MPAC President Speaks at Interfaith Festival of Unity

July 31, 2014

"When Muhammad established Medina, he turned the many tribes there into an interfaith community under one social contract," said MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati at the IMAN Center's Interfaith Iftar in Los Angeles over the weekend. Al-Marayati was honored to join a panel of diverse rabbis, Christian clergy, and Muslim community organizers.

"Interfaith relations isn't a new idea," said Al-Marayati. "It started with God when the human race was created. When you believe in one God you must believe in one human family. We are diverse and He created us this way so we can come to know one another — not just tolerate one another."

He also added in his opening remarks that the general purpose of religion is to create a virtuous person and to serve humanity. However, nowadays, religion has become a dogma and is no longer about service. It instead becomes about establishing the supremacy of a few over others.

The question arose on how we should address the growing number of atrocities and bloodshed overseas. How do we entertain this reality with our belief that our religions are rooted in universal, moral principles? Religious nationalism, sectarianism, secularism, occupation, and more entered the conversation. It was constructive to find that even in the panelists’ dynamic points of view was their conscious consideration for respectful disagreement.

Al-Marayati focused on two of the tragedies in our modern era: The puritanical religious and violent conquest of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), as well as Israel's assault on Gaza and decades long occupation of Palestine. Al-Marayati recently published an op-ed on CNN Belief Blog called “President Obama’s Ramadan Slap at Muslims” regarding President Obama's shortcomings in dealing with the conflict.

Al-Marayati stated, “ISIS is anything but Islamic. They are killing Muslims, Christians, everyone who doesn’t pledge allegiance to them. Yet Prophet Muhammad established Medina which was unprecedented in Arabia. A state where both Muslims and Jews had equal rights, including the right to practice and govern their own according to their own religious law. How can you call anything an Islamic State without looking at how it measures up to the first Islamic State in the history of mankind, Medina?”

In the end, the message was clear: Interfaith relations are important. We need to understand each other at the theological and social level to eliminate misconceptions and foster unity. However, this is the first step towards interfaith partners standing alongside one another, not just in spirit but through consistent action, to bring an end to the oppressive occupations and violent dictatorships running rampant in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

The next step for interfaith is for all faiths to attest and stand for the truth, even when it may be unpopular and against people of their own faith.

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