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DAVAR Lecture: Muslims and Jews: the state of play

25 October 2011

Dr Edward Kessler

On the 11th October Dr Edward Kessler gave an evening lecture on the state of play in Muslim-Jewish Relations at Bristol University's Wills Building, organized by DAVAR and Bristol City Council.

He began by outlining some of the reasons why it is necessary for Jews and Muslims in the West to engage in a conversation. Muslim scholars such as Tariq Ramadan and Akbar Ahmed seek a meaningful relationship with Jews and Judaism partly because of a desire to contribute to the formation of Islam in the West. A small number of Jewish scholars, such as Reuven Firestone, Noam Stillman and Sarah Stroumsa, are similarly involved in engaging with Muslim thinkers and studying Islam.

Dr Kessler went on to suggest that Jews and Muslims in the West face similar challenges and concerns, partly the result of a siege mentality, which exists in both communities. Facing hostility, perceived or real, is a common characteristic. Both Jews and Muslims share the same challenges because they are minorities at the same time, in the same country. In the West, they live a Diaspora existence and carry multiple identities as citizens of the countries in which they live.

Kessler ended the talk with a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which made the task more difficult but more urgent. As Martin Luther King said, we live in the fierce urgency of now. In the past we have defined ourselves in contradistinction, but today we have to define ourselves in relationship to one another.

The talk was followed by a vibrant Q&A.

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