VIENNA, 19 February 2019 - Imams and rabbis from six countries, board members of the European Muslim Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC), newly-registered as an NGO in Austria, are working together at both regional and local community levels on capacity building, research, regional policy and advocacy initiatives to protect their respective communities’ religious practices and promote solidarity in the face of challenges that affect both Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.
During a meeting in Vienna, Austria, on 18 February, the religious leaders, all of whom are active in interfaith activities in their own communities, committed to work through the Council structure to scale up their work and impact at the regional level.
Chaired by Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow, and Mufti Nedžad Grabus of Slovenia, and facilitated by the Vienna-based International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the Council works with European institutions, offering their expertise to policymakers, and cooperates on projects affecting their religious communities.
KAICIID Secretary General, Faisal Bin Muaammar, welcomed the Council’s recent registration: “This means that you have a firm base from which to implement the activities which our work together since 2016 has envisioned and prepared. It means that we have roots from which to grow a truly European organization, one which will embrace the many nationalities and heritages of Muslims and Jews in Europe and stand for their unity and their rights”, he said.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. We must gather our communities, talk to each other and spread the message that if there are people here to save the idea of European pluralism and freedoms, we are with them: the old Europeans together with the new Europeans,” Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, MJLC Co-Chair said.
“We have a great treasure in Jewish-Muslim cooperation in Europe, with Andalucia and the Balkans being among the examples of coexistence, but of course we are facing new times and new challenges. We need to create spaces to promote understanding that Muslims and Jews can work together,” Grand Mufti Nedžad Grabus, MJLC Co-Chair added.
Mr. Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, Scientific Adviser for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights presented recent studies on challenges, experiences and perceptions of Europe’s Muslim and Jewish minorities. He mentioned, for example, that although large numbers of both Muslims and Jews generally feel comfortable and at home in Europe, almost 50% of the Jewish population fear anti-Semitic harassment in the next year whilst 27% of Muslims had experienced harassment motivated by their religious identity. With an apparent rise in both islamophobia and anti-Semitism, solidarity between the Muslim and Jewish communities, and the work of the MJLC is crucial to promote European values of diversity and human rights and enable minorities to flourish.
The MJLC Board meeting was attended by Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis; Dr. Nedžad Grabus, Grand Mufti of Slovenia; Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister, Chief Rabbi of the Vienna Israelite Community (IKG); Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President, Comunita Religiosa Islámica, Italy; Chief Rabbi David Rosen, Board Member of KAICIID and Director of the Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding; and Rabbi Lody B. van de Kamp, Deputy Chair, MJLC.
About the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council
The European Muslim and Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC) was founded by fourteen European religious leaders – 7 Jewish and 7 Muslim religious leaders in Vienna in 2016 with the support of KAICIID with the goal of collaboration on issues of common concern and to establish greater trust and mutual understanding between their communities. It was registered as an Austrian non-governmental organization on 29th October 2018.
The Council is acting in response to a climate of increasing islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia in Europe, while European legislative initiatives are more frequently being proposed that directly affect Jewish and Muslim religious and traditional practices (e.g. clothing, circumcision, and slaughter regulations). The MJLC serves as an advocate for these communities' exercise of their religious freedoms, anchored in European law, through joint campaigns to defend the rights of religious minorities across the continent. By setting an example of collaboration and respect, the Council seeks to encourage understanding and build trust between Muslim and Jewish communities, and through outreach, to inspire young people and offer them a path that allows them to thrive in Europe and to lead fulfilled lives of faith.
About the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID):
The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) is an intergovernmental organization that promotes dialogue to build peace in conflict areas. It does this by enhancing understanding and cooperation between people of different cultures and followers of different religions. The Centre was founded by Austria, Saudi Arabia and Spain. The Holy See is the Founding Observer. Its Board of Directors comprises prominent representatives from five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism). The Board designs and supervises the Centre’s programmes. KAICIID facilitated the establishment of the MJLC and provides technical and other assistance to the Council in its activities, based on the belief that religious communities and their leadership, in dialogue with policymakers, have a central role to play in building peaceful societies.