MPAC & ISNA Meet with Iranian President to Discuss Crisis in Syria & End to Sectarian Divide

September 26, 2013

On Tuesday afternoon in New York, a group of more than 30 American Muslim leaders met with Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the newly elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Among the leaders present were Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America. The leaders discussed areas of concern for American Muslims in particular, including the crisis in Syria and growing sectarian tensions worldwide.

SEE: “Iran's New President Preaches Tolerance in First UN Appearance” (New York Times)

Dr. Sayyid Syeed of ISNA opened the meeting speaking about the 50 years of successful Muslim American institutional building that the leaders in the room represented. Syeed congratulated President Rouhani, and thanked him for his commitment to dialogue, while emphasizing the extensive interfaith and social justice activities of the American Muslim community.

Al-Marayati and Magid spoke about the growing concern about the atrocities in Syria, and raised the issue of Iran’s role in this turmoil. MPAC and ISNA delivered a joint letter to the Iranian president calling on Rouhani to work toward an end to the atrocities and conflict in Syria, and a post-al-Assad Syria. It also stresses the need for leadership to promote sectarian unity globally to counter divisions and violence on the rise.

ALSO SEE: Letter to President Rouhani from MPAC & ISNA (

In addition to the four points related to Syria, the letter also calls for a legal process to be clearly outlined for the release of political prisoners in Iran, such as Amir Hekmati, an American Marine who has been held in in Iran for more than two years.

Regarding sectarian violence, the Muslim leadership at the meeting spoke about the need for cooperation and a commitment to work together under the tenants of MPAC’s “Intra-faith Code of Honor,” launched in 2007 by MPAC to address the increasing sectarian violence abroad and, most importantly, ensure that American Muslim communities are not divided or infected by international events, and ISNA’s recent “Washington Declaration For the Protection of Nations and Societies from the Menace of Sectarian Violence."

To date, the Code has been adopted by more than 50 major American Muslim Sunni and Shia leaders including Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi of the Fiqh Council of North America, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Dr. Pervez Shah and Sh. Ahmad Saleh of the Universal Muslim Association of America, Ghalib V. Begg of the Michigan Muslim Community Council and Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University.

It reads, in part:

"As Muslim Americans who live and struggle together in harmony and cohesion, and who agree that the challenges of the future should supersede the problems of the past, we are eager to offer any help and join hands with all those who wish well for our Ummah (community) toward stopping this vicious cycle of violence in the Middle East, which is abhorrent to all Islamic values and principles."

Since of these two documents, MPAC and ISNA have worked together to bring leaders from American Shia and Sunni organizations together in a series of meetings to sign the “Code of Honor," agree upon the tenants of "The Washington Declaration and strategize on intra-faith relations.

At Tuesday’s meeting, President Rouhani responded to the discussion by referring to the challenges posed by faith being part of the public square and debate. There are those who oppose religion, and there are those within religion that attempt to radicalize it, he said. He mentioned both radicalization and foreign intervention as key challenges in the Middle East.

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