By Hasan Al Mujaini and Rabbi Elchanan Poupko
Frequent news stories about ethnic and religious tensions flaring up in Europe and the United States remind us of the ever-growing need to inspire tolerance and harmony in diverse societies. The recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the flareup of conflict it spiked in Europe and North America have shown us once again that the fabric of civil society should not be taken for granted; it must be nourished and sustained. Few examples in history have been successful role models for rapid dialogue and mutual understanding like those of the Abraham Accords. The viral images of Jews openly and freely celebrating Hannukah and Passover in the United Emirates, the joint Ramadan Iftar meals, the first Holocaust remembrance ceremony in the Gulf, and a rapidly growing number of cultural and business partnerships, paint a much-needed picture of unprecedented tolerance and coexistence. We believe these events of peace and coexistence are a teachable moment that can be replicated worldwide.
Here they are:
Business builds bridges: business and joint ventures are not just transactional; they create partnerships, joint ventures, and long-term bonds, making space for people from a variety of backgrounds. While the Abraham Accords have gotten much attention through the lens of diplomacy, they have also led to a vast amount of business partnerships and joint ventures. While this may seem mundane to some, the fabric of such partnerships creates the space for building bridges and relationships and fosters long-term friendships. European countries seeking to integrate and harmonize Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and atheist communities must seek ways to encourage cross-cultural business relationships, which will secure stronger partnerships between communities.
Study to replicate: Social and political scientists must study the events leading up to and following the Abraham Accords, place their historic meaning in context, and highlight those lessons in academic, political, and social discourse. The success factors of Abraham accords as an example of good practice should be analyzed, as should their transferability to other regions and countries. The value of the ingredients of the success of the Abraham Accords as a model for religious and cultural coexistence must become part of a political discourse aspiring for stability and reconciliation.
Differences matter: In seeking to create civil harmony, many European counties sought to eliminate differences to create common ground. The Abraham Accords and the rapidly expanding Jewish Arab relations have demonstrated that different traditions and respect for those traditions create a respectful environment in which communities learn about one another, feel secure in their identity, and become closer because of—rather than despite—their unique traditions. What Europe and other Western countries need to adopt is a system in which members of each community, tradition, and practice come to feel safe in their own tradition, recognize other traditions, and learn to respect one another’s unique characteristics. No one should have to feel like they need to compromise who they are to coexist with others; quite to the contrary: knowing they are firmly respected for whom they are, communities are more likely to engage with others out of a strong sense of community and what Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called “the dignity of difference.”
Stronger together: Simply speaking, European countries and Western societies cannot sustain a long-term status quo without a new global ethic, in which religious discourse and coexistence play a major role. Religious communities must be part of the conversation and work together to foster a renewed social contract of bridge-building and coexistence. European and Western countries must improve their ability to deal with the emotions, projections, and prejudices must look to address religious differences, prejudices, and preconceived notions, without negating the very real differences various religious and ethnic communities might have. For too long, the Western concept of multiculturalism has been predicated on playing down differences, downplaying deep-held faith, and overlooking the real differences—and commonalities communities might have.
The European countries and Western countries need sustainable structures to create new forms of cooperation and an ongoing transfer of knowledge. They can, for example, organize annual meetings in which politicians, members of the media, the scientific community, and minorities work together to identify key issues they seek to resolve and address and monitor progress.
Shared social ethic: While the Abraham Accords took place in the context of the many differences between Jews and Muslims, more importantly, it had parties think about what outcome they would like to see. Western counties must have these conversations, in which representatives of various communities discuss the world they would like to see. Healthy discussion of a renewed social contract and a world that will create a brighter future for the younger generation must take place. A vision of what various groups desire for a shared and better future must be at the epicenter of conversations—envisioning a better future for all.
Break with old thinking: a key element in the success of the Abraham Accords and its ability to foster relationships and connections that were thought of previously as impossible, was the breaking with old thinking. Diverse European and Western counties must give matters a fresh look that draws on their shared values, diversity, and one that creates a culture of human rights, giving each and every individual and community a sense of belonging. Counties must make it clear that their society is economically, politically, and culturally dependent on the ongoing positive interaction between people of different cultural, ethnic, and religious origins.
In an increasingly fragmented world overwhelming us with negative news and deteriorating situations, we must look at was is working. The Abraham Accords and the normalization between Israel and the Gulf States shine bright and embody a change for the better, once thought of as impossible. The increased bridge building, coexistence, and bonds built since the inception of the Accords must be seen and studies around the world as a model to replicate and learn from so that we can create bridges within countries and between countries.
Hasan Al Mujaini is Financial Cost Analyst specializing in digital transformation, and activist for peace and regional reconciliation. Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is an author, teacher, and rabbi from New York City. He is the president of EITAN-The American Israeli Jewish Network.