Toward Dialogue, Friendship, Understanding

Information, Calls for Openness versus Suspicion and Threats

Board members of Clergy Beyond Borders have appeared prominently in national and international news programs in recent weeks, attempting to promote dialogue and interfaith understanding. In addition, as tensions and fears persist throughout the U.S., CBB advisors and partner organizations have been calling for active engagement — on the individual and congregational level — between those of different faiths.

But the attempts to educate and the calls for dialogue and friendship have, perhaps unsurprisingly, engendered further suspicion and threats from some quarters. Support from many faith communities will be needed to create positive engagements where ugly confrontations are planned.

This would be a good time to review “30 Guidelines for Inter-Religious Dialogue” and share additional resources for promoting positive interfaith exchange.


CBB founder and president Imam Yahya Hendi appeared on the ABC News program “20-20” on Friday, October 1, discussing Islam basics with Diane Sawyer. The entire program, which is part of series on Islam, can be found on-line. In addition ABC’s website offers additional video and text features, including comments — many from viewers who continue to fear Muslims and maintain misconceptions about Islam.

Different segments of the program discuss texts in the Bible and in the Quran which appear to promote violence, review Islamic perspectives on gender and consider responsibilities of moderate Muslims with regard to extremists.

View “the latest program” (Oct. 1) from the “Watch Full Episodes” tab at ABC News or select “What is Islam?” from the partial video listings.

After describing the moderate Muslim outcry against the violence of September 11, Sawyer asks plaintively “where are the moderate Muslims now?” Eboo Patel, of the Interfaith Youth Core, explains that moderate Muslims are horrified by the violent mis-use of Islam. A young Muslim in Patterson, NJ, wonders why she is expected to change her behavior because of others far removed from her life and values.

Several of Sawyer’s guests declare that “one million Muslims marching” on the U.S. capital is in order. There is no discussion of how such a march might be viewed by individuals, such as Pamela Geller — also a guest on the show — who speak of Muslims “infiltrating” the country and worry about the “Islamization” of the U.S. “20-20” accepts, without challenge, that such a gathering would somehow stop violent Islamist extremists around the world.


“20-20” reported that three quarters of U.S. residents say they don’t know any Muslims. Blogs and other postings around the Web weave conspiracies to explain this statistic or use it to accuse Muslims of failing to assimilate into American culture.

Meanwhile, leaders from many Muslim organizations — including two CBB religious advisors — are calling or a “week of dialogue,” and the New Evangelical Partnership issued a call for Evangelicals to “become friends with Muslims.”

Michael Ly’s September 26 blog offers suggestions for Christians who might not know any Muslims to meet, get to know and, eventually, become friends with these neighbors.

Muslim houses of worship are encouraged to open their doors to others during the weekend of Oct. 22-24. In addition, Muslims are encouraged to visit neighboring houses of worship.

The call for open houses has been interpreted as some form of scheme and is engendering threatening responses on the Web. Even where congregants are no strangers to Muslims, religious leaders might consider promoting mosque visits to protect a spirit of openness and dialogue.

Please let CBB know if you are participating — as host or visitor — in an open house.

Religious Tolerance

Hendi and board member Rabbi Marc Gopin both appeared on an Alhurra program on Sept. 8 speaking about burning of sacred texts and related topics. Hendi summarizes the main points as follows:

1) burning scriptures is un-American;
2) respect of religious pluralism is honored in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and commanded by God;
3) religious leaders must be part of a movement for dialogue and not war;
4) actions against Islam and other religions are often brought on by ignorance and must be confronted through learning.

Link to Arabic language program coming soon.


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