Salaam and shalom

Can religions live together without conflict? We talked to Armin, a Jew in Berlin, and to his Muslim friend and fellow supporter Zakariya.

Armin and Zakariya have been friends since 2014.
Armin and Zakariya have been friends since 2014. Hatice Kahraman

They are both fighting for a pluralistic society: the Berliners Armin Langer and Ozan Zakariya Keskinkilic. Together, they are active in the Berlin-based Salaam-Shalom Initiative, which has been committed to the peaceful coexistence of religions since 2013.

Armin, you established the Salaam-Shalom Initiative as a statement against alleged no-go areas for Jews in Berlin – and quickly found many supporters, including Muslims.

Armin: The discussion in Berlin about so-called no-go areas in which Jews are subject to hostility automatically views certain groups (editor’s note: he is referring to Muslims) as the sole perpetrators of anti-Semitism. We should take care to ensure that no one group is generally blamed.

Zakariya: Both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism must be combated in society as a whole. They are also not limited to specific places but are embedded within a wider context. Rather than playing Jews and Muslims off against one another, we need a new form of solidarity – not only with but also among marginalised groups.

How did this image of a conflict between Jews and Muslims come about in Germany?

Armin: The fundamental conflict between conservative Jews and Muslims is based not on religion but on the conflict in the Middle East. I believe that it is important to make it clear that we need to stick together as minorities in Germany. What we can do is listen to one another.

How can individuals contribute to promoting peace between religions?

Armin: The only way to have a fair society is to ensure social participation and social engagement. If society shifts to the right, we need to join forces and speak out against this development.

And how can religions in their turn make some contribution to fostering peace between people?

Zakariya: “Whoever saves a single life saves the world. is a quote from the Jewish Talmud, and the Quran contains one that is almost exactly the samefindet. Of course, this is no coincidence. Islam shares many of the same beliefs and principles of the Jewish faith and sees Judaism – and incidentally Christianity – as a sister religion. If one wants to, one can search for, find and incite hostility between the religions. Hatred is no talent. However, if one is willing to look beyond the end of one’s nose, one will find commonalities and alliances. Thus the real question is what do people want?


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