Two Voices: our weekly Progressive Judaism debate:
What can the Jewish community do to combat Islamic extremism?
• Rabbi Mark Solomon says…
There is probably not much we can do about terrorism abroad, except to urge the government to remain vigilant and proactive in opposing any tolerance of terrorist organisations and the regimes that support, arm and finance them.
At home, however, there are things we can achieve. The Board of Deputies has taken an admirable lead in its joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and resolving not to import conflict from elsewhere into Britain. There have been serious questions about the stance of the MCB and some of its constituent organisations and officers, but it’s important to reach out and encourage dialogue, even with those who have potentially problematic communal links and allegiances.
Some in the Jewish community would eschew dialogue with anyone who has ever shared a platform with someone sympathetic to an extremist group, but I think we have to recognise the diversity and complexity within the Muslim community and be prepared to take calculated risks to help open up to the possibility of friendship and co-operation. Above all, we must let Muslims know we do not stereotype them as extremists or regard them as our enemies.
Islam is a vast and diverse religious culture, which has had an enriching influence on Judaism. By our commitment to dialogue with those who are willing to talk peacefully, we can help marginalise those who advocate hatred and violence.
• Rabbi Mark Solomon is Liberal Judaism’s interfaith consultant
• Claire Helman says…
One of the most important things we can all do is to build relationships, both personally and through our communities, with Muslim neighbours and community organisations. We all hold assumptions, myths and prejudices about others and, when we experience extremism close to home, it’s easy for fear to grip us and prejudice to harden.
One of the best ways to dispel these assumptions and prejudices is through learning and conversations with Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends. Even better is to join with them in social action or activities. It is particularly important to put our energy and efforts into supporting young Jewish and Muslim people to come together. It is strong interfaith relationships that help us to build a society which is resilient to extremism.
A good example of this is the work of the Three Faiths Forum, which builds understanding and lasting relationships between people of all faiths and beliefs; running education, engagement and action programmes that bring diverse communities together.
There is also evidence that experiences of poverty and perceived lack of opportunities, contribute to the radicalisation of young men. This suggests that directing the social action efforts of our Jewish communities to addressing some of the experiences of poverty felt by young men in the UK, would be a practical way for us to play a positive part in combatting extremism. • Claire Helman is chair of Kehillah North London
• Claire Helman is chair of Kehillah North London