A senior delegation of Indian Muslim leaders will arrive in Israel Wednesday for an unprecedented visit aimed at advancing interfaith dialogue and peace. The visit is sponsored by Project Interchange, an Institute of the American Jewish Committee, in coordination with AIJAC (Australia Israel Jewish Affairs Council), an AJC international partner.
Word of the pending arrival of the delegation led by Maulana Ilyasi prompted a stormy reaction in India during the last week. Muslim newspapers in India published a series of articles against the delegation, and Muslim extremists in India announced that they would demonstrate against the visit in mosques this coming Friday and that they were considering boycotting the Maulana. The Maulana heads the All India Council of more than half a million Imams, among some 200 million Muslims.
Interfaith summit in India in February 2007
As a result, the Maulana decided to postpone his arrival and will only travel to Israel Saturday, after having explained the purpose of the visit to other Muslim leaders in his country.
"We are coming with the message of peace and goodwill from Indian Muslims who believe in the Indian tradition of resolving issues through dialogue and peaceful means,” said Hazrat Maulana Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi.
“Our visit to Israel will be historical in terms of developing a dialogue between Judaism and Islam in the Indian subcontinent, where more than 40 percent of the world Muslim population lives. Interaction with both Palestinian and Jewish sisters and brothers and their religious leadership will lay a solid foundation for future engagement." Maulana llyasi said.
The delegation will meet with Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders. They will participate in an interreligious dialogue with a delegation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and sign a joint declaration with the chief rabbis.
'Visit to influence 200 million Muslims'
“This visit is of great strategic importance and hopefully will have impact on the wider Muslim world as well", said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs. “Members of this delegation have direct influence on a wide cross section of some 200 million Muslims all over India.
The Israel visit follows on a trip to India earlier this year by Rabbi Rosen, along with Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and a delegation of chief rabbis from around the world. Their meeting with the Muslim leaders led to a joint statement that drew criticism from extremist groups in India and Pakistan.
The joint declaration stated that while relations between Muslims and Jews have deteriorated in the course of the last century as a result of political factors, “It is high time for the religious leaders of both sides to engage in dialogue and use their collective influence to stop the bloodshed of innocent civilians.
Rather we need to condemn killings, reject extremism, and the misuse of religion for acts of violence.
Suicide is a forbidden act in Islam and therefore suicidal attacks can not find sanction.”