Ashkenazi. Sephardi. Sunni. Shiaa. Whatever.
All of those labels went up and out the window the moment the 2014 Muslim Jewish Conference opened its doors in Vienna.
Instead of hearing those divisive labels, phrases like “How are you doing today?”, “Can I help you with that?” and “Would you like more coffee?” were the new norm.
Initially, I was guarded and unsure of how to act.But after a few hours, the loud and busy atmosphere of the conference had completely worn down my defenses. Instead of wondering what religion the next person I met followed, I was more concerned with what TV show they were watching or what music they liked to listen to. And that, right there, made all the difference.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting“, says E. E. Cummings.
At the 2014 MJC, we had an even bigger battle than that to fight. We had to be ourselves in a world that was constantly telling us not only what we were and what to be, but what everybody else was too. Well, at the Muslim Jewish Conference, we are taking a stand and we are telling the world who we are, not the other way around. We recognized each other as people, not boxes, not labels, not politics, not countries, not history lessons and certainly not stereotypes.
For that moment in time, and for that week, it made all the difference. We came together, we learned from each other, we accepted each other, and when we parted ways we had a better understanding of the other side, the best understanding I would go so far as to say: we had a friendship.
North Sudan/Saudi Arabia
Muslim Jewish Conference 2014