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Swiss Imam, Rabbi Awarded First Dialogue Prize

VIENNA – Imam Muris Begovic and Rabbi Noam Hertig have been honored for their commitment to the religious exchange between Jewish and Muslim communities in Switzerland.

Given to recognize people’s contributions to social cohesion, the prize is awarded by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Platform of Liberal Jews in Switzerland (PLJS), Swiss Info reported.

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The imam and the rabbi, both from Zurich, have been committed to fostering Muslim-Jewish dialogue for years.

Government councilor Jacqueline Fehr congratulated the winners, saying that their work was key to “combatting prejudice within society and promoting mutual understanding”.

“I am convinced that cooperation and dialogue contribute more to religious and social peace than exclusion,” Fehr said.

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Muris Begovic is the secretary of the Association of Islamic Organizations in Zurich (VIOZ), and a former deputy imam of a local Bosnian mosque.

He is also the managing director of the “Muslim Hospital and Emergency Pastoral Care” project.

Rabbi Noam Hertig is a prominent member of the Zurich Jewish community — the largest one in the country.

Both men support the project “Respect” which facilitates cultural exchanges between the two communities. By hosting various workshops, the project encourages an active dialogue with the aim of dismantling mutual prejudices.

They also served as spiritual representatives of the first official joint dialogue event held between the Swiss Jewish and Muslim umbrella organizations.

According to the CIA Factbook, Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims, representing 5 percent of the country’s nearly eight million people.

In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.