Interfaith Activities and Muslims in America
The three Abrahamic faiths are deep in interfaith activities. Among Jews, Christians and Muslims faith-house leaders meet with their counterparts; Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Christians, boards with boards and meetings go on. Everybody feels good that we are intermingling, we Muslims feel great that we are connecting with the other faiths and ‘interfaith’ is happening. We stroke each other’s egos and incessantly compare the common features of out holy texts to prove that we are actually, more similar than we are different.
The goal for Muslims is to communicate with the others, with Jews and Christians because they hold the keys to existence for Muslims in America. “Islam is a religion of Peace!” has become a mantra repeated everywhere and people are becoming tired of this slogan. As Muslims, we cannot afford to communicate with faith-leaders and ignore the common person on the street because it is the common person who will ultimately protect us from America’s fanatical ultra-patriots and from leaders like Donald Trump and his Islam-hating Cabinet and advisors.
Muslims need to take a different approach.
To be sure, interfaith activities do serve a good purpose in that at least some people feel a connection but this has mixed results. I have seen some faith-houses hold interfaith activities while at the same time, they also host activities that are profoundly anti-Muslim and anti-Islam. In such a climate, their congregations cannot be expected to feel good about Muslims and Islam even if they feel good towards individual Muslims.
Muslims’ goal must not be a repetition of “Islam is a religion of Peace!”, the slogan has to go hand in hand with real actions that affect and help the people on the street…literally, the people on the street.
In Puget Sound alone, there are dozens of Mosques and Musallahs (unconsecrated places of prayer), some very large and some very small. We are in the middle of Winter right now and people are freezing because they have no place to spend the night. They are also hungry.
It would be easy for medium-to-large Mosques to allocate a small area within their buildings, for the hungry and homeless, providing overnight male and female chaperones. If some Mosques are too finicky to have male and female people sheltering at once, then some can take in the men while others can take in women and children. The smaller ones (Musallahs) can help provide dinner and a small breakfast to the sheltered people…make it an ethnic meal so they can connect better with the foreign cultures represented by Muslims. If prayers are to be held in areas which have a small partition for the sheltered people so much the better; let non-Muslims witness prayers so they can see we don’t sacrifice children at our prayers…a joke folks, but there IS much misinformation about Islam and Muslims.
This is not only a good step for Muslims towards political and social connections in America, it would be in the spirit of the highest ideals of Islam; to provide for the poor, the hungry, the orphans and their single parents. For years, many Mosques have hesitated to offer shelter to the homeless because of the demographics that the homeless represent. Yes, they could include mentally-challenged people who may not be the cleanest of people. But they also represent people who, for various reasons have no place to live and they need help from those of us who live in the comforts of our homes. We can provide money even modest amounts to help feed the sheltered people as well. Muslim faith-houses can assist just one or two people or more, as capacity permits. Yes, it is only a drop in the ocean but even the drop increases the ocean.
This would probably be one of the best steps for friendly recognition of Muslims and Islam. If even a few Mosques and Musallahs can join efforts and make a collective announcement that they are joining efforts to do this then others will follow.
Bravo to the Muslims in Vancouver BC Canada, who have taken this first step at first hesitatingly but now in full swing.
In the Quran, God says:
…Had Allah so willed, He would surely have made you one single community; instead, (He gave each of you a Law and a way of life) in order to test you by what He gave you. Vie then, one with another in good works. Unto Allah is the return of all of you; and He will then make you understand the truth concerning the matters on which you disagreed. (5:48)
…but it is righteousness to believe in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and (God’s) messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him for your relatives, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who seek assistance…(2:177)
We do not need to fear the poor and the needy; we do not need to protect the sanctity of our prayer-houses so much that we become indifferent to the plights of those in distress. I have to believe that God loves a dirty Mosque that provides for the helpless, more than he appreciates a super-clean one. that is only for prayer.
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