Sunday, April 21, 2013

Do You MuJew? - Nabiha Hashmi

        Growing up in a Muslim community, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was a prevalent issue one that seemed so deeply knotted in trouble that prospects of peace seemed dim. I never really knew anything about the issue but naturally sided with the Palestinians. All my ideas of Jews had been interpellated into my mind by this ongoing conflict. I was socially constructed to believe certain things and to get upset at others. My father was deeply involved in interfaith events and so my stereotypes had definitely lessened but I never got to build a relationship with a Jewish person.

        My basis of logic for my perceptions was zip. I had not background knowledge, so I was in no position to argue the cases that I had wanted to and nor did I ever do it as I was not a confrontational person. But, this did not stop me from questioning what the entire issue was. Why, 60 years later, we were still in the same position. I could not process or comprehend how peace was not possible in that region so closely located to a holy land. So, I got myself educated. My history class in the senior year of high school took a semester to learn the Arab-Israeli conflict and how deeply rooted it is. So, I learned about the history…but a textbook can never tell you about people, cultures, and experiences. It tells you cold hard facts and theories but not emotions and perceptions. I didn't know Jewish people and I wasn't comfortable with the fact that I did not. I also did not like the essentialism that Muslims did not like Jews and Jews did not like Muslims. So, when I heard about MuJew – a Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue group, I knew I wanted to join it and go on the Alternative Spring Break trip with them.

          We went to Joplin, Missouri which was the site of an EF5 tornado that ripped apart the town in 2011. The disaster greatly impacted the town and the communities. We were working alongside the Jewish Disaster Relief Corps and the Islamic Circle of North American Relief as part of the Rebuild Joplin non-profit agency. We were assigned the task of demolishing a damaged home in order for it to be rebuilt. While in Joplin we were hosted by New Creation Church, a local church near the work site that caters to housing volunteers. The communities in Joplin were incredibly welcoming and were willing to share their stories, some of them very tragic and others incredibly inspiring. The trip was an amazing opportunity for us to get to know each other and each others' faiths. We were able to meet with the local Muslim and Jewish communities, and joined them from Juma'a and Shabbat services. It was amazing to meet with the members of the Muslim community who had their mosque burned down in a hate crime and to show them the beauty of interfaith work and how together we can break down ignorance build love and peace. We truly learned from the spiritual and emotional journey we shared in Joplin and felt a deep connection with the work we were doing, the stories told by the survivors of the tornado, and of course, with the new friendships we forced with community members and each other. 
For more information about our trip, please visit
        I truly believe in teaching through example. Although, our class focused on the media portrayal in the news media and film industry; I feel as if the internet media is truly this generations next source of news. To get out there as a Muslim Jewish group was such a breath of fresh air for some people, our statuses were liked and shared. It was a simple way to get out there and get our vision out there. Many people think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a religious conflict – as if our religions are the ones at odds at each other. There definite religious aspects that play into the conflict but our religions have actually been at such peace for so many years before this conflict. I truly believe this group is counter-hegemonic in what it is trying to do and has been challenged by many people who still believe in the hegemonic thought that Jews and Muslims cannot get along. We might not be able to bring peace to world, but let’s start with breaking some barriers at home and lessen hostility and creating bridges. This does not mean breaking our differences but just building bridges the lead to understanding that we might be different and our positions on certain issue might be different but that doesn't mean we cannot be friends and try to understand one another. It doesn't mean we cannot go on a trip together and learn how closely knit our religions are.

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