The relationship between Judaism and Islam was explored at a unique symposium which was held on Sunday 25th March.
The event, which took the form of a dialogue between the Islamic scholar Mona Siddiqui and the Middle East analyst Tony Klug, examined how Jews are perceived by the Muslim community.
Speaking at the third lecture sponsored by the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam at Glasgow University, explored the history of relations between the two faiths, and their different approaches to the shared traditions of what she referred to as “Scripture, Story and Salvation”.
Dr Siddiqui noted that while there was an ambivalence towards the Jewish people in the Koran, there was, however, “no systematic theology of hatred towards Jews and Judaism”. The Muslim community’s perception of Jews was, she emphasised, related directly to the Arab-Israeli conflict and its understanding of Western foreign policy in the Middle East. She added that when the conflict is refracted through that prism, “the complexity is lost”.
Her interlocutor, Dr Tony Klug, Senior Policy Consultant at the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum, gave a brief history of Jewish-Arab dialogue from 1984 to the present day. Citing the work of the scholar Bernard Lewis, he rejected the view that Islamic hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people was based on an inherent hatred of Jews; rather, he argued that it was a consequence of “an inevitable response to occupation”, and “the offspring of the tragic conflict in the Middle East”.
While he acknowledged the rise of anti-Semitic currents in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Dr Klug argued that a just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would counter the enmity which exists at present. He affirmed his continuing support for a two-state solution, a position which he first set out in a Fabian Society pamphlet, “A Tale of Two Peoples”, published in 1973.
In relation to the Middle East conflict, Dr Siddiqui said that while she agreed with Dr Klug’s analysis, there was a moral imperative on the part of Europe and America to find a solution. As regards the UK, she said that the Muslim community was, in many respects, attempting to define its place in the post-colonial world. While the community was not monolithic, she noted that, in recent years, it had become more insular and there had been a resurgence of conservative tendencies in which identity was expressed through religious belief.
Dr Klug expressed the hope that, in the long run, rapprochement between the two peoples would be established on the basis of an understanding of the history of the other.
We welcome your thoughts on these issues.