Friday, 28 September 2007

Uncovering the Interfaith Masks

I’ve been thinking more and more about Interfaith and exactly what it means to us all in this current day and age. Many pieces of documents have been signed to show support for this ‘good cause’ but I am still left confused as to why people take part in this.

At a time when there are so many divides between religions, a time when Islam is hijacked by an ugly political Islam, I can see the need for this but are folk involved in interfaith truly sincere to its cause. I sit back watching Muslims who are involved in ‘interfaith dialogue’ who are, as one of my close Christian friend tells me, ‘wolves dressed as sheep’. So why are we still moving closer to them? Well, basically because everyone is disguising themselves very well these days. We wheel out those who are presentable and articulate because we want to be seen as doing the politically correct thing. We all want to promote the view that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. It is seen as a good move to have something ‘positive’ about Islam today. But a lot of people know no better and so select the usual suspects who say all the right things based on narrow minded views on Islam. Someone who is a ‘firm’ believer in Islam, Christianity of Judaism may not want to hear truly progressive thoughts on theology. How all three faiths stem from the same God or how they are so intrinsically intertwined that they are unable to part from one another. Or that when the Prophet Muhammad went to the believers of God at that time with his new message they turned to him and said ‘We were Muslims before you’ – a 'Muslim' here meaning 'someone' who has submitted to God, 'someone' being Jews and Christians!

I think these wolves want defined boxes to categorise each other into because they themselves are not secure and strong in their faith. Another Christian mentor of mine, who happens to be a Methodist Minister, said to me once, ‘Aman, when faith is not strong and secure the barriers come up and one becomes narrow minded. Spoon fed views are a good retreat because folk don’t want to think about the grey areas, it’s either black or white, heaven or hell, right or wrong, but when faith is strong and secure then nothing harms it and you enjoy everything colourful around you’.

Let’s work with this word enjoyment and interfaith for a moment. Enjoyment for me is about understanding, friendships and love. The wolves in interfaith all have an agenda of converting the other, they may have a smiley face at a conference or exhibition on an ‘Introduction to Islam’ but deep down they hold beliefs that the other needs to be saved from hell and converted to Islam which will take them to heaven! You could quite easily change the word Islam for Christianity because I know many who want me to realize that salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

For me as a theologian and believer in God I find this absolutely pathetic! No man (or woman) has the right to decide who will and will not be saved, thankfully this remains in God’s hands. This is why I have huge issues with conversion. My passion for Islamic Studies is not driven with a view that I must convert people but it is for people to ‘enjoy’ Islam and all that is beautiful within it. I don't have an interfaith hat, I just make friends as I enjoy life with them! It is not about being politically correct, ticking the multicultural, multifaith boxes! People convert to religions for all sorts of different reasons and I don’t deny people the right to convert to Islam or away from Islam but that is something I have no interest in promoting.

Finally, let’s end with a Qur’an quote which sums it all up for me. There are many other passages of the Qur'an which could be seen to be very negative towards Jews and Christians too but for me the message of the Qur'an is rooted in peace and love and so the positive messages outweigh the negatives, to arrive at that conclusion is what true faith means to me,

“Those who believe and those who have been Jews and the Christians and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the last day and does good, their reward awaits them with their Lord and no fear shall be on them and neither will they have sorrow.” Qur’an 2:62

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