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The shalom/salaam group : Muslim-Jewish dialogue in Vancouver, British Columbia Gallaher, Alison Tiffany 2005

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THE SHALOM/SALAAM GROUP: MUSLIM-JEWISH DIALOGUE IN VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA by ALISON TIFFANY GALLAHER B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1991 B.A., The University of British Columbia, 2002 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Anthropology) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 2005 © Alison Tiffany Gallaher, 2005 Abstract While the expanding phenomenon of Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue in North America and Western Europe is often credited with the potential to positively influence relations in these regions as well as in the Middle East, analysis of such initiatives is under-represented in the anthropological literature. In an ethnographic examination of a small dialogue group in Vancouver, British Columbia, I interviewed eleven Muslim participants of differing ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds to discover how they viewed the project's purpose, dynamics, and their participation in it. I found that despite mutual goodwill and an effort on both sides to blur religious boundaries and create a unified psychological space or sense of communitas, the interfaith initiative encountered difficulties due to disagreements over whether dialogue should include discussion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, tension over the expression of religious stereotypes in one small group context, differences between the individualistic, esoteric beliefs of liberal (and sometimes secular) Jews and the more traditional Muslims' respect for religious authority and tradition, and the challenge for many of the Muslims of balancing inter-religious activities with the requirements of religious practice and the demands of work, school, and family responsibilities. Such difficulties are intrinsic to the broader dialogue process between Muslims and Jews in the West, which is framed historically as an interchange that has been gradually developing over the past four decades. Characterized by its resilience and open-ended, emergent nature, this process continues despite setbacks. More research into the impact of factors like age and gender roles, employment patterns, tasks of religious leadership, and trends in spiritual observance on Muslim-Jewish dialogue initiatives may provide additional insight into the dynamics of these projects at the grassroots level. Table of Contents Part One Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Introduction 1 Methods 3 Part Two Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Connection: The Road to Dialogue 4 Part Three The Shalom/Salaam Group: History, Activities, and Constituencies 8 Out of Pacifism and Jewish Renewal: An Interfaith Initiative 8 The Students of City Mosque: Partners in Dialogue 11 Muslim Perspectives on the Basis for Muslim-Jewish Connection 15 Shalom/Salaam Activities: Creating Communitas 16 Part FourBeyond Harmony: The Challenges of Engagement 19 The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Ignore or Confront? 19 Boundary Confusion and the Articulation of Stereotypes in a. Small Group Setting 21 Attracting and Keeping Muslim Participation in the Face of Conflicting Priorities 25 Part Five Conclusion: Thoughts on the Challenge of Muslim-Jewish Dialogue and Directions for Future Research 32 Bibliography 36 iii In a May 2001 workshop held at the fifth annual Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)/ Non Governmental Association Peacebuilding Consultations in Ottawa, the Middle East director of DFAIT emphasized the necessity of building up interfaith relations between Muslims and Jews in Canada as an aid to Israeli-Palestinian grassroots efforts abroad (DFAIT November 28, 2002). His belief in the power of such dialogues to affect events beyond their immediate social context reflects a commonly expressed view. Professional mediator and former Israeli-Palestinian negotiator Harold Saunders has emphasized the central role of citizen diplomacy in solving political crises across "permeable borders" (Saunders 1999, 5). The network of Jewish-Palestinian groups he helped establish across the United States conduct their work of sustained dialogue in the expectation that it contributes both to resolving the Middle East crisis and improving inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations at home1 (Hurry 2005, 19-20). With regard to Muslim communities in Western Europe and North America, interfaith dialogue is often cited, along with political involvement and the founding of institutions like mosques and Islamic schools as an indicator of integration and commitment to life in the West (Haddad 2004, 27,37; Nimer 2004,153; Smith 2004, 165-97). In modernist or progressive Muslim circles it is discussed in the context of promoting a pluralistic spirit within Islam (Esack 1997; Hussain 2003). While official statistics are not available, a widely held opinion (Golan & Kamal 1999; Rifkin, My Jewish Learning; Saeed 2002; Tugend June 29, 2001) is that Muslim-Jewish projects, while lagging behind other Abrahamic initiatives and waxing and waning with events in the Middle East, have significantly increased in the last twenty to thirty years. Confirming the openness of today's American Muslims to inter-religious dialogue in general, the 2004 American Muslim Poll, conducted by Georgetown University's Centre of Muslim-Christian Understanding reported that of over 1,846 individuals surveyed, 90% agreed that Muslims should participate in interfaith activities (Project MAPS & Zogby 2004, 26). Given this growth and significance, it is surprising that analysis of Muslim-Jewish ventures in the West is underrepresented in the anthropological literature. Much of the academic work in this area centres onlsraeli-Palestinian or Arab-Israeli grassroots relations in the Middle East, most frequently examined through the disciplinary lenses of psychology, peace and conflict studies, political 1 This perspective is shared by analysts like rabbi Jonathan Magonet (2003) and educators Nadira Charaniya and Jane Walsh (2001), the latter of which have commented that "if we can understand how to enable the transition from being strangers with our religious neighbours to not only accepting but deeply understanding them, we will have moved forward as a society" (Charaniya and Walsh 2001). 1 science, and education. In these examinations, the focus is on developing and evaluating the effectiveness of dialogic tools and programmatic models as well as analyzing group discourse and organization for evidence of mutual stereotypes and differentials in power and communicative style (See Bargal 2004; Lavie & Molov 2001; Steinberg 2004). Muslim-Jewish relations are also looked at historically in studies of dynamics between Jewish minorities and their host populations, the most famous of these being S.D. Goitein's classic multivolume work A Mediterranean Society (vols 1-5, 1967-1988). Finally, they are approached theologically, in comparisons of values and points of faith as well as in didactic statements by scholars, clergy, and laypeople advocating further inter-religious contact (See Hussain 2003; Magonet 2003). To the above, an ethnographic approach contributes a detailed look at the dynamics, organization, and socio-political context of individual projects as they occur among Muslims and Jews of different localities, ethnicities, occupations, social statuses, histories, and ideological persuasions. Notwithstanding certain commonalities, Muslim-Jewish dialogue in Detroit is not the same as in Jerusalem and the basis for connection between Hasidim and South Asian Sunnis sharing a low income neighbourhood in east London may be different from that between members of Hillel and the Muslim Students Association on a university campus in Toronto. The local contexts of such acts of inter-religious diplomacy also often involve practical issues like the need of groups to dispel prejudice, make symbolic statements, and form more extensive social ties or to join together in the service of common interests. These in turn tie into broader historic patterns, discussed further in my study, in which ecumenical orinterfaith work has been envisioned and used as-a tool of social integration, a method of disseminating positive societal values, and an effective deterrent against conflict. The following analysis of a small Muslim-Jewish dialogue project in Vancouver, Canada shows the importance of taking factors such as religious approach, contested priorities, and the way organized interfaith activities mesh with the diverse realities of participants' daily lives into account in understanding Muslim-Jewish interaction at the grassroots level. I examined how Muslim participants viewed the project's purpose, its dynamics, and the nature of their involvement in it, positioning this local venture within a larger history of Muslim-Jewish interchange in North America and Western Europe since the 1960s and '70s. Observations made by Bourdieu and others (Bourdieu 1977, 1990; Rosaldo 1993; Thompson 1966) on the dynamic, open-ended nature of social relations, which while following observable tendencies (Bourdieu's habitus), cannot be predicted 2 but only analyzed processually as they evolve over time, usefully describe the emergent social system of the interfaith group, defined by its unfinished character or air of possibility. While relations between Muslim and Jewish participants in the Vancouver group continue to develop and change, L found that despite mutual goodwill and an effort on both sides to blur religious boundaries and create a unified psychological space or sense of communitas, several significant challenges jeopardized the envisioned harmony. These difficulties centred around disputes over the place of political discussion in the group, tension over the expression of religious stereotypes in one small group context, and a clash of liberal interpretations celebrating religious pluralism and the individualistic nature of belief with conservative perspectives emphasizing tradition and religious authority. However, for many of the Muslims with whom I interacted, perhaps the most important issue to contend with was on the face of it, the least dramatic, namely the ongoing complexity of balancing Muslim-Jewish discussion with everyday routines like the requirements of religious practice and the demands of work, school, and family. Methods In studying what I will term for the purposes of this paper, the Shalom/Salaam group2,1 used a combination of field observations, personal interviews, and historical and other contextual research. Due to the dearth of analytical literature on Muslim-Jewish interfaith ventures, I used a number of resources available on the internet. Field observations were of large public events such as a multifaith tea, a picnic, and a series of talks held at a local mosque and several synagogues around the city. Eleven interviews at a variety of locations such as a private home, a cafe, an office, and the grounds of a mosque, were conducted with Muslims connected in various ways to the Shalom/Salaam project. While interviewing all those who agreed, I made sure to speak to those with core organizational positions in the initiative, many of whom attended the same Sunni mosque. I also sought out several participants with knowledge of the history of the local Muslim commumty and Muslim-Jewish relations in the Greater Vancouver region and asked them questions on these topics. Those interviewed were of different ages, ethnicities, and 2 To protect the privacy of this Muslim-Jewish group, all personal and institutional names referred to in the paper are pseudonyms. Shalom and Salaam are, respectively, the Hebrew and Arabic words for 'peace'. 