September 13, 2006 – New York – A group of professors from a leading Muslim college in Israel are visiting four American cities to dialogue with American Jews and Muslims about the challenges and opportunities religious minorities encounter in democracies like the United States and Israel.
The program is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, in cooperation with the Al-Qasemi Academy, which is located in Baqa el Garbiya in Israel. AJC and the college have been working together to deepen understanding between Jews and Muslims.
“American Jews and Israeli Muslims share the experience of living as a religious and ethnic minority in their countries,” said Rabbi Ed Rettig associate director of AJC's Israel/Middle East Office. “This program opens as yet unexplored possibilities for dialogue and understanding not just between these communities, but through them between the Jewish and Muslim worlds.” Rettig will be teaching a course on Judaism at the college during the 2006-07 academic year.
During their visits to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., the Muslim educators and scholars are meeting with Jewish and Muslim community leaders.
“This seminar and other future projects of Al-Qasemi and AJC prove not only how necessary, but also how possible, it is to create a different reality, one that enables and advances opportunities for true human dialogue,” said Mohammad Essawi, president of Al-Qasemi, who will lead the group.
“As a Muslim college of education, Al-Qasemi locates Islam within the broader, pluralistic and, most importantly, humane context of cultures and religions in the world,” said Essawi. “We believe that a thought and practice of Islam, based on the values of respecting diversity, personal and collective freedom, takes the Arab community in Israel into advanced stages of a modern lifestyle. Such Islamic liberal thought also introduces Muslims as active partners in the modern culture of the world."
The delegation’s eight men and three women, who come from Arab communities across Israel, cover a range of disciplines in their roles at the college, including Islamic studies, English literature, psychology, education, and civil engineering.
Al Qasemi is an innovative educational institution whose approach combines a strong curriculum of traditional Islamic studies with general coursework. After graduating, many of the college’s 1,200 students teach in elementary and secondary schools in their own communities.