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Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2010

I was profoundly moved by this video featuring Eboo Patel, an American Muslim. Please watch it.

While the talk is particularly aimed at the interaction between Christians and Muslims I think everyone needs to watch this, particularly those concerned about Islam in Western countries. My friends in the USA will find this particularly timely.

Seeing we’re here, I’ll add a couple of other useful links:
* Snopes debunks the myth that “Muslims will take over Europe by 20XX”.
* How many Muslims have condemned terrorism? A lot. Take a look at this list.

I wanna be honest: I don’t find Islam attractive or compelling as a religion. However, I do believe we can work together and live together in peace if we will actually listen to each other. Please share this post with those who need to hear this message.

Finally, here’s a useful video from Time Magazine about the current controversy over a Muslim center in New York. Can you see that these are ordinary, well-educated American people? Check out Somewhere, Over The Rainbow.

Also see International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day.


? What do you think?

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28 Responses to “Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope”

  1. Anne said

    Wow, wow, wow. This video is so important. I’d like to find ways to share it… will post a link to this post on my blog. Hope it is or will go “viral.” Thanks for finding it and sharing it!

  2. leesis said

    Ditto to above. I just found my religion…what he said

  3. […] https://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/islam-interfaith-talk-there-is-hope/ […]

  4. I watched the interfaith video and it reaffirmed much of my stuff in addition to just being fabulous. I am ‘radical’ and provide ‘alternate’ stories – which come from Love but which are often perceived of as contentious.

    I adore leaky categories, blending… I am a fan of blurred boundaries. I am going to quote myself to avoid repetition and it’s easier on me;

    ‘People have a very difficult time with blurred definitions. I understand that people need to believe in categories. At times these categories resonate with one’s behaviour and at times they do not. I believe these categories are often constructed, a fiction: Possibilities and options are limited – ways of being are limited. Obviously, many people do resonate with their definitions. To stretch our minds is good.’ (http://romyshiller.com/Again.php)

    I’m pretty much finished my review of Eat, Pray, Love.

    • Anne said

      I like what you say here, Romy, about “blurred definitions” and “leaky categories.” Nice phrasing, and helps me put words to how I often see things.

  5. benchechesblog said

    It is all a little obvious to me. What he is saying is that he is part of a community of religious people who have a more pluralistic view of religion, which is in keeping with
    the needs of the modern world. He’s also saying if more people were like me the world would be better. I agree but I also think that it is like saying”wouldn’t it be great if we were all mice to each other.”
    As for Gandhi and peaceful protest I think it only works when the people you face have a morality that recognizes your humanity. I doubt it would have stopped the Nazi’s. I do agree that working with other people at practical things is a good way to break down barriers but you still need to fight wars, tell lies and engage in activities that might get you labelled as a terrorist when faced with the Idi Amin’s and Adolf Hitler’s of the world.

    The reason people have the right to weapon’s in the USA is because the people who wrote the constitution understood the need for armed resistance against the government and the problem with Islamists and their Wahabi ideologues is not that they are fighting for their cause and what they believe in it is that what they believe in is wrong. Just like the Dutch reform church were wrong in their racist views that underpinned apartheid. The peace march has become toothless because the people in power no longer fear it. In fact they encourage it so that they can safely ignore what people think and allow them to express their dissatisfaction in a way that doesn’t threaten the status quo. It’s like a feedback form it is largely symbolic of respecting what people think rather than actually respecting it. Charity work is battleground for hearts and minds. We see this in Haiti and the way in which Cuban aid workers and US aid workers are involved in a battle for hearts and minds as much as they are involved in helping. Maybe if they were made to work together it would be interesting. I am probably coming across as really negative and cynical but I kind of think he is preaching to the converted.

    • Thanks, I think you’ve raised some really good points, actually. Yes, he’s preaching to the converted, but I am hoping this will reach a wider audience.

      It’s when we don’t talk to each other, and let the other remain the “alien” that we are more likely to dehumanise them. Nazi Germany is a classic case in point, as are the other situations you refer.

      Do you think it would help if I wrote something about “the threat of difference” in the world? It’s been on my mind.

