When people hear the words “interfaith dialogue,” they often have thoughts of singing “kumbaya” around a campfire and fluffy conversations with people you don’t even agree with. But in reality, it is so much more.
With Islamophobia casting its ever-luring shadow into almost every part of Muslim lives today, interfaith understanding could not be more important. It presents the opportunity for Muslims, and other religions, to participate in a broader and deeper way of thinking, to challenge social stigmas of learning basics of our neighbors, and the chance to say no to the same ignorance that is at the root of all discrimination, including the discrimination against Muslims.
In the Qur’an, 49:13, we are told to “know one another.” In order to know a person, one must first look past stereotypes, gossip, and first impressions. To know a person, you must have a conversation, ask questions, and attempt to truly understand from a standpoint of care and neighborly love rather than judgement and condemnation. After all, don’t we ask the same of non-Muslims when they look at us and Islam?
As young Muslims growing up and flourishing in this complex and diverse world, we must take the stand to further interfaith understanding if we have any hope of being understood in return.
So, reach out to your Jewish neighbor and have a peaceful conversation about something basic to Judaism, like Shabbat. Pull aside your Hindu friend and ask about those colorful and beautiful holidays, such as Holi or Diwali. And visit your Christian friend’s church and take the opportunity to see what she finds beautiful in her religion.
For every person you take the time to learn from for knowledge and understanding’s sake, you also have the opportunity to debunk Islamophobic jargon and gain a friend.
It is too easy in this world to bitterly look at those who are different and merely whisper, kafir (non-believer), under your breath and walk away.
Young ummah, I challenge you all — myself included — to look at our neighbors with love and understanding in hopes of forming an educated and peaceful future.