Interfaith Panelists Explore Ramifications of Intolerance

August 14, 2013

Last week, the IMAN Cultural Center held its 4th Annual Festival of Interfaith Unity in cooperation with local interfaith leaders of Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) in order to exchange different faith-based communities’ viewpoints on their common issues and to promote coexisting in an atmosphere of sincerity and peace.

The event, which was packed to capacity with a diverse crowd of more than 500 attendees, began with an expert panel discussion and ended with an iftar (fast breaking) party.

The panel consisted of Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC president; Jihad Turk, Dean of Bayan Claremont; Dr. Amirhassan Boozari, a UCLA Law professor and an IMAN board member; Rabbi Allen Maller, President of the National Jewish Hospitality Committee; Rabbi Sarah Bassin and Aziza Hasan from NewGround- A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change; Dr. Ari Babaknia, a representative of the Iranian-Jewish community; Father Alexi Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese and president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California; and Bishop Steve Gilliland, Director of Muslim Relations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In addition to the panelists, the event was also attended by three distinguished guests: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), LA County Sheriff Leroy Baca and Los Angeles FBI Assistant Director Bill Lewis.

During the panel, a great discussion formed around the meaning of tolerance and each religion's approach toward it, the roots for intolerance and violence, Islamophobia, and the propensity to attach Muslims to terrorism as compared to other religions in American society.

The panelists started off by proposing the idea that  what you don’t say counts. They unanimously emphasized the need for taking steps toward eradicating negative social phenomena such as xenophobia and racism by the help of all minority communities.

They all referred to the vital importance of tolerance in all divine religions, quoting verses of Holy Scriptures that talk about diversity as God’s will and blessing.

Pointing out the fact that violence is rooted in the long process of dehumanization of whoever we consider as “the other," the panelists emphasized the significance role of interfaith dialogue as the best way to get to know the “other” and to bridge the gap and start humanizing one another.

They also stressed that extremist terrorist operations such as suicide bombs, which are often attached to a specific religion such as Islam, have nothing to do with the faith and mostly are part of a cult perpetuated by the aforementioned dehumanization phenomenon.

In conclusion, Al-Maryati emphasized the importance of healthy integration for a Western pluralistic society. This would result in good not only for America but for the whole world.

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