Reflections on “Rights and Obligations in Jewish and Muslim Traditions”

By Kayla Higgins
JMCBI Fellow, JCUA

Kayla Higgins

Twelve Jews and Muslims gathered at the KnockBox Café in Humboldt Park on May 26 to take part in interfaith dialogue on the topic of “Rights and Obligations in Jewish and Muslim Traditions.”

The discussion was organized by JCUA’s Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI), and led by Rabbi Rachel Mikva, a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, and Abbas Chinoy, a Muslim chaplain at Rush Hospital.

Rabbi Mikva began by guiding the group through a handout she wrote aligning passages from the Torah and Talmud side-by-side with passages from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on topics of equal protection, property, education, work, rest, and the standard of living.

The lesson from this exercise was that the two deal with very similar ideas, although the language of Jewish texts was more focused on obligation, while the language of the UDHR was more focused on the concept of rights.

Mr. Chinoy then pointed out that a key similarity between the Qur’an and the Torah is that both have very similar language about obligation, rather than using the language of “rights.” Mr. Chinoy also included in his handout some quotes from the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the Islamic Council of Europe in 1981, which led to a fruitful discussion around the table about human rights treaties in general, and the politics surrounding them.

When the event concluded, many attendees lingered and talked to the facilitators about how much they had enjoyed the discussion.

One participant, Sam Shukhaidem, said “the activity was a great opportunity to learn and explore some of the meanings within the texts of the Jewish and Muslims holy books and how they relate to some of the fundamental concepts of the social and human rights and laws.”

He also said that the facilitators “did a great job articulating and explaining their points while engaging others in an open minded and educational discussions and exchanges of different views.”

Both facilitators also expressed that they also really enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot.

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