Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Jordan’s King Meets Rabbis; Jews and Muslims in Washington Pledge Peace

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November - December 2005

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told a gathering of American rabbis in September that Jews and Muslims are irrevocably “tied together by culture and history” and that he is willing to take radical measures to combat Muslim extremists.  

According to The Washington Times (Sept. 22, 2005) the king declared: “We face a common threat: extremist distortions of religion and the wanton acts of violence that derive therefrom. Such abominations have already divided us from without for far too long.”  

The Times reports: “Criticizing al Qaeda terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi for ‘abuses of our faith,’ the king ... made clear he wishes to establish himself as the voice of moderate Islam. He pointed to a July conference he held in Amman, Jordan, for 180 Muslim scholars as a key part of his effort to undermine the far Islamic right. The conference was supported by fatwas — or legal rulings — from 17 major Islamic scholars. ‘Muslims from every branch of Islam can now assert without doubt or hesitation,’ he said, ‘that a fatwa calling for the killing of innocent civilians — no matter what nationality or religion, Muslim or Jew, Arab or Israeli — is a basic violation of the most fundamental principles of Islam.”  

Now, King Abdullah said, it’s time to mend fences with the worldwide Jewish community. “It cannot be denied that the relationship between Jews and Muslims has been very difficult in recent years,” said the king. “Nonetheless, at this moment in history we have no choice but to take bold strides towards mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.”  

The king declared: “Just as Isaac and Isma’il were able to put aside the differences that had separated their mothers and come together to honor and bury their father, so too must we put aside the differences that some use to tear us apart. We must honor our common heritage, reaffirming the essential principles that lie at the heart of our faith.”  

Rabbi Marc Gopin of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, presented the king with a copy of the Hebrew Bible in both English and Hebrew. He said that secular leaders “need to learn from your (the king’s) example, learn from true heroism of one who confronts his adversaries.”  

According to Washington Jewish Week (Sept. 29, 2005), the king “also met with high school students from D.C. area schools, including from the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville. ... David Rubenstein, 16, treasurer of student affairs, said, ‘If we improve the relationships between youth of different religions groups, then, as opposed to judging a religion by stereotypes, we’ll be judging it by people we know.”  

Robert Eisen, a professor of religion and Judaic studies at George Washington University, underscored the positive aspects of Abdullah’s efforts. “To say that it is forbidden in Islam to kill innocent Jews and Israelis is ratcheting up the standard of what constitutes terrorism in the Islamic world,” Eisen said.  

Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, paid tribute to the king’s vision: “The door was opened so eloquently. This man has the potential to truly be a light unto the nations, and I look forward to hearing the details of his vision.”  

At the same time, a group of Muslims and Jews who had been meeting secretly in Montgomery County, Maryland issued a statement in September promising that the two faiths will work together to find common ground.  

Tom Kahn, president of the Washington chapter of the American Jewish Committee, said: “We’re deeply committed to the idea of pluralism, tolerance, peace, a coexistence and one God — the same God. A bird needs two wings to fly: a left wing and a right wing.”  

According to The Washington Times (Sept. 18, 2005), “The statement ... promised to ‘develop closer ties between our communities’ and stand together against ‘hate crimes and other forms of discrimination against all religious and ethnic communities.’ It also supported separate Palestinian and Israeli states and denounced ‘all forms of terrorism and violence directed at civilians.”  

Islam Siddiqui, a lobbyist who served as undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration, said: “With dialogue begins an understanding of our difficult issues. I’m very optimistic.’  

David Elcott, director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee’s national office in New York, said that Jewish-Muslim gatherings are happening quietly across the country. “Muslims have experienced prejudice and lack of civil rights, and Jews have already been there. We understand prejudice and discrimination. So we want to help instruct a moderate Muslim community on how to work with Christians and Jews to expand civil and human rights and fight against polarization and extremism that can do enormous damage in this ccountry.”

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.