DURING the last six months, I have been attending meetings, seminars and panel discussions organized by Muslim organizations, mostly for Muslim audiences.
I have also attended numerous sermons in the mosques all over the Bay Area, and the message is clear.
There should be more preaching of Islam’s message as an interfaith “friendly faith” to the American Muslim communities. Emphasize interreligious peace and harmony, get involved in interreligious activities, and not only be tolerant of others’ faith, but also join in its celebration, as long as it does not grossly violate your personal beliefs.
Learn about the common human bonds that connect people as one global community. After all, the core value in all the religions is the same: respecting and honoring humanity. And being a part of the political system and voting religiously on issues that are important to you.
People belonging to other faiths are also a part of the believing community that follows different paths to the same ultimate reality — God. Because Islam is also full of diversity, preach this message to young Muslims in Islamic homes, schools and mosques.
In the Islamic Society of San Francisco, the imam admonished the Friday Sabbath crowd of more than 500 Muslim worshipers.
He said, “Jihad does not mean fighting the infidels, but to struggle in the path of self-correction, a non-violent and self-cleansing act that will make you the best citizen.” The whole sermon was devoted to building wholesome communities in the Bay Area.
That message came more strongly from the Muslim Community Center of Santa Clara during a seminar on the Life of the Prophet Mohammed on Nov. 24 and 25.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim organization in North America, was responsible for putting together all American Muslim scholars of the San Francisco Bay Area under one roof at the Muslim Community Center of Santa Clara. Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a Muslim woman who was born in the U.S. , is now president of the organization (headquartered in Indianapolis). Previously there had been only male, immigrant presidents for the last 40 years.
It was very refreshing to hear her speak on the misinterpretation of the verses of Koran. She also lectured on rights of women, the need to educate women and to develop a good family life in the U.S. Mattson also acknowledged the challenges facing Muslim families and the violence that married women face.
In other words, I can sense she is for a “new awakening” for American Muslims. Our community is no different from other communities, and the sooner we realize it, the better.
What really shocked me was the great turnout of Muslim women who immediately felt empowered seeing Ingrid Mattson as the leader of the largest Muslim organization in North America. The membership in the organization has increased with a huge proportion of American Muslim women vying for leadership of important committees.
Iftekhar Hai is the president of the United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance.