PRAGUE (Oct. 28)
Jewish and Muslim communities here are hoping to forge closer ties after Muslim statements about Jews and Israel had threatened to drive a wedge between the groups.
Relations between the communities were strained when a booklet, “The Right of Jews to Palestine,” published in the name of the Czech Union of Muslim Students, came to the attention of the Jewish community this month.
Czech Jews condemned statements in the booklet and on a Web site run by the Islamic Foundation in Prague as “dangerous.”
But official Muslim representatives have defused the problems by distancing themselves from the authors of the texts.
Published anonymously, the booklet included an imaginary dialogue between a Christian and a Jew that the Jewish community saw as a deliberate attempt to harm Jews’ image.
Another passage that horrified Czech Jews read, “If God picked Israeli people to kill His Prophets and to make unjust claims to the belongings of other people, we cannot blame Satan for anything.”
Czech Jews were further shaken by a Web site run by the Islamic Foundation in Prague that contained a speech by a visiting Islamic lecturer.
Based on a lecture given in Prague this year by Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, the text asked how Muslims would view Jews once Israel “no longer exists.”
The Czech text quoted Tamimi as asking if the Jews would have “a place in our region, in our culture, or shall we erase their rights given to them by Agreement and guaranteed by God and his messenger?”
The booklet and the Web site brought a stinging rebuke from Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague. In an article in a Czech newspaper earlier this month, Pavlat wrote, “I feel it is very dangerous to bring religious confrontation into the generally nonconflicting religious surroundings of Bohemia and Moravia.”
He added, “nobody can be ordered to have a dialogue with a believer of another faith, but the minimum that can be asked in the Czech Republic at the beginning of the 21st century is not to defame anybody on the basis of religious and political motivation, and to follow the law.”
An official with the Islamic Foundation told JTA that only a few copies of the booklet had been printed, by a student acting on his own.
“Neither we, nor the Union of Muslim Students, participated in any way with this booklet,” said Vladimir Sanka, a member of the foundation’s executive committee. “The opinions in this book are not the opinions of the Islamic Foundation. We are not a political organization, we simply organize the religious life of the Islamic community here.”
Sanka also said that the text of Tamimi’s lecture would be removed from the foundation’s Web site, adding that “perhaps the words were not suitable.”
“We don’t wish to act in a way that would create bad relations between Muslims and Jews in this country. We would like to continue our dialogue with the Jewish community,” he said.
Sanka’s comments were welcomed by Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities.
“We had, until recently, regular interface with the Muslim community through the Christian Academy in Prague, which was stopped only for technical reasons,” Kraus said. “I think we should try to continue our dialogue. Given recent events, I think it is more important than ever.”