Does supporting Islamic Communities defeat Violence?
Our intolerance might be radical extremisms best friend.
The Muslim Dar-us-Salaam community of College Park, Maryland has sought to replace a facility they have outgrown by building on the rural Howard County 66 acre site that was formerly home to the Woodmont Catholic School. The project application is being challenged. Is it just another zoning challenge fighting growth in rural counties – or is it another anti-Islamic movement in disguise? Hundreds of local residents have come together and hired an attorney to seek to block the proposed reapplication of the land, citing zoning limits and the impact on the rustic nature of the area. Sound familiar?
Let’s forget about this zoning application’s proposed details. Let’s forget about similar land use debates in Murfreesboro Tennessee, Brooklyn New York, Willowbrook Illinois, and Los Angeles California. It might help to try to get down to one question; what is really at the heart of the difference between a Muslim community and a Roman Catholic community? Or maybe better yet, what are the similarities between a Muslim community and a Roman Catholic community?
But first, let’s ask what would be different if this was an application for a larger Roman Catholic School or a Monastery? The official community response in Howard County is that nothing would be different. Ok maybe for some, but some in the community also suggest that there might be bigger issues at the heart of this for many.
There is an ancient story of a group of Muslim’s in flight from persecution who found refuge in a desert Christian church. This group of followers of Mohammad was being pursued by a rival tribe seeking to return them to Mecca for judgment, upon locating the rivals they came before the prelate of the church seeking to have these refugees turned over to them. The Prelate asked for Mohammed’s followers to explain their faith and why they should receive sanctuary. The refugees told the Quran account of the Virgin Mary’s birth of Jesus…It is said that the prelate wept from the touching account’s similarity to his own Gospel and ruled that these people should be free from persecution and sent their pursuers away.
As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech, it appears tolerance of difference is still an issue! I took the opportunity to ask someone who was here in Washington D.C. 50 years ago about the Woodmont Property issue, this 80 year old African American Roman Catholic Priest, born and raised in Washington D.C. said, “Still today, fear is at the heart of many people’s concerns, fear about differences and fear about terrorism which is linked to large educational centers for Islamic community members.” This conversation quickly moved to tolerance as we spoke about the Civil Right’s Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. he suggested that we as Christians needed to once again take the risk of loving those that we might perceive as being our enemies, and to grow in our tolerance by seeking to find our human common ground.
Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope said, “Let’s remember for that matter that the Lord Jesus conferred upon Peter certain pastoral duties, which consist in preserving the unity of the flock. The Petrine ministry is also a ministry of unity, which is carried out in the field of ecumenism. Peter’s task is to search constantly for ways that will help preserve unity. Therefore he must not create obstacles but must open paths.” I think it is safe to assume he meant, Christians should love our kin in Abrahamic faith eliminating obstacles to unity.
Our Roman Catholic Church teaches us to hope for unity and right practices to build our faith, five of these basic practices include; maintaining true love and faith in our one Abrahamic God, regular Prayer to our Lord at worship, fasting during certain holy occasions, charity in alms giving, and special pilgrimages dedicated to our Holy places. These practices are also the Five Pillars of Islamic Faith, and are at the foundation of Muslim life. The Five Pillars of Islam are known as Shahadah a belief or confession of faith in one God, Salat a worship in the form of prayer, Sawm fasting during Ramadan, Zakat alms or charitable gifts, and Hajj a faith pilgrimage to Mecca.
Maybe the pillars of the Islamic and Christian faiths are not so very different? Possibly, if we truly seek to build on the legacy and Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. we might try to love more, practice greater tolerance and appreciate the similarities we have in common with our brothers and sisters who share the religious principals of our shared Abrahamic Traditions. Christian support of Muslim communities might show the tolerance and love from Christians essential to help that Islamic Community defeat the extremist elements we fear. Maybe we can find that tolerance by looking for our commonalities, not our differences, and then all will know what it means to be Christians by our love.