3 genders. Many but not all, followed a traditional Sufi Muslim path under a common spiritual guide. For the most part, the interviews were conducted in person and recorded on tape, although one was an answer to a series of questions delivered through e-mail and another follow up interview was done by telephone. While the structure of the interviews was informal, all included the questions "How do you picture Muslim-Jewish relations?" , "How did you get involved in this group?", and "What has been your experience of the group?". Further questions were developed on an individual basis. In addition to the above methods, due to my participation in the Shalom/Salaam group for ten months previous to beginning the research project, I was able to draw upon my own recollections of intra-group dynamics in various contexts, joint teaching topics of the imam and rabbi, and the formation and dissolution of different group initiatives (a small discussion group, a choir) peripheral to the main group events. While my transition from ordinary participant to researcherTparticipant needed to be clarified to Shalom/Salaam members, the knowledge I gained from this longer term experience in the project was useful in helping to generate appropriate interview questions and in understanding the context of issues that were brought up in conversation as well as the dynamic, improvisational nature of the group itself. By focusing my interviews on the most active group members or those involved in helping to organize and plan group events, I was able to have access to a range of well informed perspectives on various aspects of the project. However, this methodological choice may have also limited my understanding of factors behind the intermittent participation of other group members, in particular men and older or married women, whose presence at the interfaith events was more casual and sporadic. Demographic patterns I observed in those who regularly attended Shalom/Salaam events are described further on in my study. Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Connection: The Road to Dialogue Muslim-Jewish interfaith is a latecomer to a wider interfaith effort, a movement that grew in part out of a Protestant ecumenical drive between the 1920s and '40s to counter r i s i n g fascism, communism, and unrestrained capitalism with " n e w forms of c o m m u n i t y out of which n e w political traditions might grow" (Zeilstra 1995, 128). The popularity of such s e c u l a r U t o p i a s was s e e n as s t e m m i n g from a m o r e p e r v a s i v e c h a n g e i n c o n s c i o u s n e s s , namely the growing idea "that meaningful life can be lived by men without God" (Ibid, 3). By the late 1930s as 4 National Socialism and its race-based ideology grew in power, the right battled the left in the Spanish Givil War, and Mussolini triumphed in Ethiopia, it became evident that the League of Nations had failed in its mission to further-international unity and offer pacific means for settling disputes (Ibid, 13-14). In the face of war and in its aftermath, ecumenical activists in organizations like the International Missionary Council, the British Peace Aims Group, and the then-nascent World Council of Churches (WCC) held that social models based on Christian ethics like equality, human dignity, and compassion for weaker members of society could succeed where the League had failed, promoting justice and harmony and preventing future world crises (Nurser 2003, 841-45; Zeilstra 1995, 10-12, 94-95, 204). Such models, articulated in documents like the 1946 American Federal Council of Churches' memorandum for a "just and durable world peace" and the 1942 "Christian Basis of a New Society" presented by the group 'Christian Principles and Reconstruction', were envisioned to provide a guiding moral basis for international relations and the post-war social reconstruction to be carried out by secular institutions (Nurser 2003, 842-43; Zeilstra 1995, 6, 94, 201-205). Canon John Nurser (2003, 844-45) relates how a cross section of ecumenical leaders strategically formed the Churches' Commission on International Affairs, which consulted with the United Nations to institutionalize its vision of a global "evangelical catholic3" ethos, which would later be succinctiy expressed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ecumenical ethical thinking increasingly incorporated other world faiths, seen as co-bearers of socially rejuvenating spiritual values (Ariarjah 1991). Thus the global interfaith movement from its inception has had strong ideological and practical ties to the peace movement, to concepts of human rights now enshrined in international documents and national constitutions, and to the network of international judicial and intergovernmental bodies formed out of the experience of the Second World War. Partly in response to the post-war revival of religious traditions in newly independent nations of Asia and Africa, the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches establishedframeworks for Abrahamic interfaith dialogue from the 1960s (Ariarajah 1991). American organizations like the American Jewish Congress, the National -Conference of Christians and Jews, and the American Service Committee actively forged ties with Muslim groups in the 1960s and '70s, building on work that had been started during the 1950s in some of the more populous 3 The term "evangelical catholic", used by American ecumenical leaders in the 1930s, signified a "properly biblical, critically based, and world-wide society of Christians" (Nurser 2003: 845). 5 Muslim-Jewish areas such as Southern California, home to approximately 600,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims (Tugend June 29, 2001). However, broad inter-religious discussion between the two groups did not begin in earnest until the 1970s and '80s (RiSkin My Jewish Learning; Tugend June 29, 2001). At this point, immigrants who had arrived in waves in response to revised immigration policies and employment opportunities offered by European postwar reconstruction, had formed visible communities with their own representative institutions, which could serve as convenient vehicles of mediation between themselves and non-Muslims (Hunter and Serfaty 2002, xiii-xiv; McCloud 2003, 161-62; Tugend June 29, 2001). Dialogue continued to be restrained for some time due in part to tensions between Arabs and Zionists (Haddad 2004,17-23) as well as Islamic debates around the proper way to negotiate relations in pluralistic non-Muslim societies. Marxist-influenced nationalisms of the 1960s had given way in the Muslim world to social movements based on the older concept of ummah or global Islamic community. Such constructions framed Muslims as a global unity apart from others, possessing in the Qur'an, hadith4 and other key sources, everything necessary for a perfect social and political system (Haddad 1983, 173; 2004, 19,29-30), Yvonne Haddad (2004, 30-31) describes the impact of popular theorists like Mawlana al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb, who advocated strict separation between believers and non-believers. The ummah were not to participate in or make compromise with non-Muslim social and political systems, which were thought of as not only inferior but embodying a modern day jahiliyya, a state of barbarism and ignorance characteristic of pagan societies in Arabia before the time of the Prophet (Ibid, 30-31; Mattson 2003, 203-04). Contributing to the complexity were discussions on how to interpret juristic classifications which divided societies into dar al-Islam (the house of Islam or submission, under Islamic governance) and dar al-harb (the house of war). Muslims were urged to avoid the latter, but its character was a matter of dispute. Was it possible for territories under non-Islamic governance to be classified as the house of Islam if Muslims there could freely practice their faith? Perhaps the Shafa'i legal school's additional classification of dar al-ahd, the house of treaty; the concept of dar al-da 'wa, the house of preaching; or the Hanbali school's opinion that what is most important is ability to practice one's faith, were best suited for Muslim minorities living in Western liberal democracies (Al-Alwani 2004, 4; Haddad 2004, 32; Khalidi 2004, 43). 4 Hadith - a body of literature about the life and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and his Companions. 6 While these subjects still inspire debate, they have decreased in relevance, with the trend over the last two decades towards growing Muslim participation in civil society (McCloud 2004, 77-78; Siddiqui 1997, 197; Haddad 2004, 32-33,38; Mattson 2003, 209). Gne reason frequently referred to for this is the coming of age of a new Western-bom generation (See e.g. Esposito 2000; Khan 2003; Mandaville 2003). Haddad (2004, 32) also cites widespread disappointment at human rights abuses in Iran's theocracy as contributing to waning enthusiasm for traditional Islamic political models. An additional factor is the influence of respected lecturers like Tunisian journalist Rashid Ghannushi, American imam Mohammed Abdul-Rauf, and Palestinian intellectual Ismael al-Faruqi, who have endorsed active political and social participation for American Muslims. These and similar speakers in Europe5 have helped popularize the idea that Westernforms of separation of church and state give unprecedented freedom to Muslims to practice their faith as they see fit. Reflected in one young woman's assertion to me that "Canada is the most Muslim country," practices of consultative governance and political and cultural pluralism are commonly cast as Islamic values in action (Khan 2003, 178; Mattson 2003, 207). From this perspective, the onus is on Muslims in the West to put their freedom of action and expression to use in helping to build more just societies (Cesari 2004, 173; Haddad 2004, 32-34,37). As Liyakatali Takim (2004, 343) asserts in a July 2004 article on Muslim interfaith dialogue published in the journal Muslim World, "living in a pluralistic milieu requires active engagement with the other": One aspect of this constructive engagement involves initiating conversations between Muslims and representatives of other religious bodies, an effort that from the Muslim perspective, is spurred by the level of scrutiny their communities have undergone since September 11th, 2001 (Al-Marayati May 2, 2003; Takim 2004, 344-46; Ukeles 2004, 6). Present day Muslim-Jewish and Abrahamic initiatives in North America and Western Europe address the need for mutual engagement through a variety of activities, from sports and the arts to community service, open-ended discussion, and advocacy around issues of common interest, such as lobbying for just immigration policies and defending the right to conduct ritual animal slaughter (Berliner and Khan 2005; Csillag Oct. 18, 2003; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Last modified 2005). However, bridging the Muslim-Jewish divide is a delicate process, requiring both groups to confront 5 In Western Europe, speakers advocating Muslim involvement in civil society include Tariq Ramadan (To Be a European Muslim 1999) and Mohammed Arkoun {Rethinking Islam 1994). 