      • benchechesblog said

        You should write about what ever you feel like writing about. I’m sure it will help some people and not others. I would be interested to read it. I think that difference is unavoidable and as such we need to have positive spin on it. We don’t have a choice we can’t escape from difference, look at our fingerprints. Only cloning would work and then all the clones would go the way of the banana.
        Stuck in non evolutionary loop slowly being killed off by diseases that evolve while it stays with the same DNA. No seeds you see 😉

  6. dorothyDauphinee said

    i just read your bit about getting along with muslims the thing is have you even read the koran???they can talk peace all they want but if they are muslims they believe in this book and in this book it tells them in the exact words “Do not make of Christians and Jews friends! also if you read but one quote please GET A HOLD OF A KORAN AND READ .Al Baqarah verse 191 where they are specifically instructed to kill unbelievers (and we Americans for the most part are unbelievers(9n Islam)) how can we hide our heads in the sand like ostriches and welcome our own murderers into our midst ??I am not against the muslim people but we must realize that they believe this stuff and will deceive us in any way to achieve islams goal of earth domination

    • Thanks Dorothy. Surah 2.191 and its immediate context says

      002.190 Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.

      002.191 And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

      002.192 But if they cease, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

      from http://www.jannah.org/qurantrans/quran2.html

      It doesn’t just say “slay them wherever you find them”. In context, it seems to be talking about if unbelievers physically attack Muslims. “If they cease [fighting]” then Muslims are also to stop fighting. It also says not to “transgress limits” – in other words, there are limits to how warlike one should be.

      I don’t pretend this is easy, or simple, and certainly there is much that gives me great concern in the Quran. I can only hope that moderates win over extremist interpretations – as with Christians- and do what little I can to foster Muslim-outsider peace.

    • benchechesblog said

      Dear Dorothy,
      There is an idea in the study of literature called the reader response theory. The idea is basically that each individual brings his or her own set of experiences to the reading of text and indeed his or her emotions at the time of reading. Each reading of a text is a parallel construction in the mind of the reader. It is a new and personal creation. I have read the Qur’an many times and I find in it beauty and ideas which both shock me and inspire me. I was lucky enough to be given some historical context and to have read it in relation to the other parts of the book. Although we have read the same book from an objective point of view we never read the same book. This idea also fits well with cognitive science. Look into it if you feel inclined to make the effort. The advice on war is actually not that shocking when taken in context.

      190: Fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you and do not exceed the limits,surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.(Rabi’ and Ibn-i-Zaid are of the opinion that this verseis the earliest revelation regarding the permission to fight;but always in self defense, and to observe the limits.With in the limits means that women,children and old men who do not tke up arms, should not be molested)
      191 (the verse you and many others refer to in order to slander Islam) Kill them where ever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter…(To kill thenemy wherever you find them is not strange when you are at war. The American army likes to use phrase like search and destroy!)
      192.But if they desist (in fighting you), then surely Alah is merciful.

      The thing about killing needs to be taken in the context of these other two verses. Also interpretation of the Qur’an is based on chains of narration and Hadith ( sayings of the prophet) If taken out of their proper context then they can be interpreted in quite different ways. I would say that the hateful interpretations of the Qur’an that you have taken are much more understandable than those of Muslims who should know netter but latch on to fundamentalist interpretations and engage in fighting that is most certainly not in the way of Allah.

      This being said I am a Buddhist and as such an idolator in some Muslims minds. I think the Qu’ran people experience as they read it can be very different for each individual. My Qur’an is not bad. Yours and others Qu’ran may be so. The truth is beyond us all.

      • benchechesblog said

        By the way if they want to fight me I hope I can fight them in the way of Allah and not exceed the limits. I fear I might not have the moral fortitude to live up to my ideals when faced with life or death situations. So I hope people keep dialogue open and I never have to fight anyone because of religious difference. Actually I hope it doesn’t even come to exchanging insults but i won’t be like the HIndu pundits who lost battles to the Muslims in the past because they drove cows in front of their army and the Hindus didn’t defend themselves properly because they didn’t want to kill the cows. They are certainly making up for those defeats now with hate crimes against Muslims in India. I think all this hate is human nature not Islam.

