A British Islamic scholar has called for unity among Jews, Muslims and other religious communities in the Levant - the region encompassing modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.
In an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, Dr. Sheikh Ramzy said that despite the use of religion by some groups to stoke sectarian violence in the region, the similarities shared by the "Abrahamic faiths" should be a cause for peace and unity.
"We have so much in common, Jews and Muslims, and that's why our faiths should be a source of unity, not strife," he insisted.
But he took his call for unity a little further than some may feel comfortable with, urging a "united Levant" which would essentially see the breaking down of state borders - a formula which would spell a de-facto end to Jewish independence in Israel. Despite that fact, however, Ramzy said he would gladly visit the Jewish state if invited.
Dr. Sheikh Ramzy is an Islamic scholar at the UK's Oxford Brookes University and an Executive Member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). He was speaking at an Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) conference in Berlin. The ICD is a European Union initiative which focuses on the roll of "Cultural Diplomacy in improving European relations, enhancing cross-cultural collaboration, building democratic governance, and sustaining peace and stability in the region."
His comments come at a time of unprecedented sectarian strife in the region. In Syria, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad - a member of the Allawite offshoot of Shia Islam - is battling alongside its Shia allies against Sunni rebels, in what has escalated from a localized uprising into an all-out Islamic civil war.
In Lebanon, the Syrian civil war has stoked already simmering sectarian strife. Sunni Islamists have targeted Shia Hezbollah in a string of deadly attacks, in response to the Iranian-backed terrorist group's participation in Assad's efforts to quash the Syrian rebel movement. In August two car bombs killed 42 people outside Sunni mosques in Tripoli.