October 27, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6199

Saudi Writer Calls For Collaboration Between Jewish And Muslim Diasporas In Europe To Combat Attacks On Freedom Of Worship

October 27, 2015
Special Dispatch No. 6199

Saudi columnist Hamad Al-Majed, who is also on the board of directors of the King 'Abdullah bin 'Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), wrote in his September 2, 2015 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat about possible cooperation between Muslims and Jews in the Westagainst the anti-Muslim campaign led by extremist right-wing Christians, and in light of Jewish fears that they will be the targets of a similar campaign. Al-Majed wondered whether such collaboration, which would benefit both diaspora communities, was feasible, or whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would interfere with actualizing such an idea.

The following are excerpts from his column:

Hamad Al-Majed (image:

"For the first time in my 14 years of wandering among Western and [North and South] American countries... and attending conferences and workshops on [interfaith] dialogue, I have heard of the Jewish diaspora's fears about the murky future of its religious freedoms, as expressed by some of its leaders to some leaders of the Muslim diaspora in the West.

"This fear stems not from new laws that directly target the freedoms of the Jewish diaspora, as happened to the Muslim diaspora when minaret construction was banned in Switzerland and the hijab was banned in France. It stems from [their concern that] the same laws that have targeted the Muslim diaspora in the West [may be applied to Jews]. Several Jewish leaders in the West have realized, as one prominent European Muslim leader told me... that anyone who bans the niqab will [in the future] ban the hijab, and eventually the Jewish yarmulke as well. [They also realized that] the ban on constructing minarets in Switzerland could be followed by restrictions on Jewish synagogues. Likewise, there is fear of a ban on [halal and] kosher meat for Muslims and Jews, on the pretext of hygiene. Several Jewish rabbis have also expressed fears of a ban on circumcision, based on the argument that the methods and implements used do not meet obligatory medical guidelines.

"These rabbis also argue that the issue of bans could snowball with time. [They claim] that the long-term goal [of these bans] is not [to address]medical concerns but to harm the freedoms of religious minorities - Muslims, Jews, and others. [Such targeting] might also include public rituals, such as praying in public places on Fridays and holidays... as well as a ban on certain prayer times, and the list goes on and on...

"Based on this new data and the shared challenges [faced by Muslims and Jews], the following questions arise: Will the leaders of the Muslim diaspora in the West have to take the unusual and unprecedented step of collaborating with the leaders of the Jewish diaspora... so that joint Muslim-Jewish action will help the Muslim diaspora end the racist action by the extreme rightwing and constitute a preemptive measure protecting the Jewish diaspora [as well]? Will Muslims benefit from the unrivalled powerful and influential Jewish lobby, and will the Jews benefit from the large number of Muslims and their many institutions and centers? Or will the eternal Arab-Israeli struggle over Palestine cast its heavy shadow on such a connection, such that each group will confront the extreme Christian right in its own way and with its own means?"

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