        • Thanks for the interpretation from someone more knowledgeable than I am. I’m really gratified to find my own reading accords with some of yours, when I am not experienced with the Qu’ran.

          I’m not sure I entirely support the “reader-only” view you mention, I think it does a disservice to authors 😉 Nevertheless, it’s an important point of view, thankyou 🙂

        • benchechesblog said

          The reader response theory is more an explanation of how easy it is for people to read something into what a writer has written that the writer might not have intended. This might please or annoy the writer but once they have written something it is like giving birth to a child. The baby doesn’t always turn out the way the parents intended and his behavior may vary depending on who he is with. My point was less disrespectful of the writer than an assertion of the aliveness of a piece of writing. I think this is especially the case with Dogma or cannonical writing because the reader has to try and fit his or her experience around what is given. The huge variety of religious interpretation is a testament to mans and women’s creativity in reworking old ideas to fit their own experience.

          Out of interest here are some Bible quotes:

          Blessed are the peacemakers (Mathew5;9)

          Think not that I come to send peace on earth, I come not to send peace but a sword ( Mathew 10:34)

          All that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Mathew 26;52)

          He that hath no sword,let him sell his garments and buy one.
          (Luke 22:36)

      • leesis said

        I’d just like to say I think this is one of the most sensible responses I’ve read to answer what is clearly a real fear for many folk.

  7. MuslimRevert said

    I have heard Eboo Patel speak, and also think he is great. The problem is, however, while non-Muslims just see a Muslim man speaking about peace and feel hopeful, Muslims see a man that is most likely not part of their sect (since he’s Shia Ismaeli) so much so that many of those Muslims will say he is not even Muslim, and not listen to a word. 😦

    • Thankyou, MuslimRevert for your contribution. 🙂

      I agree with you, and within Christianity there are also those who say that some christians are “not true Christians”. (I am not a Christian, by the way, but I used to be.) I cannot do much for Islam, as I am an outsider, but I am grateful to hear of people like you who are trying to live in peace with everyone.

      By the way, if you think of something we can do, as outsiders, please let me know.

      My prayer is that people of peace will prevail within Islam.

      Together, we hope to build a better world.


    • Anne said

      There is a good deal of untruth, exaggeration and myth (such as the common misstatement about the Quran’s instruction to kill unbelievers–thanks J. for providing the full quote).

      Public dialog will point out some other interpretations to those who are on the fence, and that has a chance of weakening the growth of extremeism through recruitment in countries where there are nonreligion-based schools and jobs. Unfortunately, I don’t see it having much effect in nonliterate, poor populations where youths and families will join anything for survival.

      On the other hand, I think the “paradigm” has to change in developed countries before it can shift elsewhere. That’s why I really want to support what people like Eboo Patel are doing.

      • Yes, Irshad Manji talks about the problem of illiteracy and its dangers for populations to be controlled by Imams who interpret the Quran in their own way.

        Unfortunately, she is also someone who would be looked upon as “not orthodox” and would be dismissed. Very good book, ‘though.

  8. […] Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope […]

  9. The Agnostic Pentecostal said

    Really amazing thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing. When even a few Christians and Muslims (or those of other faiths and non-faiths) can be seen working hand in hand, it’s a beautiful day.

    • Agreed – and I can’t help but stress: We don’t have to agree on everything, or be the same, but I think the things we can agree on (love for our families, desire for a peaceful and prosperous life) outweigh our disagreements.

      Thanks for stopping by Dave, lovely to see you again.

  10. Anne, re: above

    Yes, I mean Irshad Manji is dismissed by ‘mainstream’ Islam. Whatever the mainstream is. That’s something I’m still not sure about. How far along the continuum between “bigoted fanatic” and “so loose they might as well not be Muslim” is the majority of Islam? Complex, I’m sure, like all large and diverse groups spread across many countries.

  11. benchechesblog,

    Great bible quotes – Christians today would generally say that interpreted in context the ones about the sword are NOT a command to pick one up. I imagine there are parallels with how Muslims interpret apparently violent texts in the Qu’ran?

    I’m still hopeful there’s a middle path between “it’s all about the reader” and “it’s all about the writer”. I guess they talk about that mostly in literature classes, but my dipping into postmodernism covered that to a degree.

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