Last shabbat, Darlington had a return visit from the Iman who sponsored my visit to his prison in Barnard Castle.
He addressed the congregation (which included some NRSers as well) on the themes that he teaches at his own Friday services. This gave us an insight into how he teaches Islam to his congregation, in this case, the young offenders of Deerholt, through the medium of a sermon.
It was a fascinating talk, in which he read from the Qur’an passages which demonstrate what Muslims can learn from Tanakh [Hebrew Bible], and the respect due to all those who pursue righteousness, whatever their faith. His message, reiterated over and over, is the unity which unites all those who seek to do God’s will, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew.
In fact, he probably extends this further, as his PhD work was in the mysticism of the Sufis and Hindus.
Dr. Vassie was accompanied by his wife and her mother. I must tell you about her. All three were attending a Jewish service for the first time, but the mother, in her eighties, actually lives in Egypt and speaks no other language besides Arabic. She is 4’7″, walks with the aid of two sticks, and travels alone from Egypt to the UK, and from there to the USA, to visit her other daughter. Oh, and she is active in the Egyptian political scene. She was warm and affectionate with all of us.
My experiences of interfaith harmony from these encounters, and from those I have daily in my own neighbourhood. We can do this; we have partners in this work of acceptance and respect. I sometimes feel that it is not all so bad after all.
Gut shabbos, shabbat shalom, and a good week to follow, Rabbi Barbara Borts Newcastle Reform Synagogue