All traditions teach against violence
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said that anti-Muslim rhetoric in America is bad news for anti-terrorism efforts: "We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup."
By many accounts, the man who could blunt the power of that coup is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader behind the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero. The imam has been surprisingly mum on the issue while he travels in the Middle East. What message of faith could he offer to Muslims and non-Muslims alike that could turn this moment of division into a time of healing?
In some ways it is chutzpadik to speak even at one remove this way for what Imam Rauf might say, but with deep respect for his path and wisdom, here's what I would imagine as a basic framework, rooted in my own knowledge of and admiration for his work :
"We in the Cordoba Initiative share with the overwhelming majority of Muslims abhorrence of war, of terrorism, of all killing, of torture, and especially of the killing of the unarmed and defenseless. We speak out against this behavior no matter who acts this way - Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, animists - our own government or any other government or group.
"We realize that in all our traditions there are teachings that seem to justify the use of violence, even of aggressive violence.
"But we are clear that every one of the great traditions speaks most fully and most sacredly about peace, dialogue, and compassion.
"This is certainly true of Islam.
"We of the Cordoba Initiative see ourselves as pioneers within Islam to create a form of our tradition that in the deepest spirit and wisdom of the Holy Quran seeks to understand and live in a world of pluralism and democracy, a world where the Prophet's own respect and honor for women (peace be upon him and them) is lived today, where a center rooted in Islam speaks naturally and fully with all cultures and communities.
" And that is why we intend to bring our community center to Lower Manhattan, to a neighborhood where not only Muslims but all our neighbors sorely need to learn with each other our arts and musics, our cookery and poetry, -- where we need to share with each other even a place to swim and exercise, as well as to pray.
"And in that spirit we share with all our neighbors the grief that three thousand human beings were murdered not so far from here and not so long ago - citizens of America and many other nations, people of many many faiths and ethical commitments--- including Muslims. We will set aside in our community center a space where all may come to grieve and to find new hope in grieving together.
"We intend to live the wisdom that God revealed to the Prophet, peace be upon him: That God created the human race as one family, through a single couple, to become many cultures and communities -- not so that we would hate and despise one another but so that we would come to know and understand each other. (Quran 49:13)"
Shalom, salaam, shantih, peace --
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center http://www.theshalomcenter.org; co-author of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, & Muslims; author of Godwrestling -- Round 2 and Down-to-Earth Judaism.
August 23, 2010; 3:29 PM ET
Faith Community Building
war and peace
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