This week we witnessed the first Jewish-Muslim Women’s Forum, with 200 participants from both faiths convening, conversing and constructing a model vision for interfaith relations in our post-truth world. If ever there was evidence that people from different backgrounds find it easy to rub along with one another, this was it. We applaud the organisation, Nisa-Nashim, and its co-founders, Julie Siddiqi and Laura Marks.
But this was no International Women’s Day stunt, with nice photos and nice words. There was something concrete to come out of it which, if acted on, could have far-reaching consequences.
As Siddiqi notes, women are generally more likely to cross the ethnic/religious divide, so emerging from this forum was a call to action – not just to be tolerant – but to be intolerant of those from both faiths whose words or actions create inter-ethnic hatred and mistrust. Writing in Jewish News this week, Siddiqi says: “We need to be brave and call out prejudice in our own communities and among our friends online.”
Long have those words needed saying. There can be few British Jews who have not heard fellow Jews using racist or demeaning language about Muslims. The same goes for British Muslims, who will most likely have heard hateful or derogatory words about Jews from within their own community. These days, much of the nastiness is online, but still, most of us “turn a blind eye” and do not challenge that language when we hear it. This week, Nisa-Nashim said enough is enough.
We salute them for that, and we will play our part.
But as Siddiqi says, “women have a special role to play in this, which has not been utilised properly in either of our communities”. This group of female leaders knows that leadership can sometimes mean change, and that change can be uncomfortable. But if the solution to the problem of hateful views is to call it out, risking a backlash, then women are indeed well-placed to do that.
And if they can, then they will help create a better society for all.