7 historic tensions over Israel's occupation of Palestine, the issue that both draws them together and keeps them apart. Rabbi James Rudin, senior inter-religious advisor to the American Jewish Committee, has commented of Muslim-Jewish endeavours in the United States that "the state of encounter isalmost in direct proportion to the situation in the Middle East" (Tugend June 29, 2001). A steady increase in inter-religious projects in the hopeful period leading up to and directly following the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Israel has been more uneven in a post-Accord decade which has seen the rise of violent Palestinian protest in the Second Intifada (Golan & Kamal 1999, 211-219; Rifkin My Jewish Learning). As argued by Raquel Ukeles (2004), successful connection may require major American Jewish organizations to rethink policies boycotting dialogue with Muslims associated with individuals and institutions that reject the legitimacy of Israel. She rightly points out that this severely limits possibilities for dialogue as "the overwhelming majority of Muslims... are highly critical of Israel and highly sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle" and Muslim leaders with different basic positions on this issue regularly interact with one another (Ukeles 2004,10). The Shalom/Salaam Group: History, Activities, and Constituencies Out of Pacifism and Jewish Renewal: An Interfaith Initiative In bringing together peace activists and affiliates of Jewish Renewal with practitioners of Sufism, the Shalom/Salaam project in Vancouver, British Columbia draws eclectically on several different paradigms for Muslim-Jewish unity. The project, initiated in the spring of 2004, stands out in the region for the grassroots quality it has managed to sustain over its short existence. While there is no history of sustained hostility between the city's small populations of Jews and Muslims,6 the latter of which includes a high percentage of diasporic 6 Reformed immigration laws in the late 1960s paved the way for waves of South Asian Sunni and Shi'a immigrants not only from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India but from Fiji, East Africa, and Great Britain (Alam 1983:226). Muslims have also immigrated to British Columbia from other parts of Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and East and Southeast Asia. The 2001 Canada Census reported a Muslim population in British Columbia of over 56,200, of which 52,600 resided in Greater Vancouver. However, this is comparatively small in relation to the populations of provinces like Ontario and Quebec, which listed over 352,500 and 108,600 Muslims respectively (Statistics Canada 2001). Some of the most outspoken Canadian Muslim organizations, like the Canadian Islamic Congress and the Muslim Canadian Congress, are based in Ontario. 8 South Asians, neither is there evidence of extensive everyday contact. One Muslim individual characterized the two groups as "like religious castes in India", occupying separate cosmologies and interacting for the most part at official interfaith events and at the level of their leaderships. Formal interactions have often been premised upon common rights of multicultural citizenship and rangefrom practical aid given by laypeople to immigrants arriving in the late 1960s and '70s to high level Muslim-Jewish cooperation in addressing matters of shared concern. An example of this latter type of mutual aid is a successful 1991 legal suit launched by two prominent community leaders, charging the white supremacist organization, Canada Liberty Net, with hosting a phone-in telephonic message service promoting racial, religious, and ethnic discrimination (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Sept. 9, 1993). The success of Shalom/Salaam in bringing ordinary Muslims and Jews into dialogue is due in no small part to the way its initial founders, three Jews and one Muslim, chose to engage with the Muslim community in Greater Vancouver. Instead of simply advertising their idea in local media or partnering with established interfaith or other organizations, one of the founders, a rabbi of a recently formed progressive synagogue of which the other two Jews were members^  made calls to local mosques until the leadership of a small Sunni mosque agreed to meet with him. Liking his ideas, they signed on as participants. The project, while actively seeking to broaden its base to all interested Muslims and Jews in the locality, was therefore structured from the start as one focusing on interactions between the "ordinary" members of two specific congregations, which for the purposes of this paper, I will call Progressive Synagogue and City Mosque7. The venture, which would evolve into a multiTpronged effort to develop long term relationships between members of the two religious communities, was initially proposed as an isolated event, a symbolic Muslim-Jewish peace walk to be carried out in the summer of 2004. The idea for the walk derived from sources connected to the peace movement and the Renewal approach to Judaism, movements with strong mutual ties. Two of the Jewish initiators of the project had recently completed an eight day peace walk through Israel, in collaboration with an acquaintance who had devoted his life to "peace pilgrimage," participating in treks from Spain to New Zealand. There they had visited a Palestinian village, been hosted by a group of Bedouins, and made a trek to Yasser 7 For privacy purposes, individuals and institutions directly involved in Shalom/Salaam have been given pseudonyms or have had their identity concealed in other ways. 9 Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. The concept of orchestrating a more modest walk with local Muslims and Jews was strengthened by the existence of a functioning network of such peace walks in the United States, sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace group founded in 1914 as a stand against the then imminent First World War. After City Mosque had been brought on board, an opportune visit to Vancouver by the Dalai Lama in the spring of 2004 helped attract further public attention and a wider circle of participation for the small project, which drew in a number of Jews and Muslims from outside both congregations as well as those within them. As an interfaith initiative making a symbolic stance in favour of peace in the Middle East, it fit easily into the surge of local spiritual and peace initiatives generated in response to the celebrated visit and was advertised by word of mouth at a contemplative multifaith retreat attended by the Dalai Lama and the rabbi of the synagogue in question. This rabbi's education and perspective are ideally suited to the task of interfaith encounter. Trained under one of the principal founders of the North American Jewish Renewal movement, he embraces Judaism as an evolving faith which those in his congregation are not afraid to shape "so that it serves joy and compassion in this world". The Renewal movement, which grew out of the counter-cultural religious innovations of the 1960s, incorporates into its ideology strong stances on feminism, pacifism, and environmentalism. It asserts among other things, the legitimacy of mystical experience, the importance of social activism, and the validity of engaging in and modifying practices from other faith traditions. This last process, which started among disaffected American Jews as early as the 1950s and '60s, is viewed by some within the Renewal stream as key in helping to revive the spiritual core of Judaism in North America. Judaism in this sense is understood as an evolving, vibrant, pluralistic "expression of a universalistic spiritual heritage and a profoundly humanistic ethical system" rather than a set of carefully preserved beliefs and rituals intrinsically fused to an ethnic identity (ALERH Administrative Office, Accessed July 13, 2005; Roper 2003,169-71). As explained by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one of the most prominent Renewal personalities and a longtime practitioner of Tibetan and other Buddhist meditation techniques (Or Jul/Aug 2004; Schneider April 30, 2004): I do not believe that anyone has the exclusive franchise on the truth. What we Jews have is a good approximation, for Jews, of how to get there. Ultimately, each person creates a way that fits.his own situation. While there are differences between Jewish and non-Jewish approaches to mysticism in specific methods, observances, and rituals, there are no differences in the impact of the experiences 10 themselves. When it comes to what I call the 'heart stuff,' all approaches overlap. (Havurah Shir Hadash, Accessed July 16, 2005) Many of the Jews involved with Progressive Synagogue and more broadly with the Shalom/Salaam project, habitually attend talks, presentations, and workshops on topics of community-building, communication, peace, sustainability, and various forms of spirituality. For a number, their personal path back to Judaism has been circuitous, resulting in an approach to faith that is highly conscious and critical, deconstructivist, and in some cases enhanced by other practices, from Quakerism to Buddhist and Hindu forms of meditation and spiritual discovery. The Students of City Mosque: Partners in Dialogue The dialogue between the Jews of Progressive Synagogue and the Muslims of City Mosque was not primarily with the mosque congregation as a body, but with a small group of individuals, largely educated women in their twenties and thirties who, like the Jews, have been deeply engaged in following a particular orientation within their faith. However, while the Jewish Renewal movement of which Progressive Synagogue is a part, can be seen in many respects as a move away from earlier forms of orthodoxy, the Sufi8 path followed by these Muslim women is a conscious move towards them. Meeting at the City Mosque once or twice a week, these individuals attend lessons given by the imam on different aspects of "traditional Islam". While most have been raised as Muslims, their spiritual enthusiasm has been acquired in adulthood through rediscovery of a heritage of Islamic philosophy, law, and mysticism many believe has been overlooked in recent decades in favour of modernist and Islamist approaches. Speaking glowingly of her introduction to the tenets of orthodox Islam during a spiritual retreat with the non-profit Zaytuna Institute held in the winter of 2002, a young woman of Bengali heritage said 8 Sufism - The term for the mystical path within Islam. Its approach to knowledge of the Divine has been described by R. Nicholson in Geaves (2000, 6) as "the transformation of the One transcendent God of Islam into One real Being who dwells and works everywhere, and whose throne is not less, but more, in the human heart than in the heaven of heavens". Geaves' (2000) description of Sufism among Muslims in Britain presses home this approach as the mystical core of Islamic thought and practice, rather than something separate or detachable from it, a position echoed by the Muslims of City Mosque with whom I spoke. 11 simply, "This was for me. That was it. I knew." Her story of previous dissatisfaction with more legalistic approaches to the faith was echoed by a number of other young women. Explaining how the "Sunday classes" got started, one said, "We wanted to know about God. Not just laws. There are very good scholars... who are famous for their spiritual teaching in the States. We wanted to have a spiritual teacher. A scholar among us." The imam at City Mosque started Sunday classes in response to this request. Raised in a family of imams in Senegal where a Sufi approach to Islam is dominant, he received his formative training from his father before moving on to complete his religious education outside the country. His Sunday and Wednesday classes have covered a variety of topics, from the meaning of the disciplines of prayer (salat) to the perfection of God's creation, but focus at their core on a painstaking process of cleansing the heart of wrongdoing and wrong intent so that it can reflect the light of God, which reveals things as they truly are. Studies by Charles Hirshkind (2001) and Saba Mahmood (2003). on the cultivation of piety among Muslims in Cairo emphasize the central conceptual role of a disciplined heart with proper "moral reflexes" in what Hirschkind (2001, 541) has termed a "moral physiology, the emotional-kinesthetic experience of a body permeated by Islamic faith." This was confirmed in my own experience by one of the imam's students, who explained that the concept of purifying the heart forms the accepted core of Islamic spiritual teachings. However, the manner and extent to which the imam made himself available to iniUatesfor small group and individual guidance and support was seen as unusual in Vancouver; as another student phrased it, "a hidden treasure in the city." The pupils of the imam involved with Shalom/Salaam have a variety of responsibilities ranging from university training.to work and family. Nevertheless, their inner growth under the guidance of the imam ranks very high on their list of priorities. A woman who was taking classes towards a career in medicine described it thus: "There is a saying of the Prophet that seeking knowledge is mandatory for every man and woman. Spiritual knowledge. I'll give myself as an example. If I am a biologist and study