Muslim, Jewish Leaders See Fresh Start

May 31, 2007

Author: Raja Mishra

Source: The Boston Globe

Boston-area Jewish and Muslim leaders sighed in relief yesterday at the resolution of a lengthy legal dispute over the planned construction of a mosque in Roxbury, saying the development cleared the way for renewed local dialogue between adherents of the two faiths.

On Tuesday, the Islamic Society of Boston abandoned its defamation case against a Jewish group and media organizations that alleged they had maliciously spread rumors that the Islamic Society had terrorist links. That followed the February dismissal of another lawsuit challenging the mosque's construction.

The lawsuits had lingered for two years, producing charges and countercharges that seemed to echo larger cultural stereotypes: Muslims were accused of secretly harboring extremist views, while Jews were charged with conspiring to destroy their enemies.

As a result, a tentative local interfaith dialogue initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had been poisoned by mistrust on both sides, said local Jewish and Islamic leaders.

"It was moving in a positive direction; and then this thing came, and it polarized everyone," said David Gordis, president of Hebrew College in Newton. "Lawsuits have a way of polarizing."