7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News


BAHRAIN could have an important role to play in bridging the gap between the West and Islamic world and promoting religious tolerance, says a top New-York Imam.

American Feisal Abdul Rauf said Bahrain offered a good example of religious tolerance and cultural understanding because of its location in the Middle East, its Sunni and Shi'ite population, large expatriate community and religious freedom.

"Bahrain is already a bridge but we need to put more traffic on it," he told a group of religious experts representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism, at the majlis of Gulf Council for Foreign Relations chairman Dr Mansoor Al Arayedh in Segaiya.

"How many Americans know Bahrain has a US naval base and a Christian and Jewish community and that Bahraini Ambassador to the US Huda Nonoo is Jewish?

"How many Muslims know there is a sizeable community of Shi'ites in Bahrain? So we need to be more proactive in educating Muslims."

Imam Feisal was in the country as part of a US government-sponsored trip to Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar to discuss Muslim life in America and religious tolerance.

He told religious leaders in Bahrain that the most important conflicts in the world were between the children of Abraham, whether the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or the US/Iran conflict and the challenge for them was how they could play a role in bringing peace.

"We are Christians, Jews and Muslims, but one of our faults is instead of worshipping God, we worship our religion and use that to cause division between us," said Imam Feisal.

"The sense of brotherhood and unity that the prophets had for each other as servants of the true God is the primary lesson we should all learn.

"The demand is on us (Muslims) to feel a special brotherhood with the Christian and Jewish faiths and certainly our own.

"We shouldn't see differences, but see the differences that unite us and are part of one theme.

"It's time we also saw that if we followed the laws of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed they were not opposed to each other."

Imam Feisal said most Western universities had departments of Islamic studies but departments of Christian or Jewish studies were rarely seen in this part of the world.

He said it was important for those in the Islamic world to study the history and culture of Christianity and Judaism.

On politics and religion, Imam Feisal said the Islamic world was facing tension between the mosque and state, just as the West had between the church and state centuries ago.

"We need to find a way to infuse our religious practices in politics without politicising our religion," he said.

Imam Feisal is in the Middle East, hot on the heels of criticism behind plans for an Islamic centre in New York.

The proposed location is two blocks from the gaping Ground Zero hole, where the Twin Towers were destroyed by Al Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Opponents to the proposed mosque protested in their hundreds in New York on Sunday.

Imam Feisal said he thought the attention generated by the project was positive and hoped it would bring greater understanding.

He added that if there was a proposal to build a church and synagogue alongside the mosque it would be accepted by Muslims and that he would pray for such a project.

He left Bahrain for Qatar yesterday where he will remain for three days, followed by another three days in the UAE before returning to the US.

He was born in Kuwait and educated in the US, Egypt and Malaysia.

[email protected]

click on image to view the digital edition