President Trump’s declaration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has caused much global concern from capitols all across the world, including both Pope Francis at the Vatican and the Supreme Leader of Iran who both denounced the plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Islamic world including its citizens and leaders likely will continue to show global solidarity in opposition to this declaration. The Jewish community both those living in the Holy Land and in the diaspora, are carefully watching and deciding on the most appropriate next steps—causing concerns from all sides. Let’s be honest, there are no easy answers and the process of reaching a peaceful resolution and settlement between the Palestinians and the Israeli’s is one mixed with centuries-old historical strife, theological disagreements and contention both within and outside the Arab and broader Muslim world in deciding on strategy, approach and tactics. These very complex and deeply contested centuries-old tensions have morphed themselves into a global movement some which carry deeply political and secular efforts with clear end-states and other issues that carry heavy religious and cultural motifs that render support from loudspeakers in mosques and centers from minarets in the Middle East, Africa and even in America.
For those in the Muslim world, but most importantly those of us Muslims living in the West, we are confronted with the questions of what is the most appropriate response. Many friends and families have been confronted with the harsh reality of having personal insights of Palestinian suffering and finding ways to be in solidarity to oppression. In the West, for Muslims finding a balanced approach, one in which takes into consideration the rights of the Israeli Jewish community to live in peace and the Palestinian community to equally thrive and live in Peace, has been one filled with strife. For many, there have been only two options to resolve these centuries-old conflict. On one spectrum is a vibrant and active activist community that has flourished and leading the way with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and on the other side are those who seek to find a balanced medium who also recognize that the Jewish community is diverse and varied and there are many who seek a desire to find a way to resolve this conflict.
Both American Muslims and American Jewry, have offered some useful tips in resolution on this matter for co-religionists in the holy land. As both communities are diverse in terms of ethnic makeup, ideological persuasions and tactics, their collective diversity and approaches to resolving conflict can offer some useful examples. But, their stories and engagement aren’t enough and require us to equally recognize that our stories in the West aren’t always ‘a one size fits all’ back in the Middle East.
As such, how can we create a movement and spirit of collective collaboration between religious communities in the Holy Land and not just provide examples of collaboration in the West. Building off previously written work, I argue that we should see that the Islamic ummah, or community, is an idea and concept expressed throughout the Quran. But we are also collectively confronted with establishing a partnership with our fellow humans, including non-Muslims, to embrace and respect the dignity and honour of every individual on our planet.
Seeing Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike as part of an ummah that shares a value system of respect, honour and tolerance: this sort of interpretation does not reject nor seek to discredit the belief systems of individuals respective faith tradition, or those with no religious traditions at all. On the contrary, it offers a symbolic gesture of peace in which religious differences and even ideas in direct opposition of one’s worldview are still respected and allowed in order to ensure a state of balance in society.
Those values of mutual respect and tolerance are evident of the social activist and student of comparative religion like Thomas Merton of the Christian faith, the philosopher and poet of the 11th century Solomon ibn Gaibrol of the Jewish faith and in the 13th century, Safi al Din al-Urmawi the trained Islamic religious scholar and musicologist who introduced music theory for both the Islamic and Western world.
Once we can collectively ensure that these views are encouraged and protected, then the ummah of humanity will be realized and practised.
By Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, Executive Director, North America, Quilliam International.