Muslims and Jews stand together as part of International Weekend of Twinning

Muslims and Jews around the world came together during the Annual International Weekend of Twinning.

In the North West the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester (MJF) hosted several events around the County.

MJF Twinning activities started at Khizra Mosque in North Manchester on Friday with the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Cllr Naeem Hasan, welcoming Rabbi Arnold Saunders and Rabbi Daniel Walker to the Muslim Friday prayer service.

Following the service, the Rabbis were given a tour of the mosque and community centre led by Cllr Afzal Khan, a former Lord Mayor.

They were then met by group of worshippers and both Rabbis were given a copy of the Quran in English by a member of the Muslim community, Rasheed Mustapha.

Qari Jameel gave the Rabbi’s a recital from the Quran following by a translation, and the group discussed just how similar their scriptures are.

On Saturday,Rabbi Arnold Saunders from Higher Crumpsall Synagogue welcomed Cllr Afzal Khan to join in the service & kiddush, whilst the same time the South Manchester, Cheadle Yeshurun Synagogue opened their doors to a group of local Muslims who included Lord Mayor Cllr Naeem Hasan, Shahid Adam Saleem, Abdullah Saleem, Afzal Chaudhri and Jameela Chaudhri to join in the Jewish service.

The guests were impressed with the warm hospitality and Jewish service, and particularly touched when an Islamic reference was quoted as part of the service.

On Monday, Cheadle CMA Masjid, Chair, Dr Usman Choudry, welcomed the Chair of Yeshurun Synagogue, Dr Tony Kaye, along with Mrs Lesley Kaye, HHJ Charles Bloom QC, Janice Bloom and Amanda Kremnitzer to observe the Muslim Isha prayer.

Following the prayers the guests enjoyed a lively meeting with the trustees & worshippers whilst eating kosher food provided by the CMA which was blessed by Charles with a traditional Hebrew prayer.

Usman thanked Shahid from MJF for arranging the social and described the 3 hour event as very informative gathering where both faith communities demonstrated many common aspects during their broad discussions increasing empathy and understanding.

Shahid Adam Saleem, who led on the organisation for the MJF, said, “Thank you to all participants for their positive contributions and we look forward to building on the positive relations formed to increase community harmony and make this an annual event with many more activities”.

Jonny Wineberg, Co-Chair of The MJF, said, “We are proud to stand up for each others rights and challenge intolerance wherever it exists. But even more, we are proud of the respect and understanding we foster between our two great communities and present to the wider community.

“Our thanks go to all those involved in organising and delivering these events and we invite Synagogues and Mosques from around the County to start building relations with their nearest twin and participate in the 7th Weekend of Twinning in November 2014”.

The Weekend of Twinning is an annual event sponsored by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and held every Autumn.

This year, there were more than 130 twinning events involving Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries on all six inhabited continents. Participating Synagogues and Mosques and Muslim and Jewish organisations around the world undertook a wide range of activities.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York-based not-for–profit that sponsors the Weekend of Twinning, asserts that “Dialogue is an important first step in building ties of communication and cooperation between Muslims and Jews, but it is not enough. Whenever Jews or Muslims are targets of bigotry anywhere in the world, members of the two communities should stand together against both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism”.

Imam Shamsi Ali, co-author with Rabbi Marc Schneier, of the newly released book Sons of Abraham; A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Muslims and Jews (Beacon Press) asserts, “No two faiths in this world have more in common than Islam and Judaism. In that spirit, we must truly become our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers”.

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is encouraging participants in this year’s Weekend of Twinning to join the movement against bigotry by forming local Muslim-Jewish Solidarity committees and by signing a pledge on Twitter reading: “I pledge to combat Islamophobia, anti-Semitism + all forms of hate for #WeekendofTwinning.”

