Tariq Ramadan, a leader in the global Muslim Brotherhood, is the most prominent signer of a letter described as “intended as a gesture of goodwill towards rabbinic leaders and the wider Jewish communities of the world.” The opening of the letter states that its aim is:
to build upon existing relations in order to improve mutual understanding in places where required to further the positive work in building bridges between Muslims and Jews. In the face of the negative and destructive tensions in the Middle East, this letter is a call to positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim-Jewish relations.
The letter opens by suggesting that Jewish/Arab tension is a product of “misunderstandings”, neglecting to mention that the Muslim Brotherhood has been a primary source of anti-Semitic incitement towards the Jewish community:
Many Jews and Muslims today stand apart from each other due to feelings of anger, which in some parts of the world, translate into violence. It is our contention that we are faced today not with ‘a clash of civilizations’ but with ‘a clash of ill-informed misunderstandings’. Deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices have resulted in a distancing of the communities and even a dehumanizing of the ‘Other’. We urgently need to address this situation. We must strive towards turning ignorance into knowledge, intolerance into understanding, and pain into courage and sensitivity for the ‘Other’.
The letter continues by referring to “centuries” of peaceful co-existence between Jews and Muslims, a myth that Islamic scholars such as Bernard Lewis have attempted to refute.
After a long recitation of the commonalities between Judaism and Islam, the letter closes with some telling paragraphs. First, the letter equates anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim/anti-Arab sentiment in the respective communities although, in reality, there does not appear to be anything in the Jewish community corresponding to the anti-Semitic incitement practiced by the Saudis and the global Muslim Brotherhood.
European Jews and Muslims today share experiences as minority groups. With the increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jews and Muslims need to develop joint strategies to tackle discrimination. They could also come together to support each other’s efforts to maintain their identities in an age that promotes and expects conformity to the dominant culture. It is, therefore, in the spirit of both religious and geo-political compulsions that we emphasise the process of bridge-building between the two communities. This process must go beyond dialogue and move towards genuine understanding and encounters, such as visiting each other’s places of worship. It is important to be honest about the level of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim/anti-Arab sentiment that translates into conflict within and between the two communities. The need today is for us to see each other’s history and appreciate each other’s cultures with a genuine attempt at understanding.
The letter concludes by asking Jews to be “more sensitive to the sufferings of others, especially the Palestinian people” without acknowledgment of the Nazi Holocaust whose authenticity was questioned by Youssef Qaradawi, the leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood:
At this moment, there is no challenge more pressing than the need to bring to a closure some of the historical and long lasting estrangements between the Jews and Muslims. Because of the increasing polarisation, many feel forced to choose between dialogue and violence as a response. At the core of the Muslim-Jewish tension lies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The loss of every single life is a loss to humanity and a bloody stain on the tapestry of history. We call for a peaceful solution that will assure mutual respect, prosperity and security to both Palestinians and Israelis, while allowing the Palestinian people their rights to self-determination without external interference. Most Muslims would hope that the sufferings that Jews have experienced over many centuries would make them more sensitive to the sufferings of others, especially the Palestinian people. In the Hebrew Bible Jews read how they are commanded to love the stranger because they themselves were strangers in the land of Egypt (this is mentioned 36 times in the Torah).
Tariq Ramadan is an extremely important figure within the Global Muslim Brotherhood network, perhaps best described as an independent power base with sufficient stature as the son of Said Ramadan, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood to challenge positions taken by important Brotherhood leaders. His statements and writings have been extensively analyzed and he has been accused by critics of promoting anti-Semitism and fundamentalism, albeit by subtle means. On the other hand, his supporters promote him as as example of an Islamic reformer who is in the forefront of developing a “Euro Islam. The letter was also signed by Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University Washington, DC. Ahmed is also associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood through his membership on the board of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) as well as other organizations.