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Resources to Support Muslim Neighbors

Introduction by Rev. Manda Adams

In 2002, I got a job with the Public Conversations Project (PCP), a dialogue organization in Boston, MA. It was a year after 9/11, and every day on my way to work, I walked past a store with a sign that had been covered in American flag stickers. When you got close, you could read that the flag stickers were covering the words “Middle Eastern Foods.” I don’t know whether the store owners or a vandal had placed the stickers there. But as a young 20-something, it was the beginning of my realization that I had very little understanding of the Islamic faith, and no relationships with Muslim people. Through PCP, I was able to participate in the Islam Project, which aimed to educate and foster relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims.

With people of goodwill everywhere, including the vast majority of Muslims, I condemn the actions of terrorists on 9/11, and at the Boston Marathon in 2013, and in San Bernardino, CA earlier this month. Not to mention the ongoing actions of ISIS/ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria, France, and other places around the globe. There is no excuse for killing and terrorizing others in the name of religion. But just as I do not condemn all white people (myself included) for the murder and terror inflicted on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, or for the racist killings of worshipers in Charleston, I also do not condemn the Muslim population for the actions of those who misuse the Islamic faith and scriptures for their own violent means.

Six years ago, I reached out to a guy I’d met through mutual friends. I was teaching confirmation in my UCC church in Fort Worth, TX, and I was looking for a Muslim person who would come speak to my youth group about Islam and be open to their questions. I met Syed Rehman for coffee to talk about his visit to the church, and I was immediately taken by this handsome guy who had read many of my favorite Christian theologians!

Syed is the best “pastor’s wife” one could hope for. He loves the church right along with me, and he makes me a better pastor. His family has welcomed and loved me as their own, and my family has done the same with him. But my relationship with Syed is not the sole reason that I stand by Muslims and believe that we are called to build bridges of understanding and peace between our communities. It’s because I have been blessed and loved and cared for by Muslims throughout my life. From a childhood friend’s mother, to coworkers, to healthcare providers, to friends and family, Muslim people have brought richness and joy to my life and my faith.

When I read anti-Muslim statements and see the harassment that Muslims face in schools and in mosques and in restaurants and other public places, I fear for the safety of my friends, family, and colleagues. I also fear for our country, which prides itself on welcoming people of all faiths and no faith. 

I am not the only UCC pastor who is married to a Muslim. As a member of the UCC, I believe that the best of Christian tradition is very much in keeping with the best of Muslim tradition. My relationship with Syed bears that out. I believe that Jesus calls us to love one another - especially those we think we have the least in common with. In my own journey, I realized I needed to begin to learn about and get to know Muslims in order to better understand their faith. I hope these resources from the NY Conference will help you do the same.

Syed tells a story of when he was a young boy in Pakistan. He says, “When I was ten or eleven one day I was playing in our front yard with some friends. And as kids do, we were playing some version of good guys and bad guys, but in this instance we were making fun of some Hindu Gods and making them the bad guys. My mom heard this and decided that this was going to be a teaching opportunity. So she gathered us all around and asked us what we were doing. And we proudly told her that we were making fun of Hindu Gods because they are inferior to our God. She asked us if we knew how many prophets God had sent to earth? And all self-respecting ten year old Muslim kids know the answer to this question without even thinking- 124,000.  So she then asked us if we knew the names of all 124,000 prophets. We all looked at each other and said 'no' because at best I knew five or six. She then asked us, 'Do you know for sure that none of these 124,000 was one of the Hindu Gods?' She then told us that we should be respectful of other religions and their significant members.”

Finally, I want to share these words of the Sufi poet Rumi:

Work in the invisible world
At least as hard as you do in the visible.
Be a companion with the prophets,
Invisibly, so that no one knows.
You can’t imagine what profit will come!
When one of those generous ones invites you into his fire,
Go quickly!
Don’t say, “But will it burn me? Will it hurt?”
Rise! Move around the center as pilgrims wind the Kaaba.
Being still is how one clay clod sticks to another in sleep,
While movement wakes us up and unlocks new blessings.

 

Rev. Manda Adams, New York Conference Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

 

Suggestions by Muslims on How Non-Muslims Can Support Them

"As a Muslim, My Heart Freezes with Fear" by Manal Omar

"Dear Non-Muslim Allies" by Sofia Ali-Khan

 

NY Conference Clergy

Manda Adams and Heather Ramsey-Mabrouk are both ordained UCC ministers in the Western Association. Both are married to Muslims, and both pastors/couples are available as resources or speakers

Rev. Manda Adams: mandaucc@gmail.com

Rev. Heather Ramsey-Mabrouk: pastor@saintjamesucc.com

 

Books about Islamic History and Beliefs

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan

The Qur’an (Koran)

“Living by the Qur’an,” an interview with Islam scholar Jonathan Brown by Amy Frykholm for The Christian Century

The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary

“This scholarly yet accessible translation and commentary lets readers quickly and easily explore how Muslims have interpreted the Quran through the centuries to the present day.” An article about this translation from a Catholic can be found at http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/studying-quran-catholic-ii

 

Qur'anic Verses of Peace

"If anyone murders an innocent person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity.” Quran 5:32

God says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error." Quran 2:256

“God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just.” (Surat al-Mumtahana, 8)

“We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” (Surat al-Ma’ida, 48)

Prophetic Narrations

"The best among you are those who have the best manners and character." - Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

"Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God." (Bukhari)

"He who hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state, I am his adversary, and I shall be his adversary on the Day of a Judgement." (Bukhari)

"Beware on the Day of Judgement; I shall myself be complainant against him who wrongs a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state or lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear or deprives him of anything that belongs to him." (Al-Mawardi)

"Anyone who kills a Non-Muslim who had become our ally will not smell the fragrance of Paradise." (Bukhari)

Islam and Peacemaking

http://abrahamicfaithspeacemaking.com/education/islam-peacemaking/

 

Adopt-a-Mosque

Adopt-a-Mosque is dedicated to the idea that people get to know each other far better when they do such things as breaking bread together and sharing stories; exploring the role of art and culture in each other’s faith traditions; and other interface and interfaith ventures than they do merely by reading newspapers, watching television, tweeting, exchanging emails and writing social media posts. This new initiative has been glowingly received and endorsed by many Muslim and Christian individuals, churches, mosques and organizations. Our hope is that it will spread to other areas in the New York Conference. We are grateful for the statement of peace issued by the New York Conference and the RCA. And we are grateful for the efforts of many churches and individuals that preceded the statement and are further inspired by it.

Please visit adopt-a-mosque.org for additional information and suggestions; and please add your comments and questions to the initiative.

5575 Thompson Rd. • DeWitt, NY 13214 • 315-446-3073 • Fax: 315-446-3076 • office@uccny.org