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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Faith communities in Greater Manchester and our role

6 December 2021

The Royal College of Defence Studies is the senior college of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Its website says: "Most military members are of OF5/OF6 rank (Colonel/Brigadier) although a small number of more senior and occasionally junior officers are also present. Civilian members will be of an equivalent grade or status."

It recently brought a group of its students to Manchester for a week.

As part of that, on Monday 6 December 2021 they had a session with our Co-Chairs Mohammed Amin and Cllr Heather Fletcher about Greater Manchester’s faith communities and the role of the Muslim Jewish Forum.

The audio of Mohammed Amin’s presentation was recorded. It has now been combined with his slides, so the presentation can be watched below on YouTube. It is followed by Heather Fletcher's speaking notes.

The event was hosted by the British Muslim Heritage Centre.

Mohammed Amin's presentation

Heather Fletcher’s speaking notes

Heather prepared detailed notes for her talk and has agreed to their publication here.

Introduction

A short introduction to myself. I am Councillor Heather Fletcher. I was born and bred in Greater Manchester, the daughter of a Mancunian mother and Irish father from Dublin. I have lived all my life in Greater Manchester apart from 3 years when I studied Law at Birmingham University.

Subsequently I qualified then practised as a Solicitor for 10 years. Thereafter I ran my own Law Costs drafting business preparing bill of costs for other Solicitors. However, 7 years ago I was encouraged by a close friend to change career direction completely and become a local politician. I was elected as a Councillor for Swinton on Salford Council almost 6 years ago

I would describe myself as a “cultural Jew” not a religious or observant one. I attended the local Jewish Primary school and then went to the grammar school at 11 at which most of my friends were Christian. I had never met a Muslim person until I was 32 years old and became friendly with Huma, the trainee solicitor, where I worked

I saw an advert in the Jewish Telegraph in August 2004. That week there was nothing on at the cinema, so I decided to go along to the first meeting of Muslims and Jews with my friend at Manchester Town Hall.

It was hosted by the then deputy Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan and a Jewish community leader, Henry Guterman who then went on to co-found the Forum. I was impressed. Thereafter I attended a committee meeting in November. I had never been on a committee before but decided to give it a try. I was the company Secretary from 2005-2015 then elected Co-Chair in January 2015

Why it this work important?

It is ignorance which creates bigotry and intolerance but mixing together and getting to know each other and about each other’s cultures which creates understanding and harmony.

Our events

We have now held 136 events in the past 16 ½ years

Annual Picnic

Most popular event. We have held 15 in 16 years. No formal structure. Come along and share food! Featured in Daily Star 7 years ago - good to have national recognition!

Iftars / Eid Parties

We have held about 10 in 14 years. These are more structured, and we have had high profile speakers: Andy Burnham, The High Sheriff, Lord Mayors, MPs Afzal Khan, Graham Stringer.

Meals Out

These usually take place at kosher restaurants as problems for Orthodox people at Asian restaurants

Big Concerts

We have held three of them. All have been very well attended. Over 100 people with Klezmer and Bollywood music.

Quizzes

We have held 4 of them. The 5th  quiz is due in March.

Womens Events

We held a few in our early days when we had funding.

Business Networking

We have held 4 of these and some people made contacts through them

5th Anniversary Afternoon Tea, 10th Anniversary Dinner and 15th Anniversary Afternoon Tea Party

Our most recent anniversary celebration was the 15th, in October 2021. 65 people of all faiths and none attended. It was very successful and enjoyable

Lawyers Events

We have held these almost annually with some serious discussion topics. We have panel of 2 Muslim lawyers and 2 Jewish lawyers. The topics have included citizenship, Prevent strategy, faith schools and Ofsted, post-mortems, divorce law, inheritance laws.

Away Days

We have been to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre, to Liverpool, and Lincoln. A very good way to bond and see Jewish and Muslim places of interest together. I would like to visit York in 2022.

Some of us have been abroad several times to visit places of Muslim and Jewish interest together in  Granada, Marrakech, Paris, Brussels, Dubrovnik, Bratislava, Mallorca, Krakow and Lisbon. All being well we shall visit Dublin in 2022

Events on Zoom

During the pandemic we held 11 Zoom events with about 30 - 42 participants from all over the country. We discussed varied topics such as organ donation, migration stories, languages, a Zoom Chanukah party, a Zoom Purim party. Zoom kept the Forum alive throughout the lockdowns.

Awards

We received the British Muslim Award Spirit of Britain in January 2014 and the NW Fusion Award for community organisation of the year in May 2016.

Summary

We organise enjoyable events bringing people together. Our events are mainly social, but some are educational.  Our Forum’s main objective is to develop closer ties between Muslims and Jews in Greater Manchester.

I feel that we have certainly done that through our events.

Before the Forum existed there was no real mixing between Muslims and Jews in Greater Manchester but in the past 16 years I think our MJ Forum has made it normal for Muslims and Jews in Greater Manchester to mix with each other and become friends.

The MJF has certainly enriched my life and I hope it has also enriched the lives of people who have attended our events over the past 16 and a half years.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However, we are not publishing the full audio recording for two main reasons:

  1. While the sound quality of Amin’s responses is very clear, and Heather’s are audible albeit recorded at lower volume, the questioners were some distance from the microphone. Accordingly, in many cases their questions are almost inaudible.
  2. We respect the privacy of those asking the questions. We do not have their written consent to publish their recordings. In many cases, We do not even know who they were, so cannot seek permission.

Instead, we have listened to the Q&A session and, where we regard the questions as being worth sharing, have written down a condensed version of the questions. We have then published the audio of Amin’s and Heather’s answers.

I suspect that most people who attend your events are not young. How does the Forum go about getting younger people involved?

Recording of the 1-minute answer

Both of you (the speakers) are grammar school educated. How do you see the role of education in building tolerance between communities? Is the Forum working with any educational establishments?

Recording of the 1-minute answer

When she was answering the question (her answer is not included for recording quality reasons) Heather Fletcher mentioned the visits that members of the Forum have paid to schools, and also the work of MACFEST (Muslim Arts & Culture Festival). See some examples listed below:

Co-Chair Mohammed Amin addresses Hazel Grove High School's sixth form about the Forum
Speakers for Schools is a charity which organises prominent people to give free talks to state schools. Our Co-Chair Mohammed Amin has been doing speaking engagements for them since January 2015. While most of the talks so far have been about lessons from his personal journey and career, Hazel Grove High School asked him to talk to their sixth form about the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.

The following items are linked to our Facebook page.

Visit to Withington Girls School 2015

Visit to Manchester Grammar School 2015

Visit to Cheadle Hulme School 2015

What role do you see for sport in bringing communities closer together? Is the Forum working with sports organisations?

Recording of the 20-second answer

How do you extend your reach beyond the relatively small number of people who attend your events?

Recording of the 2-minute answer

Have you thought about how you could scale up what you are doing here in Greater Manchester to transfer it to other parts of the country?

Recording of the 2-minute answer

Supplement to the above answer about the Muslim Jewish friendship group in Paris that was inspired by the Forum.

Recording of the 50-second supplemental comments

 

 

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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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