Religion: Posts

Interview with Josef Meri, Editor of The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations invites readers to deepen their understanding of the The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations (Hardback) book coverhistorical, social, cultural, and political themes that impact modern-day perceptions of interfaith dialogue. 

We interviewed Josef Meri to find out more about his recently published Handbook.

1. What experience led you to edit this Handbook?

My experience in interfaith and intercultural relations from the time I was as an Undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley those many years ago helped to shape my ideas as a historian of interfaith relations in past and present. While at Berkeley, I initially studied political science and was interested in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, simultaneously taking up the study of Arabic and Hebrew language and literature and the cultures of the Middle East. In Berkeley as well as in Jerusalem, New York and Oxford I had brilliant mentors. Many years later, I spent three years in Cambridge, U.K. running the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations and planning along with a Cambridge University colleague, the first-ever Middle Eastern Studies master’s specialisation of Muslim-Jewish Relations. The totality of these experiences helped to transform my ideas about Muslim-Jewish relations as well as Muslim-Christian relations. More practically and more urgently, there is a knowledge gap about Muslim-Jewish relations which needs to be addressed. Thus, I felt the need for a multidisciplinary resource for the study of Muslim-Jewish Relations.

2. How is this Handbook different from other books in the field?

A variety of histories, specialist studies and source books that focus on various aspects of Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Arab relations exist. However, the Handbook is not a history of Muslim-Jewish Relations nor a specialist study, but an engaging and stimulating resource for non-specialists and interfaith practitioners to this multidisciplinary field of study. The Handbook goes beyond facile paradigms and comparisons and challenges readers to engage with a variety of themes while aiming to broaden the discussion of Muslim-Jewish relations on its own terms. Internationally renowned contributors and I translate the discipline of Muslim-Jewish Relations to the non-specialist audience of students, university colleagues, interfaith practitioners and others who want to explore this subject in greater depth. Those wanting to explorer a theme in greater depth will find the endnotes and annotated further reading lists, which are not meant to be exhaustive, as a good starting point. Moreover, the Handbook is practical to employ whether in print or electronic format in the classroom, in interfaith discussion groups, at places of worship and community centres.

3. What findings in editing this Handbook surprised you?

What surprised me most was the way in which each of the authors in their own unique way managed to effectively capture the complexity and diversity of Jewish and Muslim experiences over space and time and in the limited space that was allotted. I was also pleased with the synergy between the co-authors (for the co-authored chapters) who managed to work so well together and produce outstanding results.

4. What do you hope readers will take away from this Handbook?

It is to be hoped that readers will become sensitive to the facile paradigms and false dichotomies that emerge when discussing interfaith relations and discover a whole new body of knowledge which may in fact challenge long-held assumptions and beliefs about certain aspects of Muslim-Jewish relations. I hope that enlightened readers will regard the Handbook as a basis to set a new trajectory in Muslim-Jewish relations. In the introduction, I emphasize the fact that there is more to Muslim-Jewish relations than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that the open and free exchange of ideas is vital to encouraging dialogue among individuals and groups. Finally, this work will encourage readers to look beyond the politics and ideology of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a new level of discourse.

Chapter author, Matthew Wilkinson:

I hope that readers will take the understanding that the contemporary impasses and occasional sharpened hostility between Muslims and Jews is a historical anomaly that has more normally been transcended in the field of education. The harmonious educational relationship between Muslims and Jews based on shared educational purposes can certainly be reconstituted if Muslims and Jews look to the educational traditions of their faiths underlaboured by contemporary educational philosophy to connect these traditions in a real and practical way to the modern world.

Chapter author, Ed Kessler: 

I hope our readers recognize one other as brothers and sisters and that while words of our prayers are different, our hopes for dialogue are the same.

Chapter author, Aaron Rosen:

These days, we're often so happy to find anything we believe Jews and Muslims agree upon, that we end up mis-representing both faiths in a facile pursuit of similarity. Art is the perfect example. Instead of bonding over the presumed (and incorrect) idea that both Jews and Muslims spurn art, we set out to show the ways in which both embrace visual culture in their own ways. 

5. How do you see this Handbook advancing studies in Islamic & Jewish relations?

This Handbook will serve as the first port of call for university students (and advanced high school courses in comparative religion) and non-specialists wanting to learn more about Muslim-Jewish Relations. It is to be hoped that the Handbook will become required reading for undergraduate courses and for M.A. seminars. Moreover, it may be employed in interfaith discussion groups and chapters assigned according to the themes on which the instructor wishes to focus. A willingness to engage in open discussions, listening, and maintaining an open mind will allow students, interfaith educators and participants in discussion groups to reach a more profound understanding of Muslim-Jewish relations than is commonly available.

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations (Hardback) book cover

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations invites readers to deepen their understanding of the historical, social, cultural, and political themes that impact modern-day perceptions of interfaith dialogue. The volume is designed to illuminate positive encounters between Muslims and Jews, as well as points of conflict, within a historical framework. Among other goals, the volume seeks to correct common misperceptions about the history of Muslim-Jewish relations by complicating familiar political narratives to include dynamics such as the cross-influence of literary and intellectual traditions. Reflecting unique and original collaborations between internationally-renowned contributors, the book is intended to spark further collaborative and constructive conversation and scholarship in the academy and beyond.