Monday, 10 August 2009

islam awareness week

today marks the beginning of islam awareness week. a pretty hectic week for muslims across the country as they put on a whole range of activities, culminating in mosque open days in the coming weekend.

unbeknownst to me, i've already taken part in IAW by being part of a feature in the focus section of the sunday star times. they did a nice piece promoting "the crescent moon", a book about muslims in nz. the piece is not on-line (or if it is, i can't find it). basically it's an extract from book, focusing on 3 muslim women.

tonight, i attended the first of the events in hamilton, being a function at the hamilton city council reception lounge. we heard from dr douglas pratt, who teaches religious studies and is very active in international interfaith activities.

he mentioned this website, "a common word":

On October 13th 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address of September 13th 2006, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. In their Open Letter to the Pope (see english.pdf), for the first time in recent history, Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam spoke with one voice about the true teachings of Islam.

since then, many other muslim scholars have signed up, and many christian and jewish individuals and organisations have responded. dr pratt pointed out the interesting thing about the open letter was that it didn't refer to the usual common meeting point of Abraham, but rather sought to find commonality through scripture.

i haven't had time to read all the responses, but really liked this bit from the communique of the chief rabbis of israel and the archbishop of canterbury:

"In this connection, we noted the recent letter from Muslim scholars and religious leaders to the Christian Churches. The 'Common Word', though addressed to Christian Churches, also makes clear its respect for Hebrew scripture in citing directly from the Book of Deuteronomy and in acknowledging the inspiration that this provided for their understanding of the Quranic teachings on the unity and love of God and of neighbour. In promoting these values we commit ourselves and encourage all religious leaders to ensure that no materials are disseminated by our communities that work against this vision.

it doesn't seem so hard to build commonality and to find common ground. i wonder why it doesn't happen more often.

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