Gaza Violence Chills US Muslim-Jewish Dialogue

January 14, 2009

Author: Michael Conlon

Source: Reuters

The Gaza Strip violence has chilled a promising interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims in the United States, activists said on Wednesday.

But Israel's 19-day-old offensive against Hamas that has taken more than 900 Palestinian lives has not triggered attacks on synagogues or other Jewish institutions in the United States at the level seen in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

While Jews and Muslims make up a sliver of the U.S. population, efforts at dialogue based on common themes in the two ancient religions had been on the rise in recent years in the United States, an effort billed as perhaps a world model.

Matthew Weiner, director of programs for the Interfaith Center of New York, which has tried to foster such interreligious dialogue, said the damage from Gaza means "less talking and less trust. There will continue to be less."

"There is a sense within the Muslim community that they cannot 'defend their side' without being accused of being terrorists," he added.

He said this "creates serious resentment, and cynicism" that does not wipe out the positive steps that have been made, but "it damages what they built."