- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
United States offers Europe an interfaith model
Second of three parts.
It was a warm summer afternoon in the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and some European rabbis and imams were exchanging bearhugs.
Imam Mohamed Kajjaj, vice president of the Council of Muslim Theologians of Belgium, waxed eloquent about all the Muslim-Jewish give and take.
“It’s been magnificent, wonderful,” he said, speaking in French. “This is a grand movement for the future.”
These Muslim and Jewish leaders had met for the first time only a few days earlier as part of an unusual effort by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) to foster ties between two religions with a history of conflict and suspicion on modern times.
TWT RELATED STORY:
• Interfaith movement gains new strength
In July, the foundation flew more than two dozen of these religious leaders from Europe — where religions rarely communicate with one another — to the United States, where interfaith cooperation has been part of the religious landscape for hundreds of years. The FFEU, which spent $150,000 on the project, was banking on America’s interfaith experiment being attractive enough as a model for other cultures.
After a whirlwind tour of New York mosques and synagogues — and a stop at Manhattan’s ground zero — they came to Washington. Standing in the halls of the Capitol, clerics who in Europe might have barely acknowledged one another were bubbly with enthusiasm. Being on neutral ground had bonded them.
Rabbi Michel Serfaty, a tall man wearing a black hat and the Moroccan-born president of the Jewish-Muslim Friendship Society in France, was joking with Abdelkader Arbi, an Algerian-born Muslim chaplain for the French army.
“He is Sitting Bull, and I am Geronimo,” Mr. Arbi jested.
As the group worked its way past statues of Colonial leaders, participants noted that America’s unique history has everything to do with strong interfaith relations and harmony.
“For communities to coexist,” said Phillip Camel, director of international affairs for the Conference of European Rabbis, “they need to feel comfortable in the society in which they live. The American model shows that in allowing minorities to integrate, to keep their identities as Muslim-Americans, Jewish-Americans or whatever, while keeping the title ‘American,’ means each minority joins a collective whole.”
“In Europe, it’s harder for minorities to integrate into a dominant culture. Because the U.S. is an immigrant country, we all come on equal footing. You don’t have centuries of a dominant culture here.”
Rabbi Raphael Evers, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary in Amsterdam, was equally impressed.
“I’ve learned that America is the example of the melting pot of all nations,” he said. “Racism is still going on, but America brings it all together.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
Team Obama's bizarre behavior helps Gitmo terrorists foil justice
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- With pot and e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco is just waiting to inhale emerging markets
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch wrecked by retreating feds
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- KEENE: Familiar refrains from Britain's 'Tea Party'
- Skeptics on all sides take aim of John Kerry's tentative deal on Ukraine
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.