Over the years as I’ve engaged Muslims in varied conversations it has become increasingly clear that good relations falter more on matters of politics and power than on faith and practice. Because of this and based on recent readings I would like to venture a few thoughts that hopefully might open the way for an interfaith discussion inclusive of political and other forms of power, but not at the expense of faith and practice. On the contrary, the focus will be primarily on faith but in a way that makes it central to the larger task of ordering society toward a common good. I begin with a recent experience.
In January of 1998 three Muslim students from Mahidol University in Bangkok arrived in Chicago. They had come to study at LSTC as part of an exchange program. As a way to stretch an already meager budget the two men, both from Indonesia, stayed at my home. What had begun as an austerity measure turned out to be an experience with rich dividend. For one thing it allowed me to work on my hospitality skills as together we set down guidelines for living together amicably. It was Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, so I decided to join in the experience of withholding food and other delights during the daylight hours. I had often thought of doing this while living in the Middle East, but had never taken it seriously. Now during these shortened winter days I made the plunge and it bonded us almost immediately.