Special features this issue
|Inter-religious cooperation is a must not a
By Imam Yahya Hendi
Since the tragedy of Sep 11 th, I have started watching
more closely the response of our religious communities.
Some have gone to the far extreme suggesting that
America is a country of exclusively one religious
community. This voice believes that Islam, the religion
of the Arabs (although only 20% of Muslims are Arabs)
does not belong in America. Many Muslim immigrants were
asked to go “back home”. For 54% of American Muslims
America is where they came from and back home could be
Boston, Austin or Greenville. However, this voice is
still that of a very small minority in the United Sates.
President Bush spoke very well in defense of American
Muslims and Islam. Many leaders in religious communities
spoke louder than ever before about the need to be
united in the face of a terrorism that has no religion
and a hatred and violence that has no faith.
Religious freedom has always been at the core of
American life and should continue to be a part of the
way Americans engage in domestic and foreign relations.
This country has made significant efforts in this area.
Such efforts have led America to be a place where people
worldwide come to seek a better life, more opportunities
and to experience profound respect for human integrity.
One must keep in mind that many immigrants have not come
here only for better jobs but also to be able to
practice their religions freely and without fear. These
people were on the run escaping religious persecution in
their own country. It is America’s duty to protect
religious freedom for all people and keep the dialogue
between its citizens going to better understand who we
Every man is a potential adversary, even those whom we
love. Only through dialogue are we saved from this
enmity toward one another. Dialogue is to love as blood
is to the body. When dialogue stops, love dies and
resentment and hate are born. But dialogue can restore a
dead relationship. It can bring a relationship into
being, and it can resuscitate a relationship that is
dying. There is only one qualification to these claims
for dialogue: it must be mutual and proceed from both
sides, and the parties to it must persist relentlessly.
Dialogue brings us face to face with truth in a
relationship of love. As each person speaks and responds
honestly to the other, each moves toward the other and
includes him. This kind of meeting between fellow
citizens cannot occur without an implicit meeting
between God and us. We must first believe that to see
another is to see God, and to love another is to love
God. When we are truly known by another God knows us,
and to be truly loved by another is to know the love of
God. Dialogue is communication in which we are informed,
purified, illumined, and reunited to ourselves, to one
another, and God. Islam teaches that God loves those who
love others. Prophet Muhammad said: “He who shows mercy
to God’s people is shown Mercy by God and those who
visit the needy, poor and the patient will find God with
The fruits of religious convictions and our love of God
are not achieved in a vacuum. They are achieved and
found in the context of human relationships. The fruits
of religious conviction are love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control. Unfortunately, however, we are apt to
think of these fruits in the abstracts, as achievements
apart from the process, which produce them. Love, for
instance, is not a ready-made, easily purchased product.
Indeed, we cannot understand love except as we see it
striving on behalf of all its enemies. Peace accepts
strife as part of its responsibility. Patience or
long-suffering has meaning only in relation to the
conflicts, distortions, and misrepresentations of life.
Gentleness is not weak but strong, and has forged out of
temptation to be hostilely aggressive, to use compulsion
as a way of achieving one’s own will.
When a man and a woman, for example, achieve a sense of
deeper love that unites them more closely than ever,
they know and can recall the conflicts, bitterness, and
misunderstandings of one another through which they had
to work in order to be reunited more deeply in love.
All of us Americans, in general, and committed Jews,
Christians and Muslims, in particular, must find within
their own traditions sound reasons to value other faiths
without compromising their own. They must realize that
what happened on sep 11 th cannot divide us. We should
not tolerate voices of divisiveness. We must use sep 11
th to explore the best in each of us. Let us keep in
mind that Diversity is in itself not a bad thing
provided it occurs within unity, cooperation and
coordination. So let us all chose to be united with all
of our differences for the best of this nation and all