Rabbi David Rosen: „Have to Reach Muslim Royal Families“

Die Presse, August 23, 2017

German original: http://diepresse.com/home/ausland/aussenpolitik/5273639/Forum-Alpbach_Rabbiner-David-Rosen_Muessen-muslimische

Die Presse: At Forum Alpbach you spoke about sustainable developments from a religious point of view. What Bible passage would you use to describe the world’s status quo?
David Rosen: That would be a passage from the Deutorenomium. „Choose life so that you live, you and your offspring.“ It is a religious principle to guarantee that the children and future generations will have a life.

When talking about sustainable development, one thinks more of Greenpeace than religion.
The fact that secular organizations have taken over those essentially religious tasks shames the religions. But now they should support all organizations who concern themselves with sustainable development.

The question of sustainable development is particularly interesting in countries who are dependent on fossil fuels – for example in Arabia.
In some locations, religious leaders really can influence politics. This could also be true in the Muslim world, where religion is much more intertwined with politics.

Who has the authority to initiate this in the decentralized Islamic world?
The most important institution that we have to reach are the monarchs. The royal houses of Jordan and Morocco ascribe their genealogy to the Prophet Mohammed. This why this is relevant. And the Saudi royal house, of course, because the holy sites of Islam are located there.

Right now, people do not think about climate change a lot, they are more concerned with migration and terrorism.
We have to show an indissociable connection between those problems. The situation in Syria has also to do with drought and migration, with environmental issues that have been added to the political developments.

The conflict in Syria in particular has led to a big migratory movement to Europe.
The question of how we can contribute to the development in the third world is of self-interest to the developed world. And it is also an important instrument that maybe does not prevent terrorism right away, but for the benefit of our children being faced with less terrorism.

Some fear that Syrian refugees bring a new anti-Semitism to Europe.
There are people who have been brainwashed – but these are also people whose thinking we can influence. They, in turn, can then influence people back home. This could be an opportunity for us to do away with all the prejudices against Jews in the Arabian world.

But how can this be successful?
Through dedication. What we may not do is to fuel feelings of alienation. This is also a point for  KAICIID, the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, to draw on, through dialogue. If we look each other in the eyes, we can no longer demonize the other.

What has KAICIID already achieved in terms of religious tolerance?
The campaign „United against Violence in the Name of Religion“ has had the biggest impact – a comprehensive initiative to bring together people from the Arabian world with diverse backgrounds. And it is important that the initiative originated in Saudi Arabia, from the basis of hard-core Islam. Specifically as an Israeli Rabbi I would have never had the chance to meet these people from the Arabian world otherwise.

But as a Jewish member of the Center you still are not allowed to enter Saudi Arabia.
I am not sure if I would be allowed to. I know Israelis who were there. But I also have a British passport, so I could go if I were invited. But that has not happened yet. But one time, the former Saudi King Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz received us at his summer palace in Morocco. And I do believe there will be a KAICIID – meeting in Saudi Arabia in the near future.

One goal of the Center is to reduce prejudices against Jews. Do you see any progress in that area?
We had a meeting with Muslim authorities. None of them has ever met a Jew. You could see in their eyes that they were scared of me, because of all the propaganda painting Jews as evil humans. But in the end even friendships developed.

But is this not just an elite project that does not reach the people?
This is always a danger. But the people who are part of it are multipliers. And there are millions of people who are influenced by what they say and do. Like Mao Tse-tung said: Every journey begins with the first step.


David Rosen (born 1951) is one of the most prominent Jewish rabbis and actors in the area of interreligious affairs. The Brit is part of the directorate of the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). At the European Forum Alpbach he spoke about the role of religions in sustainable development.