Interfaith Dialogue: What it is and what it is not

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Before we get into what the interfaith dialogue entails, let me start by making it clear what interfaith dialogue is NOT about. Interfaith dialogue is not intended for converting people to your faith!

This is a question that so many people, Muslims, and people of other faiths have asked me when I invite them to be part of the interfaith dialogue in their communities. They sometimes ask, “how many people have you converted to Islam in your years of working on interfaith issues?

My answer surprises some while disappointing others. I have converted exactly zero people to Islam as an interfaith worker. I have very likely changed the perception of Islam and Muslims for thousands of people, but have not ‘converted’ anyone. Would you consider this a ‘failure’? I certainly don’t feel it that way, simply because that is not the objective of interfaith dialogue.

What else is interfaith dialogue NOT about?

  1. It is not about telling who is right and who is wrong.
  2. It is not about agreeing or accepting everything about the other faith traditions (but it does involve respecting others’ views despite the disagreements. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree but in a civil manner)

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Islam greets Christianity in Oman

Leonard - NWC IowaON THE border with Saudi Arabia, an American clergyman partners with a sultan keen on religious coexistence.

Imagine David Cameron in Norfolk, about to speak on ‘British values’. He then invites forward a Muslim imam, and asks him to explain Islam.

Transfer the scene to the Sultanate of Oman, and witness an American Christian pastor make clear the gospel in the austere heartland of Ibadi Islam.

Now picture a tolerance that predates Britain’s embrace of multiculturalism—on the border of Saudi Arabia.

The analogy is not perfect. Sultan Qaboos bin Said is an absolute monarch, ruling since 1970. Proselytisation is forbidden in any direction.

But the Shiva Temple in the capital of Muscat has served the Hindu community for over 200 years. Since the early 1900s the government has given land to build churches.

Saudi Arabia’s chief cleric has repeatedly called for all non-Muslim houses of worship in the Arabian Peninsula to be destroyed in accordance with sharia law.

Clearly, Oman does not share Wahhabi convictions. There appears a similarity in strict practice, but not in the approach to others. The Ibadi branch of Islam is far older than the eighteenth-century Saudi creed, dating to its formative scholar from the old capital in Nizwa in AD 711.

And to this region where Islam originally took hold, the Ministry of Religious Affairs invited Revd Douglas Leonard to speak.

FULL ARTICLE FROM LAPIDIOMEDIA.COM

Muslims, Christians have a tearful exchange of roses on Eid’l Fitr in the Philippines

A distance from the devastation and turmoil in Marawi City was a peaceful moment—Christians and Muslims exchanged flowers in celebration of Eid al-Fitr at an evacuation community in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte on Sunday.

The interreligious gesture brought tears to some Muslim women of the 180 families seeking shelter in the Iligan City National School of Fisheries, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) reported on their website.

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“The OPAPP is currently conducting a series of ‘social healing’ activities in Lanao del Norte that aim to restore trust and respect among the different ethno-religious groups in the affected areas,” the article said.

With the ongoing crisis in Marawi proving to be a challenge for Maranao unity, the residents who have spent a month in the facility took part in an OPAPP-hosted celebratory program welcoming the end of Ramadan.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GMA NETWORK (PHILIPPINES)

Eid al-Fitr: Muslims around world celebrate end of Ramadan fast

eidpakistanThis weekend, Muslims all over the globe begin celebrations for Eid al-Fitr, to mark the end of Ramadan.

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The name translates as “the festival of breaking the fast” as during the month of Ramadan, Muslims perform one of the five pillars of Islam: the fast.

Food, water and sexual activity are all banned until after sunset.

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is believed that the Quran’s first verse was revealed during the last 10 nights of this month.

The exact date of Eid depends on the lunar cycle, and it is traditionally celebrated for three days – although from country to country, the festival can last anywhere from one to four days.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

Eid Al-Fitr: A Time for Celebration

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Every year, Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan. This celebration is the most festive of the Eids, and takes place over three days. Preparing for Eid means wearing your nicest clothes and indulging in various festivities. Although celebrations differ based on culture, the significance of this holiday remains constant across borders. Here are four fascinating festivities that are typically celebrated on Eid Al-Fitr!