bacteria and I didn't study why I was born and what is God it would all be a loss." Another young mother affirmed, "the trust of learning how to be with Allah is more important than money, more important than health. Because when you die, that's it. You had better know that you learned it properly." The perception these women have of moving in a common direction has brought with it feelings of kinship. One woman who balanced a teaching job and masters studies with regular trips to the mosque described the feeling of community she received there as resulting from the self-sacrificial attitude 12 of people helping each other along a traditional spiritual path that was tested by time and use. For her this "well travelled path" brought a sense of belonging: "I know how you're feeling. I know what you're going through until you progress to the next stage." The atmosphere of community was extended to City Mosque as a whole, a central location where the women met with other regulars multiple times a week for classes, meals, prayer, and socializing. Voluntarily answering phones, e-mailing, tidying, booking appointments for the imam, organizing outings and engaging in other administrative tasks to make things run more smoothly, they exhibited strong investment in this environment, a hub of their spiritual and social lives. Their agency, enthusiasm, and evident indispensability evokes the observation of Jane Smith (1999,183-84) in Islam in America that Muslim women in North America are increasingly seen to be defying previous patterns of marginalization linked to the spread of Islamist ideologies and taking on prominent public positions in a variety of spheres, including the mosque. Certainly the definitive role taken on in Shalom/Salaam by the young women of City Mosque was one of the more noticeable aspects of Muslim participation in the group. The revival of consciously described "traditional Islam" in this small group can be seen as part of a more broadly remarked upon tendency among Muslim youth in the West to engage in a critical process of selection between different objectified models of their faith instead of automatically following in the spiritual footsteps of their elders. In his analysis of the effect of mass higher education on Muslim youth in the Arab world, Dale Eickelman (1992:646-49) cites such selectivity as one consequence of the exposure of these youth to multiple ways of understanding Islam presented as so many different "systems". His argument (Ibid: 646-47) that "the privileged position of traditionally educated religious scholars has eroded" due to the turning of young, educated Muslims to independent acquisition of text-based knowledge and mixing and matching of elements of faith, continues to hold true for many approaches to Islam, including Salafist and modernist orientations9. However, Eickelman, focusing on trends in Islamic thought between the 1970s and 1990s, did not take into account or perhaps could not have anticipated the recent phenomenon of a conscious, enthusiastic return by many young 9 Indeed, this same trend of emphasizing individualistic religious interpretation over adherence to established rules and other prescriptive sources of spiritual authority is evident in other faith traditions, as exemplified by the Renewal and Reform movements within Judaism. 13 people to a process of intimate spiritual apprenticeship under learned, authoritative individuals described as teachers or sheikhs. One young woman cited the popularity of e-mail lists and the influence of educational institutes like the Ihya Foundation in Toronto, Canada and the Nawawi Foundation and Zaytuna Institute in the United States as factors in the spread of consciously traditional or as some call it, "neo-rraditional" Islamic practice. Another mentioned the unpleasantly rigid Islam portrayed on television stations like CNN, which she imagined might prompt dismayed Muslims to investigate the foundations of their faith. A further possible reason for the recent spread of traditional Islam is the sense of identity it may offer to the second and third Muslim generations in the West - young people caught between the cultural world of parents who immigrated from Islamic countries and their own Western experience. While traditional Islam as consciously taught in institutions like Zaytuna and Ihya contains many components from the various cultures once ruled by the Islamic empire, in drawing on scholarship from across the vast terrain of the ummah10 it transcends borders. This makes it an appropriate vehicle for young Muslims who wish to draw on a global Islamic heritage in creating their own post-modern sense of self. As Peter Clarke (1998:146) has noted with regard to Muslim "fundamentalist movements" in Western Europe, they are "seen by an increasing number of second and third generation Muslim youth... as an effective means of creating both a recognizably European form of Islam appropriate to the world in which they live and a sense of self compatible with that world. It is about going back to the past not to avoid the present but to move into it." This observation also rings true for the revival of traditionalist movements in North America. In this respect, Sufism may have an advantage. Marcia Hermansen (2000:195) remarks that "traditional Sufi teachers from abroad are often able to reach out to the younger generation, Muslim or American, in ways that more strict and conservative teachers from abroad cannot." Descriptions given by the women of the City Mosque Sunday class of their choice to participate in the Salaam/Shalom group indicated that the interfaith activities were viewed first of all as a logical extension of their spiritual development through the activities of the class. They provided an opportunity for community outreach, an idea that had been previously discussed. One noted that "the timing was perfect", explaining that the rabbi's call came just as the Sunday group had consolidated and was ready to move out into the community. The need to extend activities outside the mosque was dual - to correct misinformed ideas about Muslims and to demonstrate 10 ummah - global Muslim community 14 love to humanity, viewed as a form of worship. This last principal had been recently taught by the imam: "They may not be Muslim, but they're your neighbour, they're human.. .Allah has said you have to love his creation before you can love him because that's how you know him." Muslim Perspectives on the Basis for Muslim-Jewish Connection While acknowledging the rift that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had created between Muslims and Jews, Muslims involved with Shalom/Salaam were universally adamant that this rupture was not religious, but was a political dispute overland and human rights. Many pointed out that an examination of religious principles would reveal the ontological fact of Jewish Muslim unity transcending the divisions of experience. This concept was taken to its fullest extent in the Sufi perspective the imam strove to communicate in interfaith sessions, which framed Muslims and Jews as not only related through their common status as Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, but by virtue of their position as part of God's larger creation, which shares the same divine origin and essence. In his study of the beliefs and activities of Sufis in Britain, Ron Geaves explains this shift in philosophy from "monotheism towards monism": Allah formed creation out of His own substance. . . . The total sum of all the names and attributes is the phenomenal universe through which Allah expresses Himself. . . . the spiritual quest is . . . about removing the veils so that one may actually see what is; the reality of the Unity of Allah. (Geaves 2000,14) From this perspective, erasure of mistrust and anger between Muslims and Jews through planned encounter is therefore part of a grander spiritual quest to purify the heart and consequendy "discover the Unity of Allah both within and without His creation" (Geaves 2000,15). As the imam stated, "spirituality becomes politics and politics becomes spirituality". The comparative lessons on similarities between the two faiths given by himself and the rabbi were seen as crucial in this process, as "in this way we were able to free peoples' minds and bring them to terms with the truth and reality". Other Muslims, including those for whom the imam was a spiritual teacher, did not elaborate on the notion of Jews and Muslims as components of a larger transcendent unity, although there were several references 15 to being "refractions of the same light" and being "all from God", who created everything with excellence. For them the perception of a common humanity transcended all other classifications. Mention was made of the need to show the Jews through actions that Muslims did not fit the images of parochialism and intolerance disseminated in the American media. Most of those in the group were of South Asian heritage, from locations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Fiji, and in answer to questions about their formative impressions of Jews, replied that they had not been raised with a perception of Jews as "Other". Indeed, many responded automatically that they had been taught that of all faiths, Judaism was doctrinally the closest to their own. One young woman, who said she had always thought that "it would be cool to know a rabbi", explained that growing up in Ottawa, she felt closest to the Jews in her class, who she perceived as having comparable dietary rules and holding similar opinions on the divinity of Jesus. Another credited her Bengali culture with giving her a cosmopolitan outlook. She stated of Bengalis that "we take from everyone. We have our own stuff but we're so open to other cultures...We love travel. We love foods from other places. We love people from other places. So given my family background and my cultural background, I was coming from a very neutral position. " Such statements reflected the personal stance of those who offered them but skimmed over the opposition to Shalom/Salaam that was expressed by elements of the mosque administration during the first stages of the project. They also did not address the culturally and historically contextual nature of "the Other", a topic touched on by one individual of Pakistani background who lightly commented that ""where I come from we are more aware of Indians so we think "Oh! They shouldn't have won the cricket match!" For the Muslims of the Sunday group, "the Other" was evidently not a faith or nationality but was instead composed of violent extremists of all stripes, including those involved in the September 11th attacks, considered to have tarnished the image of Islam. Shalom/Salaam Activities: Creating Communitas The activities of the Shalom/Salaam group were both planned and more spontaneous, forming a loose network. The group itself fits into Jeremy Boissevain's (1974,186) criteria for an "action-set" or "set of persons who have co-ordinated their actions to achieve a particular goal" . This goal, articulated by the rabbi (representing the small number of individuals constituting the group's informal leadership) was to postpone the Peace Walk and 16 focus on breaking down barriers of mistrust and creating relationships between the faith communities at a local level. Accordingly, City Mosque issued invitations to the Jews to accompany them in some of their regular activities - a picnic at a local park with a lecture by the imam, a community celebration in honour of the Prophet's birthday. These events, which combined socializing with opportunity for education, were reciprocated by the Jews, who asked the Muslims to participate in their observance of Yom Kippur andSukkot. A series of joint talks were organized, alternating in location between City Mosque and a number of Vancouver synagogues. These talks, in which the imam and rabbi gave their perspectives on a common spiritual theme and then posed and answered questions, became the best known public face of the Shalom/Salaam group and were advertised around the city on e-mail lists and in local Jewish and Muslim papers. They drew in Muslims and Jews from outside