In response to the shocking news of the attack on the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, today several mosques in the city will use the Friday prayer sermon as an opportunity to address the issue. Below are guidance notes sent by SIF to Edinburgh’s imams:
On Thursday of last week (12/3/09), a brick was thrown through the window of Edinburgh’s synagogue. Two young men have been charged, and it seems that they were both Muslims and may have targeted the synagogue as an attack on the Jewish community.
As responsible Muslim leaders, we wish to make clear our stance on this attack and to draw the community’s attention to some important points about relations between Muslims and Jews in this country and worldwide.
1. Targeting the Jewish community with abuse, vandalism or violence is just as abhorrent to us as an attack on the Muslim community by others. Islam is clear in its opposition to these crimes.
2. In particular, attacking a synagogue or other place of worship is contrary to Islam’s clear teachings of peace. Indeed, even in the context of battle, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always forbade any form of vandalism, especially of the houses of worship, “in which God’s name is mentioned much.” [Qur’an 22:40]
3. Communities of different faiths are living together in peace here in Scotland, and we must oppose any efforts to disturb this peace and cause rifts between people.
4. We are, of course, deeply opposed to the actions of the Israeli state, including the recent slaughter in Gaza – but nothing in that conflict justifies taking anger out on our Jewish neighbours. What we need is constructive dialogue, not to make scapegoats out of innocent people.
5. Leading scholars make clear that the conflict in Palestine is about injustice, not about religion. The kind treatment of the Prophet (pbuh) and subsequent Muslim rulers of their Jewish minorities is a shining example in history, which we should study well. Muslims and Jews have lived in harmony for many centuries, and it is only the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands which has created the present turmoil.
6. Rather than resorting to criminal vigilante actions, we urge the youth to get involved in any association which seeks to work constructively for the Palestinian cause. There are many Muslims involved in such positive activities, as well as Jewish people and others in the society who share our hope for justice and peace in Palestine and the whole world.
Osama Saeed adds: We’ve been receiving quite a bit of feedback to this story from around the world. Most of it is positive, but some negative too.
Regarding the criticism, this is not about Gaza. There is no justification for targeting the entire Jewish community over it. There is a dialogue to be had with the Jewish community about it, but this can only be through words. Within the Muslim community, I’ve also no doubt there is awareness raising and guidance needed. For activists, we know, are used to, and take for granted, the fact that not all Jews even back Israeli actions. This hasn’t percolated down to the grassroots though. I perceived gasps of surprise from audiences at recent Gaza fundraisers when Barrie Levine from Scottish Jews for a Just Peace spoke, for example.
It has also been pointed out that it seems no one leaps up to defend mosques when they are attacked. That is true, and indeed disappointing. The response to the MacGregor case being one recent example. This still shouldn’t stop us doing the right thing ourselves though.