Eighty Jewish and Muslim leaders from Ukraine and Russia have met in Kiev and pledged to work together to fight a rising cascade of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the two countries. In the first-ever meeting of Jews and Muslims to be held in the Ukrainian capital, leaders of the two communities in Ukraine and Russia heard chilling accounts of recent beatings and harassment of Muslims and Jews in the two former Soviet republics, desecration of Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and bombings and other attacks on communal institutions of the two faiths. The leaders pledged to work together to combat the forces of extremism and hate and to press authorities in both countries to take a more assertive stand in fighting perpetrators of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, hailed the historic event in Kiev, saying: “The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, together with our partners, is gratified to be standing in support of joint actions by Muslims and Jews in the former Soviet Union and across Europe. Our purpose is to make clear that Jews and Muslims will be there for each other if either is being unfairly attacked, and will stand united in support of principles of democracy and pluralism that will ensure a decent future for all Ukrainians and Russians.”
The conference, entitled 'Muslims and Jews United Against Hatred and Extremism', was sponsored by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and the Institute of Human Rights and the Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia under the leadership of the noted Member of Parliament and business leader Oleksandr Feldman, in cooperation with FFEU. 80 Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Ukraine and Russia participated in the historic conference.
The event was one of nine Muslim-Jewish events being held in countries in Europe during the month of May in commemoration of Europe Day. The events opposing racism and prejudice against Muslims and Jews and against extremism in all forms, are being held in Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, as well as Ukraine during the month of May are sponsored by FFEU, the World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations and the Muslim-Jewish Conference.
The events will culminate in Brussels on 30 May when top Jewish and Muslim leaders will present a joint declaration to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, stating: “We resolve to work together to counter efforts to demonize or marginalize either of our communities. Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples.”