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Mosque Foundation | Bridgeview, Illinois

Mosque Foundation

So, What is the Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue Anyway?

first friday prayer is at 12:30pm.second friday prayer is at 2:00pm

So, What is the Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue Anyway?

I am often asked and unfortunately also criticized for dedicating so much time and effort to Interfaith Dialogue (IFD) and activity so it makes me happy to present to you some statements I have written in the past about IFD and why I think it is essential for every American Muslim community to dedicate time, resources, and training to this kind of outreach. First, two of the most common misconceptions about IFD are “if we are not getting converts or if we are compromising our faith practices and principles, why do we continue in IFD?”

To this I say one must understand that IFD objectives do not include proselytization (preaching or converting) but strives to maintain the integrity of our faith. In fact, it is among IF partners that Islam in America is privy to more authenticity in the eye of the American Public and it is distinguished as a valid as well as a vital faith that contributes to the social justice and betterment of the American society. The imperatives of IFD seek to transform communities at the grassroots level and institutionally because engagement and dialogue reduces tension, cultivates respect and appreciation among community members all the while it creates a shared voice around commonalities, develops an environment for building trust, and encourages change for the betterment of society. It is the most foundational element and precursor to civic engagement because it gives Islam and Muslims validity. When IFD is not instituted religious intolerance, fear, hate, bigotry, and isolation ensues as well as misunderstandings, stereotypes, and ignorance. As Muslims, we are neither allotted the opportunity to model the beautiful attributes of Islam and convey the shared desire to live and participate in a truly pluralistic society without IFD.

Below are some excepts I wrote for the various segments of the MAS 2015 Interfaith Symposium at the 14th MAS-ICNA convention that was held here in Chicago this past December that I hope you will agree include the merits of IFD.

Regarding Interfaith Dialogue in General-

Globalization and the Media have centered a secular-materialistic world view that reacts to and sensationalizes differences rather than embracing diversity and affirming a co-existence among all peoples and faiths. Political tensions and nationalistic agendas have brought violence, poverty and significant human rights violations affecting more and more people every day in greater ways than ever before. People of faith communities must fend off the dichotomous approach of political ideologies – the “us vs. them” – in order to create an environment where justice and safety is afforded to all.

Faith and truer faith practices transcend the disturbing phenomenon of religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence.  It is necessary for all faiths to communicate and establish joint practices which honor co-existence and cooperation – “…to come to know one another.”  (Qur’an 49:13)

Regarding Faith Communities for a Better World-

The Qur’an reminds us in the following verse –“To each (religious community) there is a goal to which it faces; then strive all together towards all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you together. For Allah hath power over all things.” (Qur’an, Verse 2:148) – that cooperative and engaging relationships must be developed especially between people of various faiths to ensure human rights, address poverty and income inequality, counter racism, hate and violence, and even combat climate change and global warming. However, this cannot be achieved if we stay behind our fences, isolated in our communities.

Due to the rise of religious intolerance (Islamophobia), hate, and racism more lives are being taken and the safety of more and more people than ever before in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods is being threatened. Mass shootings, police brutality, and a media bent on painting an entire people evil either because of race or faith is indicative of a society that is in danger of losing the principles of its own civil rights. Faith communities must unite to take back what is wholesome and pure and bring back peace and harmony.

Regarding Interfaith Engagement for Social Justice-

Our world is suffering. Violence, religious intolerance, hate, and racism are the critical issues suffocating our society. Faith communities must collaborate to alleviate the ill effects of poverty, income inequality, mass incarcerations, immigration injustice, the refugee crisis, corporate control of the media, global warming and even the food we eat. Working together requires mutual understanding and respect -all afforded through IFD.

Grassroots dialogue inspires bigger change. In fact, lasting social justice starts with civic engagement. Civic engagement starts with community engagement. Community engagement starts with a share voice. Shared voices start with discussions and dialogue. Discussions and dialogue begin with people of compassion, love, and patience. We find that it is in faith communities where this is most cultivated among peoples. Therefore, real and sustainable change for the better begins with IFD.