the congregations to participate, as did an e-mail forum and a multifaith tea. This last event, organized by the mosque's vice-president, a longtime Vancouver resident and prominent member of the Pakistani Muslim community, brought together Hindus,-Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, and Muslims to listen to speakers representing their various religious communities expound on themes of peace and co-existence in each faith tradition. In addition, a Jewish Muslim women's chorus wasformed as a separate but linked project and a small living room group was quietiy started up to enable a few members of Shalom/Salaam to get to know one another in a more intimate setting. The common aim of all of these endeavours can be seen as a conscious attempt, not only to develop inter-religious knowledge and respect, but for participating Muslims and Jews to create new perceptions of one another as a unity. Using Victor Turner's term, the members of Shalom/Salaam strove to be a group in communitas, or a unified state of being in which cross-cutting social divisions of hierarchy, ethnicity, and class were stripped away to reveal the "essential and generic human bond, without which there couldbe no society (Turner 1969/2002, 360)." This concept, which emphasizes "a communion of equal individuals who submit together to the general authority of the ritual elders" (Ibid,360) fits well with group activities which brought Muslims, Jews and occasional others together as a body where, under the authoritative guidance of Muslim and Jewish clerics, previous religious boundaries were purposely blurred. Analyses of the construction and maintenance of social groups (Barth 1969; Durkheim 1912; Leach 1954), from ethnicities to religious bodies and nationalities, show how such embodied experiences of unity typically combine with consensus on symbolic 17 boundaries of shared history, language, belief, and behaviour that encompass the group and distinguish it from the broader mass of humanity. Through consistently minimizing difference and maximizing common origins, beliefs, and religio-cultural characteristics, the activities and discourse of the Salaam./Shalom group were geared to overcome perceived rifts between Jews and Muslims over the painful issue of Palestine. Participants were encouraged to discover a new boundary that while maintaining the faiths as distinct entities, enclosed them and occasionally veiled their edges. To this end, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was explicitly designated off limits for conversation as overly divisive. Instead, different paradigms of Jewish Muslim unity were put forward, the most common being shared religious heritage as Children of Abraham, shared status as creations of God, and shared stakes in the local community. Thus in the first of the joint talks, entitled "One God, Universal Message", the imam and rabbi brought forward linguistically related Arabic and Hebrew phrases such as "God is One" and "There is no God but God" in order to show both the shared roots of their sacred languages and important monotheistic concepts within their Abrahamic faiths. A subsequent talk in the series "Hearing the Word of God" featured explanations from both sides that "all people hear the same God.. .in their own language". In an informal group discussion during a tour of City Mosque, the rabbi made an effort to link the Jewish tradition of Abraham's journey to visit his wife Hagar/Hajar to the Muslim story of this prophet's construction of the Ka 'aba11, saying that Abraham might have gone to the present area of Saudi Arabia, making it possible for the two events to have occurred at the same time. He agreed with a Jewish listener who commented that if the Jewish patriarch had built the Ka 'aba Jews should also be making pilgrimage there, adding that this was not possible at the present time due to restrictive policies of the Saudi government. These moves to embrace the two religious communities in one symbolic boundary were not only communicated as information, but acted out bodily in joint worship and other activities. Talks by the rabbi and imam were occasionally preceded by rounds of singing in Hebrew and Arabic and the Jewish Muslim women's choir advertised itself in a local Muslim paper with the statement "When we are singing together we are BEING connection, sharing, and peace". Similarly, fundamental commonalities in Islamic and Judaic prophetic traditions 11 Ka 'aba- The most sacred site in Islam. A stone structure within the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, said to have been built by Adam and rebuilt by the prophet Abraham. Muslims face the Ka 'aba in performing their prayers and are enjoined to make hajj or pilgrimage to it once in their lifetimes. 18 were most powerfully experienced when clergy from one faith lectured on a story that was common to both, treating Jewish and Muslim listeners as one congregation. One Muslim woman specifically mentioned hearing the imam give exegesis on the story of the prophet Jonah/Yunus to Jews observing Yom Kippur as "one of the most incredible experiences". As she described it: So [the rabbi] was reading and then [the imam] would actually do the teaching! He'd be like "this is what this means, this is what it is, this is what this line means, and this is what the peripheral stuff around it is and this is what you need to know". . . and that was amazing for me and it was just like, it didn't matter if you were Jewish or you were Muslim; it was like it doesn't matter because you have to learn. This visceral communication of the concept of Jewish Muslim unity brought about by doing the same things together in the same space evokes Bourdieu's observations of the efficacy of practice over rote instruction in teaching classifications of self and other (Bourdieu 1977, 90). While commonalities were emphasized both in formal talks by group leaders and in informal conversation by group members, ideological and interpretive divisions were carefully avoided or smoothed over. When one Muslim commented, in response to a Jewish tale of God's laughter, that Islam did not attribute human characteristics to the Creator, the imam countered with several examples of divine laughter from the Sunna. Both clergy subsequently agreed that accounts of specific emotions experienced by the Divine were human metaphors for the indescribable. In a similar episode of "smoothing", evident variation between the imam and the rabbi's interpretation of the story of Jonah during the joint Yom Kippur lesson were framed by the rabbi afterwards to the congregation as difference within similarity as he added that the most important part of the combined service was not so much what was spoken of as the fact that the imam and other Muslims had been able to attend. Beyond Harmony: The Challenges of Engagement The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Ignore or Confront? Despite the enthusiasm of Muslims and Jews for the work of Shalom/Salaam, the process of drawing together individuals from different backgrounds was not without its challenges, which I examined with special 19 attention to the perspective of Muslim participants. Of all the variant opinions on the most effective way to redraw boundaries between Jews and Muslims, the question of whether or not dialogue should include an effort to tackle the thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the most disputed. The leadership's vision to heal a political divide by redirecting attention to themes of interfaith harmony was challenged on a number of occasions. Persistent political postings on the e-mail list caused some to leave and Shalom/Salaam administration to articulate rules restricting the nature of acceptable topics to "bridge-building messages." In a planning meeting held some months after the founding of the project, the proposal of two members to form a discussion group devoted to Israel/Palestine was unambiguously vetoed by the majority of those in attendance. Those against discussing the conflict generally agreed that such an exercise would break the group apart before it got off the ground. It was necessary in this case to divide politics and religion, a division some saw as natural. Comparing a field that revealed the unity of creation to one that supported "the ambitions of politicians", the imam explained that politics emphasized differences, while religion stressed similarities. Religious education from the grassroots was the key. How could you hate each other when your teachings were the same? Some thought political discussion might be introduced at a later date when members had formed friendships. This view was given most eloquently by a Muslim committed to Palestine solidarity work, who had joined the group as a way to broaden the discourse from what she called "this crazy nexus of conflict and ahistorical understanding of the way in which Jews and Muslims have coexisted for many hundreds of years." She likened the slow process of getting to know the Other to that of falling in love. I mean, when you fall in love with somebody you don't ask them what's your view about this and this! You feel some sort of attraction to them and you know, you hear something of what they have to say. And then you feel that you could accept anything that they might tell you because you have opened your heart to them. For this individual and a number of others, hearing unconditional support for Israel expressed by Jews with whom no bond had been developed would give them "no reason to listen... any further", a impasse to be avoided by introducing discussion on the Middle East slowly and gradually. Several of the young women in the group who wanted space to discuss the conflict did not see it as a source of division but optimistically, as an opportunity for joint education. For them, it made little sense that in a project of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation what they saw as the central issue dividing Muslims and Jews should be 20 the one thing forbidden to explore. What they viewed as "the difficult issues" should be tackled. While holding strong feelings about the plight of Palestinians, a number acknowledged a shaky understanding of the subject and felt that an organized, honest Muslim-Jewish program of reading, listening to speakers, and exchanging personal views would be an ideal and exciting way for all involved to learn more. One woman explained that she had never taken history in high school and was open to learning from all sides : "I mean, I guess there is no solid understanding because points of views are so different and it depends on what book you read and what you do..." However, not all Muslims who wanted to discuss the conflict were so open to other perspectives. A commonly held view that interfaith peace efforts that do not denounce the occupation are pawns of Israeli public relations interests was alluded to by a university student who had left a previous initiative between Jews and Palestinians due to its resistance to taking a stand on the conflict: "I am against mediation if the point is to neutralize the conflict. It is clearly not a neutral conflict, there is a definite oppressor and an oppressed. To try and frame a dialogue in order to neutralize the conflict is an injustice." In this case, bridging a gap with the Jewish community was not seen as a necessary end in itself as the rift was perceived to be not with Jews in general, but with Zionists who supported Israeli policies on Palestine "in defiance of truth and justice". Following from this, the purpose of Muslim-Jewish dialogue both within Shalom/Salaam and more generally would not be primarily to share religious perspectives or do community work, but to build coalitions, educate, and persuade. For those who resisted learning about Palestinian perspectives "continued cooperation will be unlikely." The prevalence of such views in the broader Muslim community was linked by another Shalom/Salaam participant to the noticeable lack of young Muslim men in the group. He described such young men as "not depoliticised entirely... .more pissed off' and framing himself as anomalous in his longstanding devotion to the peace movement