With hate crimes against Muslims on the rise, this is a powerful display of kindness and tolerance.
A firebomb was placed in one of the windows of the Masjid al-Salaam mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, on Nov 14, in one of several Islamophobic attacks following the Paris tragedy the previous day. The fire caused $80,000 worth of damage and left Peterborough’s Muslim community shocked, shaken and with nowhere to pray.
Larry Gillman, President of the Beth Israel synagogue, wanted to help. He called a meeting with the synagogue’s board of directors and proposed they share their space with the Muslim community. The board voted unanimously in favor, and Gillman approached Kenzu Abdella, the president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, with his offer.
Abdella admits he had doubts, wondering ‘can we be here?’ but accepted the gesture, saying: “At the end of the day, it’s a house of God.”
“We have more similarities than differences,” Abdella told CBC news. “We have so much common- the details of worship and the ceremonies. Even the stories we hear are similar.” Gillman agrees, saying: “It’s not about religion, it’s not about race. As Canadians we have to stick together. I hope this can be some kind of small example to others.”
The synagogue hosted two prayer sessions for local Muslims and a dinner yesterday, and the act of kindness seems to be just the beginning of a close relationship between Gillman and Abdella. Gillman has since given a speech at the Muslim Institute of Toronto, and his synagogue has become part of an interfaith group working to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to Canada.
The powerful gesture is one of many uplifting stories of brotherhood and compassion between these two religious groups. In February, Muslims created a ‘ring of peace’ around a synagogue in Norway following an anti-Semitic terrorist attack, while a teacher was inspired to use dance to forge bonds between Palestinian and Israeli students. Meanwhile, a cafe in Israel that offers discounts for Jews and Arabs who eat together encourages compassion and tolerance between different faiths.
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