Muslim leaders from Qatar met with a number of local clergy and academics to engage in text study.
Standing: Professor Najeeba Said Miller, Dr. Khalid Bin Nasser Al-Khater, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, Rabbi Mark Diamond, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, and Rabbi Sharon Brous.
Seated: Sarah Bassin, Dr. Ibrahim Saleh K. Alnaimi, Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Imam Jihad Turk, Rabbi Richard Levy.
Muslim leaders from halfway across the globe gathered with local clergy and academics at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Jack H. Skirball Campus (HUC-JIR) on April 11, 2011. The group from the Doha International Center For Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) in Qatar took part in the event sponsored by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, of which HUC-JIR is a partner with the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the University of Southern California.
Participants broke into groups of two as part of a traditional Jewish method of study known as “chevruta” – but in this case with one Jew and one Muslim rather than the usual two Jews – and engaged in a close text study of the story of temptation in the Garden of Eden as it appears in the Torah and Quran. RabbiReuven Firestone, founder and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement and HUC-JIR Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam, said such close encounters can go a long way to facilitating meaningful discussion and deepening respect between these two worlds. “They’re not used to this kind of dialogue, at least in the last 300 hundred years,” he said.
“This was a new experience for me,” said Khalid Bin Nasser Al-Khater, an associate professor of accounting at Qatar University and a member of the DICID’s board of directors. “This was the first time I’ve had this kind of dialogue.” He said it helped promote mutual understanding and underscored the importance of learning about other religions.
DICID, in town as part of a U.S. tour sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America, is on the cutting edge of interreligious work in the Muslim world, according to Sarah Bassin, program director for the Center for Muslim/Jewish Engagement and a fifth-year rabbinic student who in July will become executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. She said she hopes the L.A. session will inform the visitors’ interfaith work in the future. “This provides a foundation for people to interact with one another … that gets past the tea and greetings but is also more substantive,” she said.