Sun-Sentinel – December 19, 2005
FL: Different faith groups share meal,
beliefs at Muslim center
Sitting across from a candlelit table Sunday night, Afsar Khan, a Muslim, and Janet Bleshman, a Jew, looked for common ground.
"We are so similar," Bleshman, of Boynton Beach, told Khan, of West Palm Beach, as they shared a meal of curry chicken, mixed vegetables and rice.
"Yes, we are all children of Abraham," Khan said.
The two women were among the several hundred people gathered for an interfaith meal at the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County center. The meal was the latest exchange between Muslims, Jews and Christians started more than five years ago to erase stereotypes and develop friendships.
The organizers gave the visitors a tour of the center's mosque, introduced them to their leaders and explained the principles of Islam. They wanted the outsiders to have a newfound respect for their religion in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Since then, people are afraid of us," said Wasi Khan, an organizer. "People have misconceptions of us. They don't know who we are. They don't know how we pray and what we do at our services. We have to change that."
Islam, organizers said, is a peaceful religion that respects all humans and animals.
A group from the Muslim Community center last spring went to a synagogue west of Boynton Beach to celebrate a Passover meal and learn about Judaism. Now, the same group intended to showcase their beliefs and food to Jews and Christians. More exchanges are planned next year.
Although many visitors to the center on Sunday were highly educated and already knew much about Islam, they said face-to-face discussions are essential to breaking down hostilities often common among religions….
New York Times – December 17, 2005
'Three faiths, one God':
Looking for similarities where others see differences
By Anita Gates
Analyzing religion isn't just for the pious anymore. Since the World Trade Center towers were blown away in the name of God four years ago, since the journalist Daniel Pearl and numberless others have been murdered by men and women who seem to believe that heaven will reward their actions, Americans have been forced to acknowledge that religious differences kill, even (or maybe especially) in the 21st century.
Some people believe that basic tolerance of others' religions is the answer. Sam Harris, the author of the current best seller "The End of Faith" (Norton), recommends abolishing all forms of religion. The thought-provoking PBS documentary "Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam" goes in another direction. It sets out to prove that the three world faiths involved in current global conflicts are really one big religion. So let's just call ourselves Abrahamic, shake hands and relax.
For starters, Jews, Christians and Muslims have "remarkably similar notions of the divine," says Karen Armstrong, author of "A History of God." Ms. Armstrong delves into those similarities, as do almost three dozen other experts, from Harvard, Yale and other universities and organizations like the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and the Church of England.
Aside from being monotheistic belief systems that arose in the Middle East, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a great deal in common. There are notable similarities in notions of sacrifice, good works, hospitality, peace, justice, pilgrimage, an afterlife and loving God with all one's heart and soul. All three religions honor the concept of purification by fasting (to some extent), during Ramadan and Lent and on Yom Kippur.
Everyone prays; the only difference is whether the faithful are summoned to do so by a bell, a horn, a gong or a human voice. A Muslim prayer ends with the words "Peace be with you." Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's international director of inter-religious affairs, says of the New Testament, the Torah and the Koran, "In essence, they are the same book."…..