As 9/11 Nears, Christians Can Build Bridges with Muslims


Sayyid Syeed, third from left, with the Islamic Society of North America, spoke at the first national dialogue between Baptists and Muslims in 2009. (Photo: Brian Kaylor)

Muslim leaders are apprehensive about what might happen to their communities on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, especially if one of their major religious observances - Eid al-Adha - falls on Sept. 11, a Sunday.

The holy day of Eid al-Adha comes 10 days after the full moon is seen at the start of the month. That could coincide with Sept. 11.

Al-Jazeera reported two weeks ago that Eid al-Adha is expected to be Sept. 11 and that Saudi Arabia will confirm that date on Sept. 1.

The Islamic Society of North America identified the holy day as either Sept. 11 or 12.

Eid al-Adha is a sacred day when Muslims remember Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Ishmael as an act of submission to God's commandment.

It's the sacrifice of feasts when Muslim families will give one-third of the sacrificed animal to the poor. The other two-thirds are kept by the family and given to neighbors.

Sacrifice also takes other forms. Qatar will impose a 10-day ban on alcohol leading up to the holiday. United Arab Emirates citizens will reduce their retail spending. Kuwait has announced that day as a public holiday.

A time of sacrifice could be a time of hostility in the U.S.

The New York Times reported that Muslim leaders are concerned about a backlash on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the intensification of a backlash if Eid al-Adha falls on Sept. 11.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, stated, "Our community is like, 'What are we supposed to do?'" said the Times.

A similar question was raised the previous week by the EthicsDaily.com staff: What should we do to prepare for all the anti-Muslim rhetoric that will surface around the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11? What can an organization that has advocated building common ground between Baptists and Muslims for 15 years do?

At that time, we were unaware of the Muslim apprehension about the possibility of one of their holy days coinciding with one of the nation's days of mourning.

We have long sought to build bridges between goodwill Muslims and Christians.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we released a statement that read in part: "When some quickly denounce Muslims and demonize them, we must avoid the false witness that universalizes harmful attributes to those of different religions."

We said, "Jesus' wisdom and witness must set our course in this very sinful world where evil multiplies evil, anger feeds anger, injustice breeds injustice, vengeance begets vengeance."

Rooting the Christian response in the Sermon on the Mount, the piece added, "When some rush towards revenge, those of faith must be slow to speak about retribution. When some seek purely military solutions, we must recognize the sad duty to use force to establish justice in a sinful world. When some ignore the social soil that nourishes hate, we must seek the welfare of the poor and oppressed."

EthicsDaily.com later produced a film that told about how goodwill Baptists and Muslims were finding ways to collaborate to advance the common good: "Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims."

We have invested a lot of time and space to challenging the narrative that all Muslims are terrorists and to offering an alternative narrative.

The 15th anniversary demands that we explore what we can do proactively leading up to that event.

Here are some suggestions:

Read the Sermon on the Mount, underscoring Jesus' words about comforting those who mourn, showing mercy, being peacemakers, loving enemies, striving for God's kingdom, doing to others what we would want them to do to us.

"Everyone ... who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who builds his house on rock," said Jesus.

Prudent Baptists will remember the words of Jesus and build relationships with Muslims on the solid rock of his teaching.

That means challenging the anti-Muslim rhetoric at church or in the public square.

That means evaluating political commentary against the Sermon on the Mount.

That means responding to our friends on Facebook who lump all Muslims together and say hateful things.

That means expressing our support to Muslims in your community and asking if there is anything they need at this time.

That might mean that pastors will need to say in their Sunday sermon a word about words - the danger of bearing false witness.

Christians and Muslims have different sacred books, different religious holidays, different faith practices. But we do share in common the faith commandment to seek the welfare of others.

We need not agree doctrinally to do the right thing.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

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Tags: Different Books Common Word, Interfaith, Muslims, Robert Parham, September 11


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