Monthly Archives: April 2015

“To Combat the ‘New Anti-Semitism,’ Europe’s Jews and Muslims Must Work Together”

The World PostThe Huffington Post

By Harrison Akins


With news reports of continued anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish community in Europe, it is all too easy to fall into a pessimistic view of the future of Jews’ place there. Some are asking the question of whether or not Jews should be leaving for safer shores. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even made appeals to European Jews to immigrate to Israel.

The blight of anti-Semitism has haunted Europe for over a millennium and is still evident today. Recently, a new manifestation of anti-Semitism has arisen from within the Muslim population in Europe, a population that both dwarfs the Jewish community and continues to grow.

There is no denying the serious problems that exist between the Jews and Muslims of Europe. But do negative reports of those relations paint the whole picture?

Over the past two years, I have been traveling as part of the research team of Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic studies at American University, on a book and film project called “Journey into Europe.” We have been studying Islam in Europe, broadly speaking, and an important aspect of the project has been examining the relations between Jews and Muslims.

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What Andalusia Can Teach Us “Today About Muslims and Non-Muslims Living Together”

Huffington Post – The World Post

By Akbar Ahmed


“The loss of Andalusia is like losing part of my body,” H.R.H. Prince Turki al-Faisal told me.

I had asked him what the loss of Andalusia meant to him as an Arab. The son of King Faisal, widely celebrated in the Muslim world, Prince Turki heads The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s preeminent think tank, and has been Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the U.K. The question had excited the normally taciturn prince. The mask of cultural and royal impassivity developed over a lifetime of diplomatic dealings had dropped as his body and voice expressed high emotion. The image of Andalusia had struck a nerve: “The emptiness remains.”

When I asked him what Andalusia meant to him, he replied, “I have a passion for Andalusia because it contributed not only to Muslims but to humanity and human understanding. It contributed to the well-being of society, to its social harmony. This is missing nowadays.” For the prince, “Andalusia was the exact opposite of Europe at that time — [then] a dark, savage land of bigotry and hatred.”

At its height, Andalusia produced a magnificent Muslim civilization — religious tolerance, poetry, music, learned scientists and scholars like Averroës, great libraries (the main library at Cordoba alone had 400,000 books), public baths, and splendid architecture (like the palace complex at the Alhambra and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba). These great achievements were the result of collaboration between Muslims, Christians and Jews — indeed the work of the great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides was written in the Arabic language. It was a time when a Muslim ruler had a Jewish chief minister and a Catholic archbishop as his foreign minister. The Spanish had a phrase for that period of history — La Convivencia, or co-existence…

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