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Islamic leader wishes to build bridges of understanding

Photo: Muneer Fareed
Dr. Muneer Fareed, secretary general for the Islamic Society of North America. Photo by Danny Bolin

SAN JOSE, June 26, 2008 — A scheduling miscommunication prevented the secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) from offering General Assembly commissioners ecumenical greetings Thursday morning, so he did the next best thing — he spoke to a reporter.

It’s clear he preferred the former option. “I am better able to do this addressing an audience,” said Dr. Muneer Fareed.

The ISNA is an Indiana-based group that supports 300 mosques, Islamic centers and schools. He deemed any chances to address the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “invaluable opportunities for Muslims to build bridges of understanding with Christians in this country, because Islam is in need of friends who would stand by in its moments of need as well as work to improve or enhance the quality of life for all American citizens.”

Fareed noted that the Assembly had voted Wednesday night to further the dialog among Muslims, Presbyterians and Jews and, among other things, to encourage people of faith to observe religious holidays together. ISNA, he said, plans to invite the leadership of the PC(USA) to a series of meetings “that would help us take the dialog to the grassroots. Healthier relations between Muslims and Christians can only translate into healthier relations between human beings.”

Although numerically a much smaller group, Jews fit into the equation as an equal partner, he said.

“Whatever I’ve said about Christians and Muslims extends to the Jewish community,” Fareed said. “Those discussions will vary. We would not, for example, be discussing the place of Christ in our understanding of God — but we would be discussing the place of Israel.”

He continued, “The bones of contention vary from community to community, but the need for dialog and conversation has never been more pressing.”

Fareed said he had first-hand experience working together with Presbyterians in South Africa to help end apartheid.

“At different places and at different times Presbyterians and Muslims have come together to address a common cause,” he said. “I think Presbyterians in this country are willing to work with Muslims and are showing the requisite enthusiasm to further improve the relations between Muslims and Presbyterians.”

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