My Word: Respectfully agree to disagree
(Orlando Sentinel, June 01, 2011)
By Hatim Hamidullah
As a Muslim imam, I greatly appreciated Leonard Pitts’ comments concerning the furor caused when Muslims applied to build a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (“Band of bigots lives in a place beyond reason,” Sentinel, Thursday). It’s a sad story.
Unfortunately, however, interfaith tensions and misunderstandings have existed for milennia. And, tragically, most faiths — if not all — have been the recipients and the dispensers of bigotry and violence. There’s plenty of guilt to go around. But there are alternatives.
For several years, I have served on the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. There I have become friends with a diverse group whose spiritual allegiances range from Buddhist to Christian (both Catholic and Protestant), Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh.
We definitely have different explanations for life’s ultimate realities. And we’re all proud of and committed to our own spiritual heritage. We also recognize that we can’t all be right. So we agree to disagree. But we do it as friends. We respect each other.
Whatever religious labels we may wear, we seek to celebrate our shared humanity. We recognize our common need to strive toward ever-higher moral and social ideals. We realize that at the core of our being, the differences aren’t as great as they might appear when viewed only superficially.
Regardless of our ethnicity or religion, we all have hopes and aspirations. We all fall in love. We all laugh. We all cry. We all bleed when cut. Our similarities far outweigh our differences. And when we take time to become acquainted with those of other faiths, suspicion and hostility usually give way to understanding, respect and friendship.
A core value of every major world religion is some form of the Golden Rule — the responsibility to treat others as we would want to be treated. Every religion has adherents who live out that value. And every religion has adherents whose behavior is so far from that value that they’re an embarrassment to the mainstream of their faith.
The Interfaith Council’s position is that candid, rational discussion of our spiritual differences is appropriate. Beliefs should be able to stand up to investigation and analysis. But some forgo discussion, engaging instead in intense verbal denigration of religious groups with whom they disagree, even staging ritual desecration of things considered holy by other faiths.
Whatever our religion, when we hurl invective, destroy or deface property, deliberately desecrate things considered sacred by others, or physically assault, maim or kill those with whom we disagree, we’re violating the spirit and ideals of every major religion — especially when we do it in the name of religion.
Hatim Hamidullah is the imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Orlando and a member of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.