Mohammed Dajani Daoudi is a Palestinian professor who has been a voice for reconciliation and peace amid one of the most contentious conflicts on the planet. He founded and chairs an organization called Wasatia with goals that show the breadth of his vision: to end the Israeli occupation through negotiated means, to help Palestinians understand the Holocaust, and to bring a deeper and more rational understanding of Islam to both the Middle East and the West. Wasatia, which in Arabic means “the Middle Way,” aims to bring a message of peace, moderation, justice, co-existence, tolerance and reconciliation to the Palestinian community.
Dajani was a founder of the Department of American Studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem. However, he lost his job at Al Quds when he engaged in a pilot project to promote understanding. He took Palestinians to Auschwitz to help them understand what happened in the Holocaust how that that impacts the perspective of Israeli Jews. Then he took Israeli Jews to refugee camps in the West Bank to understand Palestinian dislocation and suffering. Evidently that was too much for Al Quds! His car was also torched and his life threatened for not following the anti-normalization and pro-boycott line advocated by many Palestinians. As Dajani said, “We are standing with a voice of reason, so that people don’t only hear the voice of extremism.”
One of his passions has been to lift up the classical understanding of Islam as a religion of moderation, reconciliation and peace. To counter some of the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian expressions coming from some sectors of the Muslim community, Dajani seeks to show the interfaith values lifted up in the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad. He says, “We want to reverse this trend by arguing against the dominant paradigm that Islam comes to replace other religions that preceded it such as Judaism and Christianity by explaining and showing that Islam, according to its foundational Quranic texts, was sent to complement other faiths and calls for cooperation and coexistence with other religions.”
Dajani has spoken at countless international and interfaith conferences and written extensively on the topics of reconciliation, peace, and Islam. He has established a special graduate level program on Peace and Reconciliation Studies in cooperation with various universities around the world. He invites Palestinian and Israeli students to learn in both Israel and Palestine and then explore more in other countries. His hope is to bring these students back to teach peace-building and dialog back in their homeland.
Professor Dejani is a forward-looking person. When asked what keeps him going in such a difficult context with so much resistance, he responded, “We owe it to future generations. It is our responsibility to leave a heritage of peace….We can learn from each other to build a better more peaceful future. We need to focus on our common values, on what brings us together not what sets us apart.”
In his lectures Dejani often tells a story from the Talmud he learned from a Jewish friend: “A king walking in the fields came across an old man planting a tree. He asked him: Old man, why are you planting a tree when you are too old to eat its fruit? The old man responded, Oh my king, our grandparents planted trees and we ate their fruit and we plant so that our grandchildren would eat its fruit.” Dejani then concludes, “Sadly, we have inherited this conflict from our grandparents and we owe it to our grandchildren to leave them a heritage of peace so they may live in security and prosperity.”