and Buddhist meditational practice, explained "If I was twenty-five I wouldn't be here. No. I would be more angry". Boundary Confusion and the Articulation of Stereotypes in a Small Group Setting A policy of privileging religion and community as the boundaries bringing together members of Shalom/Salaam and silencing the simultaneous draw of politics created confusion in less controlled activities where individuals tended to be more open about their reasons for participating. Open venues like the e-mail list and living room group gave ample opportunity for the honest discussion participants wanted and could not get in 21 more structured exchanges like the imam and rabbi's talks. However, the content of such conversations turned out to often not be about matters of faith or fellowship but about underlying stereotypes and political concerns. The most extreme example of this was in the living room group, which had been spontaneously created by a small pool of Shalom/Salaam members in the summer of 2004. While participants had an assortment of different ideas for group activities, from charitable fundraising and volunteer work to learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the group quickly evolved primarily into a forum for intensive personal discussion and questioning. The idea of a systematic educational discourse on the Middle East was rejected by most of the Jews as too problematic, but the conflict and broader related issues were nevertheless discussed through the relation of personal stories (an activity engaged in by all group members) and several queries as to why the Muslim community at large did not more vocally condemn acts of Islamic and Palestinian terrorism. Questions were also asked about Islamic rules around appropriate dress and interaction with the opposite sex, with the beliefs of some of the traditional Muslim women on wearing a head covering and lowering one's gaze being challenged in the name of liberal feminist principles. The four Muslims of the living room group responded to the questions in the spirit of providing religious education. However, reminiscing about their experience, several expressed the opinion that the topics brought up by the Jews were triggered by the violent, misogynistic images of Islam disseminated in popular media. While they wished and had expected to present their perspectives on such subjects, several found it more difficult than they had anticipated to have these views accepted. As one said," I also felt that people came there with their own set opinions and didn't necessarily want to learn or engage or believe what we had to say. " Giving her own South Asian ethnic background as an example, she expressed uncertainty over how Muslims with family histories on the Indian subcontinent and other places far from the Middle East should relate to pointed questioning about Palestinian violence: I guess it was something that many people did want to clear up, was the religious aspect of Islam, how did that play into that and in terms of Palestinians being suicide bombers, what did that have to do with Islam? You know, extremism comes in all forms, whether you are religious or not. . . Anyways, I guess for me that was really interesting, trying to work with people who had a lot of questions. And wanted answers from me but I couldn't provide those answers because I didn't feel responsible personally for things but people were sort of asking for accountability and that was very frustrating. This woman came away from the experience disillusioned, unsure of the value of dealing with emotional issues in 22 an unmediated, small group context in which Muslims were outnumbered by Jews. Still, there was an effort by most of the young Muslims to maintain a positive attitude towards the experience. One young woman judged it as "good but not what I expected". Another was more supportive, stating how in retrospect she appreciated "being able to just sit there and talk and get to know each other and just have a feel of what being Jewish means." Being Jewish was very different from what they had imagined. The framework of "Muslim" and "Jewish" around which the dialogue was organized was established independendy of familiarity with the nuances of each others' particular religious perspectives. The word "intention" was repeatedly used by the Muslims of City Mosque to describe their choice in entering into dialogue to focus on the positive things that could be accomplished together, rather than on what each religious body aid outside their joint interactions. As one woman explained, "It's the intentions that matter. Because when our two groups joined the idea was that we would focus on our similarities and not dwell on our differences. As long as people are talking about peace with genuine intention, fine." Another clarified, "We never really sit there and ever...we never ever talked about anybody's backgrounds or what they do? I mean, I guess we were just looking to do things arid not so much at what they did on their own." However, in the close environment of a living room group, key differences in orientation quickly became apparent. The Muslims in the group, most of whom attended the Sunday classes at City Mosque, viewed true religious devotion as adherence to a "well travelled " orthodox path, under established spiritual leadership. In contrast, a number of the Jews viewed themselves as Jewish through ethnicity rather than spiritual inclination. Those who practiced Judaism often did so with a light hand or combined it with a variety of other approaches, in the spirit of Jewish Renewal. After some initial confusion, the Muslims were able to differentiate Jewish ethnicity from the religion of Judaism. As one woman said, "It was so different from what I thought it meant. I thought it was a very religious thing.. .whereas when I started going to the groups I realized it's a more cultural thing because there's people in the group who say they're Jewish but they'll also say they don't follow Judaism or they'll follow a branch of different things, a mix. " The idea that practicing Jews could legitimately follow "a mix" did not catch on as it contradicted the Muslims' orthodox perspectives. In addition, the Jews did not present their beliefs as falling within the Renewal tradition, but instead framed them within the context of their own personal path. As a result, the Muslims of the 23 living room group interpreted the spiritual eclecticism and ambiguity of the Jews as straightforward lack of adherence to the true principles of Jewish faith. While they found the Jews personable and wanted to learn more about Judaism from them, they felt they could not. A number of strong statements were made. As one woman said, "If it's going to be specifically a religious group with no politics then it should be specifically religious people there. Not people who are you know, secular. ..maybe they were practicing in their own way, but they couldn't answer our questions. " From another: Learning about Judaism was not working learning from non-practicing Jews. . . Leila1 2 even said, "how can we ask you a question when you say that you're liberal and you don't follow?" For example, a person -1 won't say who - said "I'm. a Jew but I don't really believe in God. I believe in a higher entity but I don't know what." No. Go to a learned rabbi. On the advice of a respected older member of the City Mosque, the majority of Muslims in the living room group decided it would be best to obtain their knowledge of Judaism from the rabbi's official talks. Religious belief was not seen by them as something relative to be learned through different individualistic interpretations. Clearly there were right and wrong ways to go about it. Unable to exchange views on religion and with political discussion confined to answering questions posed by the Jews, there seemed little reason to continue. A last effort was made to redirect the living room group towards activities like fundraising and making multifaith connections and when this failed the group ceased meeting over the winter holidays and never resumed. The tendency for liberal Jews to be those most involved in Muslim-Jewish dialogue has been frequently commented on (Herschkopf 2005; Rifkin My Jewish Learning; Smith 2004) and is likely related to the manner in which the variety of liberal approaches positively incorporate "the Other" into their cosmologies. However, as seen in Shalom/Salaam, such views on intra-religious pluralism, critical thinking, and the validity of the esoteric spiritual path can clash with traditional Islamic perspectives on education and sacred law requiring students to submit themselves to the authority of a qualified teacher entrusted with passing down an unaltered body of knowledge valued for its authenticity and correctness13 (Dolev and Kazmi May 5, 2005; Eickelman 1992,646-49; A pseudonym. 1 3 Perspectives on the acquisition of Islamic knowledge emphasizing taqlid, or acceptance of past authoritative interpretations, are increasingly challenged or balanced by those stressing ijtihad, or independent struggle to interpret Islamic texts. While in some circles the latter approach is seen as the equivalent of Western critical 24 Geaves 2000,16-17). Jane Smith (2004,180, 184) has noted in her study of Muslim Christian dialogue in the United States that many Muslims feel more at ease interacting with Roman Catholics than liberals, particularly when it comes to discussion of moral and ethical issues. This comment was borne out in my study by the experience of a woman from City Mosque who in response to several positive exchanges with an Orthodox Jewish couple, concluded that "if you go back to the orthodox stuff.. .that's where the purest forms and all the similarities are." Attracting and Keeping Muslim Participation in the Face of Conflicting Priorities With the exception of the living room group in which participants intensively interacted with one another, conflicts over ideological stance and approach to dialogue remained minor sources of dissent in Shalom/Salaam. More significant to group dynamics were everyday issues of attracting adequate participation, preventing misunderstandings, and making time for group activities in the midst of conflicting priorities. Perhaps because of its prosaic quality, this ethnographic aspect of Muslim-Jewish interfaith experience is generally omitted in academic analyses of the topic. However, it offers a valuable window of insight into the workings of such endeavours at the most basic level. Despite achieving immediate grassroots connection with a small sector of the city's Muslim community, Shalom/Salaam continued to have difficulties attracting large numbers of Muslim participants to its events, which consistently drew many Jews from a variety of backgrounds. One of the first Muslims to get involved with the project identified its biggest challenge as reaching the Muslim mainstream. While he believed a useful strategy to gain more widespread recognition would be to gain the endorsement of large Muslim community organizations in the area, such official support had proven to be slow in coming. Early attempts to acquire it had failed; while thinking, many traditionalists argue that it fits within a specific system of usul al-fiqh (Islamic legal theory) and . only highly trained jurists are capable of conducting it. 25 prominent community leaders were happy to participate in isolated interfaith events like the proposed peace walk, they were hesitant to make a long-term public commitment to Shalom/Salaam. A comment made by a Muslim with a record of working with large Jewish organizations in the city revealed one possible reason. Citing a preference for dealings between established organizations with long term relations of trust and a solid knowledge of each others' history and position in the community, she explained that lending official support to relatively unknown individuals and spontaneously constituted groups was to risk too much One's partner might unexpectedly change the agenda mid-project. Alternatively, they could turn out to be an outsider, marginalized within the broader faith community with which one was trying to form relationships14. Thus, while larger groups might wish the best for small independent projects like Shalom/Salaam, such projects would have to prove their legitimacy and longevity before they could expect to form formal affiliations with larger and better known organizations. Issues of representational imbalance between Muslims and Jews appear frequently in reports on this form of dialogue in North America. The Los Angeles Jewish Muslim Dialogue, a well known Muslim-Jewish group whose trials and successes have been widely reported, is made up of a selection of community leaders, with Jews at times outnumbering Muslims by as many as ten to one (Tugend June 29, 2001). In this context, questions were raised about the effectiveness of the dialogue's impact on the wider Muslim community of Los Angeles. As one prominent participant in the group complained: "We are constantly meeting with the same two or three Arab professionals... When the Jewish Federation speaks, it represents 50,000 Jews. But who do they represent? (Ibid. June 29, 2001)" While in the case of Shalom/Salaam, organizers linked problems of overrepresentation to the "fledgling" nature of the group, there was visibly increased, more diverse participation by Muslims at interfaith meetings held at City Mosque or combined with other activities in the Muslim community, like a mosque picnic and an annual tea. This observation was confirmed by several of the young Muslim organizers of Shalom/Salaam, one of whom pointed out in response to my query about the frequent lack of attendees from outside City Mosque, that people generally felt more comfortable attending functions at their own place of worship. 