Two items in the paper of importance to the Jewish-Muslim encounter.
Sufi sheikh who preached nonviolence laid to rest
By LAUREN GELFOND FELDINGER.
In a small and ancient family plot attached to his ancestral home in Jerusalem’s Old City, regional Sufi leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari was laid to rest on Tuesday at age 61, after a long struggle with heart disease. He was head of the mystical Naqshabandi Holy Land Sufi Order.
A longtime proponent of nonviolence and interfaith unity, Bukhari found his inspiration in Islamic law and tradition, as well as in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. “The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and anger from the other and change it to love and understanding. It is not easy; it is a lot of work. But this is the real jihad,” he once told the Globaloneness Project in an interview.
His teachings and practices put him in danger and under great stress that over the years harmed his health, said Sheikh Ghassan Manasra of Nazareth, whose father heads the regional Holy Land Qadari Sufi Order. “Sheikh Bukhari influenced lots of people, worked hard to bridge the religions and cultures; and his teaching is keeping part of the youth on the right path. We worked together for many years and succeeded many times and failed many times and decided to stay on the [path] of God to bring peace, tolerance, harmony and moderation,” he said.
“But on both sides, Jewish and Muslim, there are moderates but also extreme people, and our work was very dangerous, with a lot of pressure and stress until now, and I think this explains, in part, his heart problems.”
Bukhari later also got involved in the Interfaith Coordinating Council in Israel, the Interfaith Encounter Association, and the Sulha Peace Project, and in 2007 launched the “Jerusalem Hug” every June 21, where Israelis, Palestinians and foreigners of all faiths form a human chain of prayer around the Old City.
During Operation Cast Lead, Bukhari initiated a delegation of Arab youth and religious leaders to show solidarity with the students and teachers in Sderot and to share the pain of his own family’s experience in Gaza.
“He was really special,” Rabbi Tzion Cohen, a native of Sderot who is chief rabbi of the Shaar Hanegev region, said of their meeting.
“Despite his own great pain for his family, and despite the fact that some of the group got heated up during the discussion, he and his wife remained gentle and patient and so very kind. I was truly impressed by their pleasantness.”
Even as the political situation in the Middle East continues to heat up, more groups dedicated to Muslim-Jewish education, dialogue and joint social action are being formed, according to the report issued by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles, a partnership between Hebrew Union College, Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the University of Southern California. The data were collected from two surveys conducted in November 2009.
More than 70 percent of these groups have emerged since 9/11. Of those, half were created in the past 24 months. Half of the groups have no staff or budget, demonstrating a heavy reliance on volunteerism. Fifty percent of existing groups raise less than $250 a year, according to the report.
Many of the newest groups emerged from the Weekend of Twinning, a two-year-old project of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding that has brought together more than 200 mosques and synagogues for weekends of joint activity. Seventy percent of the mosques and synagogues that took part in the 2009 weekend say they have developed ongoing relationships.