A UN-sponsored Inter-Faith Conference was held in New York in mid-November 2008. Delegates represented 80 countries and there were 14 world leaders, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Most of the western delegates emphasised the need for personal freedom.
During this conference, Egypt’s top ulama, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Seyed Tantawi was photographed shaking hands with Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. Although the Grand Sheikh claims that he did this without recognising who he was, the handshake has resulted in several opposition papers calling on the top ulama to resign. One newspaper said that “Peres’ hands were tainted with the blood of thousands of Palestinians, who have lost their homes in Israel.” The paper called upon the Grand Sheikh to “ritually purify his hands” after the shake. However, Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian activist, doubted Tantawi’s version. He stated, “so what if he shook the man’s hand? War and anger has gained us nothing. There must be time for negotiation.” (See report in New Straits Times, Monday December 8 2008).
Quoting from the words of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5: 43 – 45
A sincere handshake may well be one way of expressing love!