What a fascinating and heart-warming story. Would that all Moslem-Jewish relations were of this fine order!
By Anuradha Bhattacharjee
This article is an abridged version of ‘Bhattacharjee, A. (2012). ‘Muslim-Jewish Relations in Sidi Janjira’, in Toledano, E.R. (Ed) African Communities in Asia and the Mediterranean: Identities between Integration and Conflict, New Jersey, Africa World Press. A book in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora. Reproduced here with permission of volume editor, publisher and series editor.
It has been noted that the Jewish and Muslim communities in India have had the closest ties anywhere in the world. Both use the same nomenclature for many religious terms – namaz for prayers, roza for fasts, masjid/mashed for place of worship and kabristan for cemetery, amongst others and they have even shared cemeteries in some places. While Tipu Sultan, the Muslim ruler of Mysore, commuted the death sentence and then pardoned a few Jewish soldiers taken captive by his army during one of the Anglo-Mysore Wars…
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I should no longer be appalled by the world’s stupidities. But no, they continue – and here I re-post a story from BBC Watch as illustration
If you happened to be a BBC journalist looking for information about an unfamiliar faith, the place to go would be the BBC Academy’s Subject Guide on Religion. There you would find the following introductory statement:
“Attitudes to religion are influenced by understanding – and it’s a journalist’s job to inform. So it’s important to be aware of the principles behind the world’s religions. In this section of the BBC Academy website, some of the BBC’s most experienced commentators […] guide you through the basics.”
One of the eight items on that page is former BBC religious affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan’s guide to Judaism which consists of text and a ten and a half-minute video. At the end of that video Buchanan tells her colleagues:
“A knowledge of the history and of the different practices within Judaism is essential if journalists are going to report accurately any story connected…
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Author Katherine Wilson makes it clear that when families eat (and sometimes pray) together, they stay together.
As the great-granddaughter of Italian immigrants to the US, she soon understood on arriving in Naples for a stint as an intern at the local US consulate that she was effectively returning ’home’.
She learned also that Neapolitans consider mealtimes ‘sacred’; that food should be prepared fresh then eaten in company. This, she then began to realise , is why Italian women feel comfortable in their own skin and this is how she started to cope with her own poor body image.
There is surely another important reason why Wilson, also an established actress, grew up feeling lured by all types of food: Her paternal great-grandfather, Canadian Thomas Wilson, headed Wilson and Co, the second largest meat-packing company n the US. He also founded Wilson Sporting Goods and was a leader of the national 4-H Programme for positive youth development and mentoring.
“A lot of the meat that was unloaded by American GIs in the Bay of Naples and given to starving Neapolitans during World War II was Wilson, she writes.
“The hams baked by my maternal grandmother in a small West Virginia town in the fifties were Wilson.
“My great-grandfather, instead of throwing away the cowhides of the intestines of the animals, started producing footballs, baseballs and tennis rackets: ‘We use every part of the pig but the squeal!’ was the slogan. Wilson Sporting Goods was born. Thomas Wilson made the goods that American kids played with and the hot dogs their parents grilled”.
Books like Wilson’s abound. They remind me not so much of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence as of David MacNeil Doren’s Winds of Crete and the entire genre always makes me muse how much Jewish culture and cuisine owes to its Mediterranean roots – and vice versa.
Moreover, Wilson has had an unintentional endorsement from UK nutritional therapist, Amelia Freer who almost echoed Wilson’s words when she said of eating: “Think happy – don’t equate healthy food with deprivation or misery … and eat with friends and family. Don’t starve yourself or make eating a joyless experience”.
Wilson’s story is now twenty years old and her Italian-born ‘babies’ are themselves on the cusp of young adulthood. I hope they, her parents and her in-laws don’t mind the irreverent candour with which she treats them. Her book may well prove a popular read but those who feature in it most, may also find it more than a mite disconcerting!
* Only in Naples – Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson will be published by Random House on April 19, 2016 at US $27.00 (£18.14; NIS 104.75 approx).
© Natalie Wood (28 December 2015)