Welcoming the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims to the Muslim/Jewish Film Series during the Weekend of Twinning of Synagogues and Mosques

Monday, January 13, 2014

Samira Kanji, Azeezah Kanji, Barbara Landau, and Karen Mock

On Jan. 18, Temple Emanu-el and the Noor Cultural Centre, an Islamic educational and cultural organization, will continue their ongoing dialogue through the vehicle of film.

The first film in the Muslim/Jewish series was held in November during the annual Weekend of Twinning of synagogues and mosques, conceived by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in New York, N.Y., and co-ordinated in Canada by the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM). Since it began in 2008, the twinning program has expanded worldwide to Jewish and Muslim communities who get together to build connections of understanding and friendship.

In November, members of Toronto’s Jewish and Muslim communities gathered at Temple Emanu-el to watch Arranged, a beautiful tale of unlikely friendship based on a true story, in which Rochel – an Orthodox Jewish woman – and Nasira – a conservative Muslim woman – meet as new teachers in a Brooklyn, N.Y., public school. Both are in the process of having their marriages arranged (or more accurately, of being introduced to potential partners by family and community members.) Their similar journeys to betrothal, and their shared experiences as religiously devout women in a secular environment, bring Nasira and Rochel together.

This month, the Jewish/Muslim Film Series continues at the Noor Cultural Centre with an award-winning Lebanese movie, Where Do We Go Now?  which received Ecumenical Special Mention and the Francois Chalais Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (2011), and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (2011). This humourous and insightful film promises to stimulate a dynamic and fruitful discussion of how neighbours from different faith communities can diffuse tensions through various means, when political strife threatens peace and friendship.

The value of important initiatives such as the Weekend of Twinning and the Jewish/Muslim Film Series lies in their ability to illuminate the commonality of our struggles, diffracted through the prism of our differences. We hope more and more people from our two diverse communities will join us (admission is free) as we continue to find common ground and to deepen our friendships, thereby enhancing our understanding of and commitment to what it means to be Canadian.

Film is a wonderful vehicle for people to start what can be called ‘courageous conversations.’ It is very effective to share a common experience through a film, and then have a frank discussion afterwards.  As Jews and Muslims living in Toronto, we constantly encounter the diversity of religious beliefs and practices within our respective traditions, as well as the diversity between them. Such encounters with difference may be deeply challenging and yet profoundly enriching. Watching Arranged together helped bridge schisms across both interfaith and intra-faith divisions – between Jewish and Muslim, conservative and liberal, Orthodox and Reform – to dispel stereotypes by bringing into focus the humanity of those on the other side of the divide.

It may seem counter-intuitive to describe Arranged as a feminist film, given the popular portrayal of religion as utterly and irredeemably patriarchal. Religious women, Muslim and Jewish, are frequently represented as deluded by some figment of “false consciousness,” generated by their internalization of perniciously patriarchal norms. For example, the image of the oppressed religious woman haunts recent arguments supporting Quebec’s proposed charter of values, with restrictions on religious veiling imagined as freeing (if not saving) Muslim women.

Arranged disrupts the all-too-common-but-simplistic narrative that women’s empowerment necessarily lies in liberation from the shackles of religion.  Some women undoubtedly experience religion as an oppressive imposition. But for many women, religion is an important source of selfhood and belonging, of meaning and guidance. The film beautifully shows how the protagonists navigate multiple systems of norms – family expectations, culture and tradition, religion, liberal feminism, secularism – as they chart the courses of their futures.

As our subsequent discussion revealed, we are all shaped and limited by many influences we don’t necessarily choose, or even consciously perceive: the values of our families and religious communities; societal norms of gender and morality; state laws; popular media; advertising. None of us exercises choice wholly free of conditioning and social constraint.

Samira Kanji and Azeezah Kanji are with Noor Cultural Centre ( Barbara Landau and Karen Mock represent the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (, founded in 1996 and organizing the Weekend of Twinning in the GTA since 2008. For more information on the film series and/or to participate in further activities of the CAJM, please check their websites.

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