1 4 Indeed, aspects of the Renewal approach to Judaism such as their religious syncretism, their acceptance of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual orientations, and their support for women in positions of religious authority remain controversial among more conservative branches of the faith (Roper 2003; Shapiro Feb, 1994; Tucker Jan/Feb 1995). 26 Trends related to age, gender, education, and length of time in the country were also mentioned by those I spoke to as possible explanations for the obvious lack of men and older and married women at the interfaith events, which on the Muslim side, were overwhelmingly attended and organized by single females of university age. The preponderance of young post-secondary students participating in Shalom/Salaam was explained by one individual as a natural consequence of the more theoretical, academic interests held by this sector of the Muslim community. Not all people could afford to dwell on issues of interfaith and in the case of many members of the Indo-Fijian community, which he pointed out made up a large portion of Muslims in the Greater Vancouver region, the practical concerns of daily life came first and foremost. My research shows that many had fled Fiji in the aftermath of a 1987 coup by colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who was determined to reshape the country's policies to favour its indigenous population (Chandra 1997). Emigrating to Anglophone countries like Canada, the United States, and New Zealand in the late 1980s and early '90s, they were still in the process of rebuilding, adjustment, and consolidation (Ibid 1997). My informant, who had moved from the east to the west coast of the country to attend college, noted of the city's Indo-Fijian population: A lot of them are working class, a lot of them are not very educated. I guess having not been in Canada for very long and focusing on just day to day survival, just working and raising families they don't necessarily have time for these kind of extra auricular... For a lot of people interfaith dialogue is not necessarily something that is necessarily at the top of their priority list. It's not something that they're generally interested in because I think they have a lot more going on in their communities with their families and that kind of thing. Demands of home, family, and custom shaped the universe of extracurricular activities for many Muslim acquaintances and friends of the students of City Mosque, which catered to a largely Pakistani and Indo-Fijian constituency. Older people were described by a young woman of Pakistani background as having greater family responsibilities, which kept them around the home. Married women had to care for children and cook meals, which would make special trips to attend interfaith events difficult and participation in late night activities like the living room group virtually unthinkable. Even unmarried women like herself had jobs and school and were expected to perform household duties, although as she added, grinning, "I'm spoiled, I don't have to cook." Regula and Saleem Qureshi's ethnographic description of Pakistani Canadian communities, made over twenty years ago when such communities were no more than "ten to fifteen years old", highlights age seniority and sex as fundamental structuring principles for immigrant families, many of which come from the middle and 27 upper classes of Pakistani society (Qureshi 1983,132-33). Conceptually the sexes operate in different spheres, with men earning a living and negotiating non-familial relationships in the outside realm (described by the Urdu term ghair, meaning strange or foreign) and women managing the private sphere of home and relatives (In Urdu, apna, or "one's own"). As individuals age they attain greater social status as well as increased responsibility for those beneath them (Ibid 1983, 136-37). Tracing these patterns back to social structures operative not only in Pakistan but among Muslim elites across the Indian subcontinent, the authors assert that such principles, which are influenced by a complex mix of Arab-Islamic, Turko-Iranian, and Indian socio-cultural traits, can be said to constitute a broad "Indo-Islamic culture" (Ibid 1983,132-33). While the core group of young female attendees at City Mosque's Sunday classes did much of the organizational legwork for Shalom/Salaam from the Muslim side, they relied on the mosque's vice president, referred to respectfully and affectionately as "uncle", for advice and moral support. This retired gentieman and long-time Vancouver resident who with the imam helped supervise the overall trajectory of the group, was enthusiastically involved in garnering recognition for the project, both in the Vancouver Sunni community where he was well known and respected and in other local faith communities. When he made a lengthy trip to visit family and friends in Pakistan the pace of events in Shalom/Salaam was temporarily slowed. Ideas for new activities and social connections that might have been generated with his assistance were put temporarily on hold. The young university students who helped organize the events juggled jobs, academic commitments, and other extra-curricular projects and had limited energy to put into Muslim-Jewish work, particularly during exam periods. One woman who was completing medical training highlighted demographic differences between the religious communities which were perceived by some of the Muslims as giving the Jews more time to devote to the interfaith project. Her comment, which gives a comprehensive list of the young Muslims' practical issues in organizing the Shalom/Salaam project, is worth repeating in full: Our Muslim group is so small. There's a select number of people and the people who are doing it are people who are in school and working.. .They [the Jews] were older, some of them were retired, some of them weren't working. So for some of them it's a lot easier to make the time and for us it's just you know, we felt like really disorganized, to be quite honest! We felt like we want to do this properly but when you're pulled in all different directions like you know, you have your school, you have your work, you have your spiritual path and that takes up time . . . even though you pray five times a day times five minutes you're thinking about your spiritual path and in the end it does turn out to be a lot. There's that and then you have your family and you know, you do have certain obligations like you have to help out, cook or whatever it is that you need to do. You have to do all that. You want to maintain an average 28 social life. And we want to help out at the masjid15 as well or go to classes or whatever it is. Sometimes it all doesn't work out. Some things take the hit and for us that was one area. The Muslim students of City Mosque were especially protective of their imam, who they emphasized was by far the most busy of all. They considered themselves particularly fortunate, for in their case he was not only an imam, with the obligation to serve the community by leading prayer, doing counselling, and presiding at life cycle events, but was also a teacher. In a description incorporating elements of the ideal, one woman explained that the imam's responsibilities encompassed both visible, external activities and personal cultivation of the heart, since "that's what imams do, that's what leaders of the community do in order to gain strength to help the community and to bring them up". Living next to the mosque made it easier for the imam to carry out his work, which was not confined to a daily block of time but flowed throughout the day and night on both weekdays and weekends. In addition to carrying out the five daily prayers himself as well as extra prayers or simnah, in emulation of the Prophet's practice, he led them in the upper men's room of the mosque, with his image televised into the women's section so that they could follow. His khutbas or sermons, delivered at the principal prayer time on Fridays, were taped for the benefit of those who could not attend. His counselling hours, three afternoons a week, were said to be often booked several weeks in advance. When I went for my appointment with him, I found myself one of a small group waiting patiently outside his office. The young woman in charge of booking meetings described it as typical that some people had made appointments while others had just shown up. They waited for hours and when possible, all were seen. The imam also ran a series of weekly children's Qur'an classes, said to have recently doubled in size. In the months spent researching the Shalom/Salaam project, I took note of his presence at large community functions such as a prayer conference, aMilad-un-Nabi16 celebration, and an iftar17 event hosted by the city's principal museum. The extent to which the imam's everyday commitments shaped the most basic elements of his life, constraining the extent of his personal participation in the Jewish Muslim project, became clearer after an 15 masjid - the Arabic term for mosque 16 Milad-un-Nabi - A gathering to remember, discuss, and celebrate the birth and teachings of Prophet Mohammed. 17 Iftar - The nightly breaking of the fast during the month of Ramadan. 