SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Chief Rabbi and Mufti have exchanged letters reaffirming the solidarity between the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities amid the Israel-Hamas war.
In a letter to Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergel on Friday (Oct 13), Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir wrote: “We read with deep sadness, worry and grief, the escalation of conflict and violence affecting Jews and Muslims in Israel and Palestine.
“We fear for, and mourn the loss of innocent lives; young children, mothers, the elderly and vulnerable, who are trapped and victimised in this conflict.
“There is no place and no justification for any form of violence and brutality on civilians by anyone, including those by Hamas, or in any retaliatory response. The right of civilians to live peacefully must be protected at all times.”
While he noted that the conflict in the region has a long and complex history, Dr Nazirudin said that both Jewish and Islamic scriptures emphasise the human need for mercy and compassion.
He added that it was this quality that ensures each community has the basic right to practise their beliefs and to live peacefully in this world.
“If these fundamental rights are under threat, it will almost certainly unleash enmity and conflict,” Dr Nazirudin said.
“And the greatest victim and loss in wars and conflicts is humanity itself, when it loses its character of care, concern and compassion for the well-being of others.”
Dr Nazirudin said he prayed and hoped that “both the Jewish and Muslim communities in the conflict zones can work collectively to liberate themselves from being defined and constrained by the politics of the day and seek to live with a different model of respect, tolerance and harmony”.
“There are many peace-loving Jews and Muslims who do not want conflict and have worked hard to create peaceful communities,” he said.
“Like us, they want to live constructive and happy lives.”
Dr Nazirudin said he also cherished the trust and confidence between Singapore’s Muslim and Jewish communities, which allows them to speak “freely and candidly” on what matters most to them, and work together towards commonalities that strengthen instead of focusing on differences that divide.
“Our work to put forth a different model of peaceful coexistence, where every community in Singapore can live peacefully alongside other faiths and celebrate diversity, has now become even more critical,” he said.
“I hope we can share our model of coexistence with the communities in the affected regions and communicate the urgency of peaceful relations to their leaders.
“Despite the overwhelming challenges, achieving peaceful relations is not impossible and is now the greatest urgency.”
‘OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE’ TO CEMENT BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP
In his reply on Sunday, Rabbi Abergel said that it was “heartwarming and encouraging” to receive Dr Nazirudin’s letter expressing the solidarity of the Muslim community with the Jewish community in Singapore.
“We are likewise grateful and deeply touched for the many messages of condolences and unwavering support on the part of Singaporeans of all walks of life, religion and creed,” he said.
Rabbi Abergel said there will be difficult days ahead and “it is of the utmost importance to further cement the long-lasting and solid bonds of friendship between our communities, rooted in the shared views of our religious traditions”.
He also thanked the Singaporean authorities for their zero-tolerance policy on hate speech, religious hatred and incitement of any kind.
“However, it is up to us and our communities to ensure that we protect and maintain the delicate fabric of our unique society which is a role model of religious tolerance and respect throughout the world,” he said.
The amount of loss of life from Hamas’ attacks last Saturday is impossible to comprehend, said Rabbi Abergel, adding that the pain of the grieving families and the “unimaginable stress” of those agonising about the fate of their missing loved ones were “impossible to bear”.
He said that Singapore’s Jewish community was “still under the shock” of the atrocities committed by Hamas militants during the Simchat Torah festival, which marked the conclusion of the Jewish High Holy Days.
“What makes these attacks unique is that never since the Second World War have Jews been so brutally slaughtered,” he said.
Rabbi Abergel said the community’s hearts and prayers are also with the innocent Palestinian civilians who have lost their lives in this “senseless conflict”.
“We do hope and pray for a peaceful and long-lasting solution to this war and a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinian people as elusive as it might seem at this moment,” he said.
Israeli forces were on Sunday readying for a looming Gaza ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas.
In the eight days since Hamas gunmen killed more than 1,300 Israelis in their surprise onslaught, Israel has responded with a devastating bombing campaign that has claimed over 2,300 lives in Gaza. CNA
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