Southern Hemisphere Muslim and Jews Forging 'Common Future' In Washington, D.C. June 4-5, 2013

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The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is bringing Muslim and Jewish leaders from Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand to Washington D.C. for meetings at the White House, State Department, and Congress to explore the 'American Model' for interfaith relations and encourage Muslim and Jewish leaders to forge new partnerships in combating the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

Russell Simmons- "We don’t have to be enemies, but must live together in peace and harmony. By connecting with each other and working together, we can create a more secure future for both communities and for the societies in which we live side by side.”

With the U.S. State Department's eye-opening Report on Religious Freedom showing that both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise worldwide, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), is spearheading a Mission to Washington of Muslim and Jewish leaders from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on June 4-5. The goal of the Mission, which FFEU is co-sponsoring with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim- umbrella organization in North America, is to jump-start dialogue and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities in those countries.

The Mission will acquaint the visiting leaders with the ‘American model’ for strengthening Muslim-Jewish relations, which FFEU ,a New York-based not-for-profit devoted to strengthening relations between Muslims and Jews, has pioneered over the past five years. Since 2007, FFEU has helped create a common Muslim-Jewish agenda, focusing on building ties of friendship and trust between American Jews and Muslims on the grass roots and leadership levels; standing together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and working together to improve conditions for all people in the diverse communities in which Jews and Muslims live side by side. In six short years, FFEU has strengthened relations between Muslim and Jewish communities in 30 countries on six continents.

Program: Participants in the Mission will hold meetings with high-level officials at the White House and State Department and meet with Muslim and Jewish Congresspeople on Capitol Hill. They will visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Washington Islamic Center, and will be hosted at receptions at the Australian, South African, and New Zealand Embassies. The Mission participants are being hosted at a Washington Nationals baseball game in the owners’ box at Nationals Stadium by the Lerner family, the owners of the team.

The Mission of Muslim and Jewish Leaders from Southern Hemisphere Countries is the third such initiative by FFEU with the support of ISNA, including a Mission of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders in 2009 and a Mission of Latin American Muslim and Jewish Leaders in 2012. Many of the ‘alumini’ of past missions have since initiated joint Muslim-Jewish events in their countries as part of FFEU’s annual Weekend of Twinning, an event held each November in which Every November members of synagogues and mosques and Muslim and Jewish organizations in more than 25 countries around the world hold joint programs dedicated to fostering communication and cooperation.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the FFEU, commented, “The State Department report showed dramatic growth in global anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, closely linked pathologies that are often spearheaded by the same neo-fascist groups; sharpens the stakes for strengthening cooperation between Muslims and Jews in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, countries in which relations have sometimes been strained. We know from our experience in this field that Muslims and Jews can respectfully disagree over aspects of Mideast policy while working together fruitfully in their home countries for the benefit of all.”

FFEU Chairman Russell Simmons remarked, “With this Mission of Muslim and Jewish leaders from Southern Hemisphere countries, which follows our successful Missions from Europe and Latin America, we have accomplished our goal of reaching out to Muslim and Jewish communities around the world with a profoundly hopeful message; “We don’t have to be enemies, but must live together in peace and harmony. By connecting with each other and working together, we can create a happier and more secure future for both communities and for the societies in which we live side by side.”

ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid, who recently took part in a mission to the Auschwitz Holocaust death camp, accompanied by imams from around the world, stated, "We are committed to improving Muslim-Jewish relations both here at home and around the world. For several years now, ISNA has been building bridges between Muslims and their Jewish neighbors. Together we must all work to end anti-Semitism, end Islamophobia, and end hatred and racism anywhere we see it. We must all stand up for one another and say, enough is enough. This Mission contributes to this goal."

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