29 interfaith talk at the mosque to which he arrived late, having just woken. Despite the resdessness in the room as the Jews waited to begin the session, singing chants to pass the time, the Muslim women preparing for the event put off walking the few steps to the imam's front door to ask when he was coming. This seemingly odd incident was clarified in several later conversations, where it became apparent that in part because of the demands of leading group prayer from as early as three thirty in the morning to close to ten at night18 and teaching weekly classes starting at half past seven in the morning for the benefit of those going to work or school, the imam did not typically have a full night's sleep, but napped in snatches. The women were confident that he would wake up in time to attend the Shalom/Salaam event, as he eventually did. One individual communicated to me their policy of not disturbing the imam at home19: If you're the leader of a community.. .your number one priority is to that community. And he has to be at that masjid five times. And on top of that, he has a family. They have very limited time together. There are people who are constantly at him. Like I've witnessed this, you know, they come to his door... Many of the volunteer activities taken on by the young Muslims were designed to relieve the imam of extraneous tasks so that he could more easily attend to his central responsibilities. While his wife was also frequentiy seen taking leadership in helping around the mosque, it was emphasized that according to the tenets of Islam she had no special duty to do so. Caring for their young children and working took up much of her time and I was told there were periods when she stayed away for up to a week. Research on the responsibilities of imams in North America and Europe shows how they have broadened in the context of a non-Islamic environment. Describing the roles taken on by imams in the Canadian city of Edmonton, Earle Waugh (1980,143) notes that "Canadian culture imposes much greater demands on [the imam's] time than his colleague in the Middle East". Countries like Egypt and the Gulf States where broadly accepted social values are based on'Islamic principles, will usually have a variety of specialized Islamic professionals to carry out various tasks. However, in post-Christian countries where such institutions are lacking and Muslims 1 8 The designated times for daily prayers shift slightly from day to day, following the sun. For this reason, the first prayer of the day is especially early in Vancouver during the spring and summer. 1 9 The policy of not disturbing the imam at home varied with context, as he was also reported to be available on short notice to his spiritual pupils. 30 form a religious minority, much of the responsibility for maintaining the traditions that shape and symbolize Muslim identity devolves on the mosque and consequently the imam (Ibid, 128-30,141). An imam who in the Middle East might find himself leading prayer, preaching, and giving legal advice based on Shari'a principles is thus expected in the North American context to additionally offer counselling, represent Islam and the Muslim community at cultural, civic, interfaith, and educational events, and organize programs and fundraisers in conjunction with mosque committees (McCloud 2003,166; Ibid, 143-44). The incorporation of Islam into the interfaith system with its goal of promoting spiritual perspectives in a secular world provides additional tasks for the imam. Waugh (1980,143-44) notes that he is "more and more being called upon to join with clergy of other faiths in expressing concern over social issues and to take a stand against the continuous secularization of society". The result of all this can be overwork and inadequate time to "devote to the traditional study that marked the pious member of the ulama20 (Ibid, 143)." While the Jews organizing Shalom/Salaam strove hard to understand the perspective of their Muslim partners, some found the difficulty in contacting the imam in person and the slow progress of the interfaith talks to be somewhat frustrating. The spiritually enthusiastic young Muslims of City Mosque were not only preoccupied with ordinary mosque affairs, of which the Jews knew little, but due to the Sufi nature of the imam's approach they also regularly attended biweekly classes and Thursday night dhikrs21 (again led by the imam), as well as focusing individually on their own inner development. As one woman tried to explain to me, stumbling over her words in her agitation, "Unless you know what... it is to be a Muslim and what it entails... it's not just eight hours of our day, it's like twenty-four seven. It's a whole life. This is our life. It's serious stuff. It's not like this airy fairy like...oh, I'm a Buddhist and I'm going to spend twenty minutes meditating... People who love God and who love our Prophet, peace be upon him, they want to make that every waking breath, every split second of remembrance." Contact between the two groups was stopped for weeks while the Muslims of City Mosque focused all their energy on preparing for and engaging in the intense prayer and fasting rituals of the holy month of Ramadan. The imam had to back out of or postpone the joint Muslim-Jewish lessons when they conflicted with Eid UlAdha12 and a trip Ulama - Religious scholarly class within Islam 21 Dhikr - The perpetual remembrance of God, cultivated through a spiritual discipline of focused recitation of God's names and attributes. This can be done in a group setting, as with the dhikr evenings held at City Mosque. 2 2 Eid UlAdha - The Festival of Sacrifice, commemorating Prophet Abraham's willingness to obey God in 31 he was making to teach another group of his students on the east coast. Viewing himself as still in a formative stage of spiritual advancement, he engaged in self-imposed retreats to progress further through more advanced "cycles of discipline". Finally, City Mosque withdrew from the interfaith process altogether, citing increased demands on the imam and suggesting that the autumn might be a better time to resume contact. The message, communicated to the rabbi in an e-mail sent by one of the young women, puzzled the Jews due to its brevity and lack of detail, but as it turned out, the withdrawal was simply due to plans for the Muslims of the Sunday classes to intensify their spiritual work with the imam over the summer while they were out of school. In the end, while the Muslims I spoke to felt strongly positive about developing relationships with Jews and indeed, of engaging productively with the wider community in general, the extent to which they chose to become involved in Shalom/Salaam and the manner in which they left was determined not by any grand ideological arguments but simply by time and priorities. The response of one woman when asked why she had stopped participating in the group, that ultimately she had made a choice to devote her time to that which was most centrally important to her, the imam and her spiritual path, reflects the perspective of many. Conclusion: Thoughts on the Challenge of Muslim-Jewish Dialogue and Directions for Future Research Stories of Muslim-Jewish dialogue, connected as they often are to the resolution of rifts that continue to be unresolved in Palestine and Israel where they began, can lend themselves to drama and the highlighting of division, argument, and failure. Much of what is published on the topic in popular journals and other easily accessible publications takes this approach or retaliates with its polar opposite, inspiring tales of undiluted inter-religious harmony. However, the truth about Muslim-Jewish initiatives viewed up close, lies somewhere else. For many groups including Shalom/Salaam, which has recently extended its circle of Muslim participants to the Shi'a community, the process of reaching out goes on despite misunderstandings, changes of direction, clashes in religious approach, busy timetables, gaps of silence, and the need to balance other priorities, many of which will sacrificing his son Ishmael. 32 take centre stage. As the imam emphasized in our conversation about the choice of the Muslims of City Mosque to withdraw participation over the summer, "It's not a problem...It's something that is a long term project." Understanding this process from close quarters requires going beyond evaluations of formal dialogue models and the analysis of discourse removed from the broader daily lives of those who engage in it. Ethnographic research into the activities of Shalom/Salaam and the perspectives of participating Muslims brought up a number of important issues deserving further study: the debate over the appropriateness of incorporating discussion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into interfaith dialogue, problems in integrating dialogue activities into the demanding round of daily life, and stereotypes and other ideological obstacles encountered in close interactions between consciously traditional Muslims and liberal Jews : Of these matters, the first is perhaps the most widely discussed. However, my research indicates that the latter two points, while less commonly reported upon, have a notable impact on Muslim-Jewish relations at the grassroots level. The young Muslim participants, dividing their schedules between work, family, school and other activities, struggled to make time for interfaith events that others of their acquaintance, whether parents, the elderly, or recent immigrants, may not have been able to attend at all. Following their teacher-imam's strong focus on disciplined cultivation of the inner life, they eventually chose to postpone further involvement in favour of working on their own spiritual growth. They were unable to relate to the post-modern propensity of some of the Jews to critically deconstruct their own rich traditions, accepting some elements and ignoring or modifying others, an approach which clashed with an Islamic learning.paradigm stressing the careful transmission of intact bodies of religious knowledge to students by trained authoritative scholars. Tradition alsofactored in the influence of socio-cultural roles and responsibilities linked to gender, age, marital status, and occupation for the Muslims of City Mosque, possibly influencing the degree to which some participated in Shalom/Salaam. Many of the most active Muslims in the interfaith group were young unmarried female post-secondary students, in contrast to many of the Jews, who were older and of both genders. The large number of youthful, educated individuals in the group meshes with accounts (Khan 2003,186-87; Mandaville 2003,133-39; Ukeles 2004,15) of enthusiastic civic participation by second and third generation North American and European Muslims. However, this interfaith participation did not seem to extend to men and dropped off among older and married women. While I was unable to draw any conclusions about the lack of male 33 involvement, the primacy of the familial sphere for women in this largely South Asian diasporic group seemed to increase and become more defined as they aged, married, and became responsible for children. Qureshi and Qureshi (1983, 134-39) point out that South Asian Muslims' emphasis on strong family networks and societal structuring according to age and sex harmonizes with social ideals communicated in the Qur'an, hadith, and sunna. Tradition and religion form a mutually reinforcing system. Despite the undeniable multi-faceted impact of South Asian and Islamic tradition on Muslim involvement in the group, reducing the issues in this particular context to a confrontation between Muslim tradition and Jewish modernity would be overly simplistic. The predominance of active, outspoken South Asian Muslim women as organizers and mediators between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Shalom/Salaam sharply contradicts statements on Pakistani-Canadian social structure made by Qureshi and Qureshi which attribute the role of dealing with the outside, non-familial sphere to men23 and differs from observations made by Jane Smith (2004,183) on the masculine nature of many Muslim Christian dialogue projects. Drawing on her interviews with individuals engaged in Muslim-Christian dialogue, Smith (2004,183) has also cited hesitancy among Muslim women to speak to unfamiliar males, to discuss doctrinal or theological matters in the authoritative presence of an imam, and to be obligated to explain their choices in dress and other modest behaviours to curious or challenging strangers as factors limiting female involvement in interfaith settings. While the last matter was a source of tension for some in the living room group, the other problems did not appear to arise among the women with whom I interacted. In contrast, balancing interfaith involvement with higher education and career development was repeatedly mentioned, confirming the complex interrelationship between traditional beliefs and social roles and modern thinking and ways of life that comprises the taken-for-granted syncretic norm for most second and third generation Muslims in the West. In conclusion, researching the issues raised by this preliminary examination into Muslim-Jewish interfaith activity will involve the willingness to move far beyond the obvious context of the interfaith group, into the wider social circles which Muslim-Jewish outreach attempts to penetrate. 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