy of Monotheism

Using Qur'anic narratives

Muslims and Jews are closer than they think

By Mustafa Abu Sway

March 23, 2010

Despite being in a protracted political conflict over the Holy Land that began around the time of the advent of Zionism over a century ago, Jews and Muslims have common historical roots, as well as theological commonalities.

Our common roots go beyond the Abrahamic tribal constructs. Abraham himself is considered in the Koran as the archetypal monotheist and a true submitter to the will of God, being “neither Jew, nor Christian” (Koran 3:67). However, simple commonalities do not offer in and of themselves a way forward in interfaith dialogue. Abraham should not be turned into a comfort zone or a euphemism for avoiding issues of injustice among his third-millennial grandchildren.

The Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel form one of the major stories in the Koran. It is imperative that a Muslim believes in his prophecy and the revealed Torah, in as much as it is imperative to believe in Jesus Christ and the revealed Gospel. Yet, according to the Koran, the versions of the Torah and Gospel that exist today suffer from the vagaries of transmission and human editing, having been corrupted by scribes who altered the original text.

According to the Koran, Jews, Christians and Muslims share the history of revelation and have common prophets and revealed messages. Moreover, all pre-Islamic revelations had the same monotheistic message, with each prophet calling his people to only worship God without worshipping anyone or anything else along with Him. The law, however, while overlapping in certain areas, differed by design: “… To each of you we prescribed a law and a method” (Koran 5:48).

Keeping the Sabbath is an example of a legal issue where there are differences among Jews and Muslims. The Koran says that the Sabbath was only required of Prophet Moses’ followers, meaning that it is not required of Muslims. As for the Jews who violated the Sabbath, the condemnation of this group in the Koran can be read as a reflection of the sanctity of the Sabbath and as an example of contextualized criticism.

There were other actions that the Koran condemned such as creating and worshipping the golden calf. This historical event was considered intolerable by the prophets.

Islam softens the otherness of Jews and Christians by describing them as “People of the Book,” and entrenches their rights in the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet. Respecting the right of the Jew and Christian to freedom of religion is an Islamic imperative (Koran 2:256). The Koran makes it lawful for Muslims to associate with Jews (and Christians), sharing a meal, doing business with them or even marrying their daughters.

Historically, Jews, like Moses Maimonides, contributed to Islamic civilization as philosophers and scientists. They also served in public offices in the Islamic state. Salaheddine al-Ayyubi, or Saladin, appointed a Jew to serve as a high ranking minister (or vizier) in his government.

Long before this, the Prophet Mohammad reached out to the Jews of Medina. One of the most important historical moments between Jews and Muslims came immediately after Mohammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina. In what became known as the constitution of Medina, the Sira books (in other words the biographies of the Prophet) state that Mohammad concluded a covenant with the Jewish tribes of the city and its surroundings, the first being the “Jewish tribe of Banu Awf, forming one umma with the Muslims.”

Another historical moment occurred during the time of Omar Ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, who, according to the Cairo Jewish Geniza manuscripts, brought the Jews back to Jerusalem after the year 638. This is very significant as it reflects a paradigm of Convivencia between Jews and Muslims as well as between Christians and Muslims in the heart of this holy city, in addition to Andalusia and other places.

It is not possible to fully represent 1,400 years of shared history, which includes beautiful and painful moments for both sides. Nevertheless, I would like to conclude on the current conflict. Coming from a Palestinian Jerusalemite family and living under occupation since 1967, I comprehend the moral necessity of ending the Israeli occupation and doing justice to the Palestinians who have been wronged since 1948. However, the call for justice should never translate into creating or adopting Judeophobic narratives such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” nor should they result in acts of injustice toward Jews. This goes against Islam.

I recognize that Jews suffered in Europe and that they needed a safe haven. I am glad to say that there was never an inquisition in the Islamic world, as there was in a post-Islamic Andalusia (for which both Jews and Muslims suffered). Regardless of the stereotypes, I am also proud to say there was never a Kristallnacht in the Islamic world.

Mustafa Abu Sway is director of the Islamic Research Center and an associate professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. This article is part of a special series on Jews and Muslims in each other’s narratives commissioned by the Common Ground News Service