Baptist and Muslim leaders believe interfaith engagement offers hope for a better future, even as negative rhetoric heightens tension for U.S. Muslims as the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches.
“As an academician who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the effects of 9/11 on a Muslim community, as an imam who serves a congregation of 2,000 people, as a professor of Islamic studies, and as an activist in both the Muslim and interfaith community, I should tell you scholastically and statistically that the hate crime against the Muslim community has increased significantly in the last two years as compared to the aftermath of 9/11,” Imad Enchassi, imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told EthicsDaily.com.
“This is mainly due to the hate speech spewed out of the mouths of many politicians,” he explained.
“I should also tell you that our community has never felt more scared, worried or concerned for their safety than it has during this period,” Enchassi continued. “However, I would rather tell you that the politics of fear-mongering has created an unprecedented solidarity between people of all faiths, in particular to the Abrahamic traditions.”
He cited a few positive examples: the interfaith community welcoming their mosque to the city; “standing in solidarity against hate speech;” and walking with Muslim leaders from the parking lot to the capital for a “Muslims at the State Capital” event when protesters showed up holding anti-Muslim signs.
Enchassi was an interviewee in “Different Books, Common Word,” EthicsDaily.com’s documentary about Baptists and Muslims.
In the film, he expressed appreciation for the support of a local Baptist church, as well as others in the community, following the 9/11 attacks.
“Baptists and Christians in general … are compelled to pursue healing between us and Muslims in light of 9/11,” Sam Tolbert, another documentary interviewee, told EthicsDaily.com.
He is pastor of Greater Saint Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and president of both the North American Baptist Fellowship and the National Baptist Convention of America International Inc.
“We have only one planet and our societies, for the sake of peace and co-existence, must discover common ground. We should spend more of our time focused on what we agree on and less of our time focused on what we disagree on.”
Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, was also featured in “Different Books, Common Word.”
Reflecting on the past 15 years, Randall told EthicsDaily.com that he, too, finds hope in interfaith relationships that have been formed and fostered since 9/11.
“Friendships between Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith have set into motion a divine possibility where true peace can persist. If people of faith can unite behind this transcendent peace that surpasses human understanding, then the world will begin to take notice of our witness,” he said.
Randall added, “We hopefully have discovered a common bond that stretches over ethnicities, cultures and religions as we seek to discover a peaceful existence in a post-9/11 world. … Love wins when people of faith acknowledge the humanity of the other and live as though every life has worth.”