  1. Festive Wear: Dress your Best!

Wearing your finest, most ornamental clothing is common on Eid Al-Fitr. For example, in the Middle East and other Islamic states, women generally wear long gowns or embellished abayas, while in Southeast Asia, women generally wear salwar kameez. It is also typical for western or modern Muslims to wear formal western attire. Alternatively, men either wear thawab, a festive pant suit, or formal western clothes.

  1. Common Festivities: Eat, Laugh, and Dance

During this celebratory time, Muslims gather for parties during the day and night. Typically large feasts are arranged where family and friends come and indulge in their country’s cultural cuisine. If you travelling abroad in a predominantly Muslim country, you may see festive lights and ornaments around the city. It is common to give gifts to those observing Eid, so, if you work with Muslim counterparts, a box of dates is a nice gesture. Additionally, prayers are often arranged and friends and family commonly pray together. After dinner, friends and family have a good time, chat, and enjoy the feast. For example, Chaand raat, or “night of the moon,” an Urdu phrase coined in the Indian subcontinent, includes dancing, cultural foods, and henna hand art.

  1. Charity: Giving back

Giving back is a part of the celebration! During Ramadan, Zakat, or giving charity to the less fortunate is an important part of the holiday. These practices are further encouraged on Eid Al-Fitr by giving both food and money to underserved communities. Although it is typical to indulge with friends and family, giving to those who cannot indulge is recommended and remains a large part of observing the Muslim faith. When participating in an Eid celebration with Muslim friends, it is also common for adults to give children Eidi, or ‘goodwill’ money as a part of celebrating.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

The Power of Storytelling: Creating a New Future for American Muslims

ap-american-muslims-trump-1-jt-161114_31x13_1600The Muslim American storytellers of the 21st century need to mine our rich Islamic and American identity and history to tell new stories that will benefit and add to the ever-growing multicultural mosaic that is America.

By Wajahat Ali

In 7th-century Arabia, the storyteller was valued more than the swordsman. The audience sat on the floor surrounding the gifted orator as he captivated the eager listeners with beautiful poetry narrating their history. In the 21st century, the art form may have evolved to include motion pictures, TV shows, theater productions, novels, and standup comedy, but they all serve the same function: storytelling.

Ideas and principles are most effectively communicated and transmitted when they are couched in a narrative. Stories, whether they concern the etiquette and biography of prophets or the trials and tribulations of America’s founding fathers, inform and influence a cultural citizenry of its values and identity.

Similarly, the story of a biracial man with an Arabic name and a Kenyan father elected to the highest office in the land reminds the world that indeed America can live up to its cherished principles of freedom and racial equality, and her citizens are capable of reflecting a magnanimous and egalitarian spirit bereft of prejudice.

If a person were to read these stories comprising the core values of Islamic and American history, one would assume their respective cultural fabrics resemble a generous, messy, lively, colorful mosaic perpetually adding and experimenting with new colors, styles, and hues to beautify its narrative.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Egyptian Christians, Muslims share Ramadan meals despite Islamist violence

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CAIRO (Reuters) – In a display of communal solidarity defying the sectarian violence of Islamist militants, Egyptian Christians in Cairo organize daily meals for Muslim neighbors who must fast from dawn to dusk during their holy month of Ramadan.

Such intercommunal meals are held every year in Egypt, whose Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they took on more resonance this year after a spate of Islamic State attacks on Copts meant to stoke sectarian divisions.

Dawoud Riyad, a middle-aged Christian man, set up tables in a street near his Cairo home last week, serving free home-cooked meals to hungry passersby when it was time for them to break their fast for the Iftar evening meal.

“They invited me and my kids, and I was surprised. They laid the table out on the street with no difference between sheikhs, Christians or Muslims – they pulled everyone to the table to break their fast,” said Tarek Ali, a Muslim resident.

Several Christian families in Riyad’s area pitch in daily to provide the food and drink in what he calls an effort to unite people of different faiths during a holy time of year. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS INSIDER