‘More in Common’. If there was one thing I took away from ‘Meet Your Muslim Neighbour’ on Monday the 27th of March, held at the Waterfront Restaurant in Doncaster College, it was this message. The event, hosted by the Doncaster Partnership For Muslim-Christian Friendship, presented a stark contrast to the tragic events of the London attack the previous week. To call it a rallying cry against the murders would certainly be evocative, but feels disingenuous. Rather than address the violence and division inherent in terror attacks, the event instead shone light upon and celebrated the similarities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Not a rallying cry, then, but the calm and measured voice of education.
The evening opened with a presentation on the real meaning of Halal food from Syed Iqbal of the Halal Monitoring Committee (pictured above). Of particular note was the scripture he quoted: ‘Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful and the One in the Heavens will have mercy upon you.’ Though a principle of Halal, it’s impossible not to read a response to the terror attacks in such a statement.
Following the presentation (and some debate on the matter of stunning and its relation to Halal), a buffet of Halal food was served. Over pulled lamb, onion bhaji and mini Yorkshire puddings, talk turned to the faiths as a whole. Witnessing Muslims, Christians and Jews, three religions that may look very different on the surface, find common ground in their core stories and beliefs was a privilege and a joy. For the first time, I truly understood why the Abrahamic religions are called so.
But this is not where the common ground ended. Once the chocolate brownies (which disappeared in record time) were finished, the second speech was on the subject of Kosher, delivered by David Hayes from the Sheffield and District Reform Jewish Congregation (pictured below). It was here I discovered that the concepts of Halal and Kosher were, in fact, very similar in principle and mainly differed in their approach to the slaughter and preparation of the meat in question. Including, it seems, counting locusts as an acceptable food source.
The evening was wrapped up with a short video demonstrating the work of Families Relief and a powerful anecdote about fifteen women in Greece who left their families behind to ‘carry the torch of Jesus Christ’. We were entreated to shake hands and wish ‘peace be upon you’ to all. Though I identify as a bewildered agnostic I found myself saying it with full conviction. In light of the terror attacks and the tragic events just in the last couple of months, it was impossible to not be moved by such positivity and warmth. So peace be upon you all… and feel free to share a locust or two.