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Muslim-Jewish Friendship ; It's About Time
By Ashley K., Prince of Wales Collegiate, St. John's, NL

It's about time that we stop focusing on all the negative things that are going on in the world and start paying attention to the positive. For instance, at Prince of Wales Collegiate we were recently privileged to have two young people speak to us about their new, "unusual" friendship. Soraya Carrim, a young Muslim girl born in Newfoundland, and Adi Varon, a young Israeli exchange student who is visiting Newfoundland for the first time, met at our local mosque and immediately became close friends. They would probably not have become friends had they met in another country where there is animosity between people of their ethnic and religious backgrounds. It's really quite ironic that we live in a world where you have to travel to the other end of the earth to become friends with the people who are actually closest to you. Still, in a way it's a good thing for us. In Canada, most of the time we live blissfully ignorant lives when it comes to understanding people of different nationalities and beliefs. And that is so very important. It is an absolute necessity to be influenced and surrounded by different types of people from various backgrounds and cultures in order to become well-rounded, complete individuals. Soraya and Adi made me feel thankful that I live in a country that supports multiculturalism and encourages individuality.

The personal chemistry, playful humour and genuine warmth of these two people is inspirational. Their incredible presentation taught us a great deal about Islam and Judaism as monotheistic religions with many common beliefs. For example, both religions emphasize ethical behaviour, respect for all people and caring for the poor. Anyone who expresses hatred or incites violence is a traitor to their religion and a disgrace to their people. One must only use as much force as is necessary to defend oneself. Adi told us about her life in Israel and how it is part of her culture to serve in the Israeli army for two years. Also, she explained how different it is here in Canada where there are no security guards in front of every store checking through your bags to make sure you're not a terrorist. Her life in Israel is so different from anything we, as Canadians, have ever experienced. Sorayah spoke about her experiences growing up in St. John's and how she often felt very different from her peers. She spoke about how difficult it was sometimes to fit in with her friends while still being true to her culture. She told a story about her decision as a high school student not to wear the traditional hajib that Muslim women wear because it drew too much unwanted attention. She decided that it was not right for her and that St. John's was not a place that was ready for overt displays of multiculturalism. Speaking from my own experiences as a visible minority, at times it's hard to feel as though you fit in. Sometimes you do feel isolated. But something we all have to remember is that underneath the colour of our skin and behind our faiths, we are all members of the human race and should learn to accept each other.

Ivan Morgan, Educational Co-ordinator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Association, is very committed to bringing human rights issues into Newfoundland schools. He accompanied Sorayah and Adi and spoke to us about multiculturalism. According to Mr. Morgan, over the years the term has gone through many transformations, from being referred to as "tolerance", then "acceptance", and finally, "peace". The words may change as often as people want them to, but in the end the message is still the same. If you have a positive attitude towards people no matter what their nationality or circumstance, you will develop understanding, and with understanding comes peace. With that being said, yes, our society isn't "perfect", but that just means that our generation needs to change our belief system to that of peace, understanding, tolerance or whatever you want to call it. In the end it all boils down to the fact that we all live in the same world so we must accept that which we cannot change and strive towards peaceful coexistence. It's about time that Muslims and Jews get together to promote world peace through personal friendship. Sorayah and Adi have provided a model in our classroom which political leaders should emulate on the world stage.


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