The other side: For the mosque

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A leader in interfaith dialogue argues in favor of the Muslim community center near Ground Zero as a way of promoting understanding.

By Guest Blogger Meg Funk, O.S.B. 

Opposition to dialogue is based in fear. This undifferentiated anxiety and dread can be replaced with courage and confidence.

This is why I say "Yes" to the building of an Islamic Center in Manhattan. It will be a public forum for all of us. We need a voice from Islam that is wise, current, and compassionate, which is what the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero would be. This is essential for all of us to make sense of our whirling world.

Ever since I wrote the book Islam Is, I continue to get mail, mostly from Catholics who are afraid that Islam will harm our American way of life. The keen interest in the Muslim religion deserves a response from those who practice it and can share their experience. I've met devout and disciplined Muslims who, like us, practice the monastic way of life. Instead of having a separate way of life that protects their time and obligations, though, they keep up with all their family and civic responsibilities living in the world. Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan, which always makes me take up my lent practices with more zeal because of their good example.

The fear of Islam is thanks to the conflating of fundamentalism and radical extreme views that certainly are in every religion. What people know is that the number of Muslims worldwide is growing--second only to Christianity, but already there are more adherents to Islam than to Catholicism. What some people seem to reject is that Muslims worship the same God and stand on the same planet Earth as Christians. We have differences, but they need not divide us.

Recently, I have been slowly reading my Bible starting with Genesis and going page-by-page straight through. I am now on the Second Book of Kings and it has taken me a whole year to get this far. What is remarkable for me to witness is that Jewish-Christian scripture is culturally conditioned as much or more than the Koran. We have no argument against violence in our past, at least not in the last 5,000 years of our Biblical memory.

When I visited Ground Zero some 8 years ago I found much peace at the little Catholic Church. I lingered there and prayed for all who lost loved ones and for our country that needs to assess our responsibilities to those who have less than we do, be it material goods or peace of mind.

This center will be good for the Muslims who are just finding their voice in America, who come from many traditions, ethnic cultures, and economic classes. We can invite Muslims to be visible and at the table of dialogue with this new Muslim center.


Guest Blogger Meg Funk, O.S.B is an experienced participant in interfaith dialogue and author of Islam Is. U.S. Catholic interviewed her in Stay the course. Her website is megfunk.com.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.