International Tolerance Day 2020
For International Tolerance Day, this is the story of a religious odd couple, who through their friendship, are advocating for greater tolerance between different faith communities:
When Progressive Rabbi Nathan Alfred wanted to learn Arabic, he went to enroll in a class at West London’s Muslim College, a postgraduate Islamic seminary. The administrator rejected him. “When he walked out and one of the administrators said, ‘I’m glad we told him that the class was full,’” Imam Mamadou Boucom recalls. In revolt, Mamadou approached Nathan and offered to tutor him.
The two soon became best buddies. Mamadou, born in Senegal, is tall and slender. He arrived in London and earned two masters and a PhD. Nathan, sturdy and stocky, grew up in South London and graduated from Cambridge with honors in classics. He has served as a progressive rabbi in Brussels, Luxembourg and Singapore. The two religious leaders share many passions, from football to a ferocious belief in a progressive path to spirituality and interfaith tolerance.
While Jews and Muslims often live side by side, in London, Paris, Brussels, and elsewhere, tensions between them are growing. Jews fear rising Muslim antisemitism. Muslims accuse Jews of helping the establishment suppress them.
Nathan and Mamadou partner to overcome the divide. They have visited and spoken at Jewish and Muslim communities. They share kosher and halal meals.
Their next common project: A documentary project called The Rabbi and the Imam. It will follow the two religious leaders as they travel throughout Europe, how Jews and Arabs share a long history and culture, and a common fear of being a minority in Europe.