"Creating safe spaces for Muslim young people to explore personal,
social, spiritual and political choices"

JCM Report by Sadiqa Abdullah

 

The JCM, an international student conference of Jews, Christians and Muslims- my very first thoughts were it teams belief with make-believe and I wanted to know how this could pan-out. Can people of religion and faith genuinely negotiate willingness to lasting dialogue? It would appear yes! Because it was the 34th symposium of it’s kind. In truth, I had happily applied to go to Germany and contribute yet when the date of travel loomed near I was under a nimbus of uncertainty. Being stuck in Wuppertal, a name that reminded me of old dark and twisted folk tales in trivial terms worried me. Also at the heart of it, I was a little apprehensive as to how I will be received. Particularly by other Muslim participants since I seemingly represent an ultimate insult, the ‘Western-struck Muslim’. Where I am quicker to admit that I live a complex and schizophrenic reality, with dear adoration for my religion, the observances of academia as well as enjoying the high and low brow aspects of British culture that are so engrained in me. The most outrageous clichés or blatant expressions of an ordinary faithful person, God knows…


What caught my attention immediately was how orderly and comfortable everything was. Nevertheless, I also remember initially thinking that everyone was part of a ‘corporate hippy identity’ no matter how variegated their personal journeys to religion were. Could I and my clanging designer handbag pierce through this? Of course, since I absolutely believe that religion and its precepts aren’t just for those who apparently wear knitted socks with sandals and speak of saving the world whilst munching on organic foods. Everyone can lay claim to love in a higher order or divinity, and most definitely me. And this is what we shared.


Altogether, I was wowed by most people’s indisputable kindness. I am not exactly sure if it was entirely intended but I had a huge amount of fun. From learning Zen/Samurai meditation (which admittedly felt like dancing) to singing lengthy Jewish prayers marking the Sabbath and separately discussing through the academics of religions. On returning to England I remember saying that the conference presented itself as an inter-religious utopia for the untrained eye. I ardently stick to this statement as I fundamentally believe we were all fed digestible expressions of Abrahamic faiths, then again I didn’t see any over ranching harm in this approach for the duration of the trip alone. This was because it leaned on the possibility of harmony between religions and people of faith. However, the question then becomes was any of it true… I would say yes. The smiles were real, the giggles were legitimate, and the friendships fostered be they temporary were memorable- these are the truths I found in dialogue and took back with me to the United Kingdom.

 

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