In 2005, I was in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. While waiting for my bus in the beautiful weather, I saw some kids entering a building wearing Kippahs. I was surprised; at first I thought that they might be Taqiyahs — caps worn by Muslims — because that was something very common in Iran. I kept looking, however, and was a bit satisfied when I saw the board on top of the building’s main entrance saying “Madreseye Musa bin Imran” (Musa bin Imran in Persian means Moses, the building was a school of Jewish studies). As I got on the bus, I was somewhat surprised to realize that there were Jewish people in Iran. Previously, I had never thought of Jewish people living in that part of the world, especially a country like Iran. I arrived home and asked my Dad about the school building; luckily he knew a little bit about history and also had an eye on world religions. I asked him about the kids I saw, he answered, “They were Persian Jews,” which was a short but understandable answer.
My journey of knowledge had begun and I came to know that Judaism, like other Abrahamic religions, was actually spread all over the world, including Islamic states. Iran, being an official Islamic state, holds the second largest Jewish population after Israel in the Middle East, and after doing a bit of research, I found that the Jewish presence in Iran dates back thousands of years.
It is not just the population that c0-existed in the Middle East, but Judaism itself shares roots with Islam. The followers of both faiths are descendents of Abraham, believe in one almighty God and share their history and ideology.
Due to the fact that Muslims and Jews believe in the oneness and goodness of God, I would hope that they could be friendly with eachother, but that has unfortunately not always been the case. It is a matter of fact that there are people from both faiths who promote inter-religious peace and harmony throughout the globe, but at the same time, there are many who dislike each other. It is absolutely OK to dislike someone else’s opinion or to disagree with any idea, but what is currently going on is beyond that. Muslims who are against the state of Israel sometimes criticize Judaism too, or Jews who are in favour of Israel sometimes criticize Islam. In my view, horrifying comments on YouTube videos against each other’s faith is a living example of people’s bad temper. It gets worse when politicians like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George Galloway politicize the issue and attack Israel due to their personal political bias. Leaders like them have to be responsible in what they say; their actions cause a reaction with their subordinates. Who would not lose temper if someone criticized their homeland?
To sum up, from my experience, no religion in this world promotes hatred or violence. Being a descendent of Abraham is sufficient enough for both of them to live peacefully. Muslims should take into consideration that around 15-20 per cent of Israel’s population is Muslim and many people from the Baha’i faith are welcomed in Israel. On the other hand, Jews should understand that there are Jewish people who are freely living in Islamic states. The problem is not between the religions; it is the bad politics that have created distance among the people.
On that note, I would like my readers to spread peace, brotherhood and love and remember that it should have nothing to do with religion, caste or creed.
Shuja H. Safavi is a volunteer contributor to the Manitoban.