Sunday, 2 June 2013

Across the sectarian gap

In this month's "Oldie", Melanie McDonagh recalls an interview she conducted with George Galloway. It "ranged from teetotalism to quantitative easing" but touched on religion. This was partly because of "persistent rumours that he had converted to Islam. Anyway, he wasn't saying if was true. 'What I say in these cases is that I believe in God and try to follow God's law'." He refused to be more specific and in my view he had every right not to do so.

Jews and Christians have historically been intolerant of each other's view of the God of Abraham, but the prophet was more liberal and realistic in this respect. Muslims are enjoined to respect other "people of the book" (which makes the recent attacks on churches and synagogues in Iraq and Pakistan a crime against religion as well as the law).

This was in the back of my mind when I caught the heartwarming report on this morning's "Sunday" programme. A historic synagogue in Bradford, which had its heyday during the city's prosperity when virtually a tenth of its more prosperous citizens were Jewish, but is now suffering from dwindling congregations, has been saved by financial contributions from the present-day Muslim community. The rising entrepreneurs of the twenty-first century have come to the aid of the successors of those of the nineteenth and early twentieth. The touching conclusion to Kevin Bocquet's report was that, when the sole custodian of the synagogue needed to take time off, he handed the keys for safekeeping to his Muslim colleague.

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