Page last updated at 02:16 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Interfaith unity urged on campus

Baroness Warsi
The tour is led by shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Warsi

A cross-party group of Jewish and Muslim MPs are beginning a tour of English universities to promote better interfaith relations between students.

The Coexistence Trust will address tensions created on campuses by the Middle East conflict.

It aims to highlight similarities in the histories of the two communities and encourage unity in the face of the prejudice that both have suffered.

The tour will visit London, Birmingham, Leeds, Oxford and Cambridge.

Led by Labour peer Lord Mitchell and shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Warsi, the tour begins on Monday at the London School of Economics.

'Shared experiences'

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said tensions between Jewish and Muslim students had emerged in the form of hostile message on internet sites and inflammatory posters on campuses.

Occasionally, they have escalated into the recruitment of Muslim students by extremist groups, he said.

Hostility towards Jewish students intensified during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 and led to calls for the police to take tougher action in cases of incitement against them.

Baroness Warsi said: "There are so many experiences that the British Jewish and British Muslim community share - from the geographical areas that they settled in upon arriving in the UK, to facing questions about their loyalty to Britain and the challenges of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic sentiment.

Jewish and Muslim people work together in all walks of life, yet we seem to live apart
Baroness Falkner, Lib Dem peer

"Britain can learn a huge amount from exploring these shared experiences, which will help politicians and policy makers in Parliament respond to the challenges that we face today."

Lib Dem peer Baroness Falkner, who is also taking part in the tour, said such an effort was "long overdue".

"Jewish and Muslim people work together in all walks of life, yet we seem to live apart," she said.

"This tour will finally give us an opportunity to get beneath the skin and to talk of all the things that bring us together in this country and where we might make common cause."

The Union of Jewish Students said it was "delighted" to support the initiative.

Chairman Adam Pike said: "The work of the Coexistence Trust sits well with UJS' belief in the importance of interfaith work and we look forward to the positive message from the peers.

"The response from local Jewish societies has been wholly positive and they are keen to share their experiences."

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