There’s a perception among some people in American society that Muslims are the enemy, and the story in the November 28 edition of the Chicago Tribune about Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s attempt to blow up a crowd of people in Oregon will only add more fuel to the fire.
The truth is that the Islamic religion is the most popular single denomination in the world, and the overwhelming majority of its followers are non-violent people.
On the night before Thanksgiving, I attended the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Unitarian Church on Ridge Avenue. The featured speaker was Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. In addition to being a leader in the Chicago Muslim community, he is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, an organization that was founded in 1893. The parliament was the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths, and it turned out to be one of the most popular exhibits at the Columbian Exposition.
Part of his message was that you can’t bomb your way to peace, a lesson that we should have learned from “Operation Rolling Thunder” in Vietnam, but he closed with a variation of the well known phrase “E pluribus Unum”, which means “out of many, One”.
After his address, the gathering received blessings from representatives from seven different religious backgrounds. Father Bill Tkachuk (of St. Nicholas Catholic Church) delivered part of his blessing in Spanish, and Rabbi Andrea London’s blessing was delivered partially in Hebrew. The blessing that REALLY sent shivers down my spine, though, was the blessing that was sung in Arabic by Tahera Ahmad, the associate chaplain at Northwestern University, since it was absolutely gorgeous.
The Baha’i Temple in Wilmette pays homage to the nine major religions of the world on the nine-sided columns that surround the building, which is precisely what the Parliament of World’s Religions attempts to do. The Baha’i chorus, along with the Unitarian chorus, provided music for the event, and Reverend Barbara Pescan, the leader of the Unitarian Church, provided the closing prayer.
I’m the only Christian that I know who has actually read the Koran, and I found it surprisingly familiar. Like the Jewish and Christian faiths, Islam is considered an “Abrahamic religion”, which means that the majority of the people in the word have a lot more common than they previously might have suspected.
Next Thanksgiving, I’d recommend attending the next Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.
You’ll be glad that you went.