A prominent American Muslim leader has urged for a sustained inter-faith dialogue effort towards fostering mutual understanding, peace and socio-economic development in the post-9/11 world, riddled with wars and violent extremism.
Frank Islam, a leading entrepreneur and philanthropist, was speaking at premiere screening of acclaimed Pakistani scholar Akbar S Ahmed’s play Noor, which focuses on implications of conflict between forces of moderation and extremism within the Muslim societies and the United States’ strained relationship with some Muslim countries.
Islam argued that the world leadership should proceed with the realisation that it is dialogue that builds mutual trust and that the bonds that unite humanity are “stronger than the differences that drive us apart”.
Applauding the production of the play Noor, Islam said the endeavour provides a first step towards the dialogue process at multiple levels.
“We must begin the dialogue now,” Islam said at Montgomery College Germantown Campus under the banner of Athenaeum Symposia 2014 series.
“It will also create a common cause, common ground and a common communion to strengthen our bonds with other faiths,” he added.
Within the Muslim world, Frank Islam called for collective efforts to curb extremism, achieve peace, and send a strong message that Islam stands for equality, dignity, tolerance and respect for other faiths. He said forces of parochialism did not represent Islam.
Emphasizing Islam’s spirit of tolerance, he cited the example of rights and protection the minorities including the Christians and the Jews had in the Muslim societies from the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the Ottoman Empire, Spain and the Mughal Empire in India.
Frank Islam, who embodies realisation of the American dream as an immigrant of Indian origin, said he has prospered in the United States because of its openness and inclusiveness. At the same time, he acknowledged the fact that the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This is not who we are. We need to show a different face of America that is kinder and ready to engage 1.4 billion Muslims, ready to work with them, to promote trade, build prosperity, to help them become entrepreneurs and help create environment for them to prosper.”
An interesting discussion followed the screening of the play, directed by Manjula Kumar, as students sought understanding of the issues the intense drama deals with.
American University Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies Dr Akbar Ahmed explained some aspects of the drama which have been variously described as being provocative, enlightening, controversial and a paean for inter-faith tolerance.
The play has been staged in Washington DC and more performances have been planned at venues outside of the United States including Pakistan and India.
Speakers including Fank Islam, Prof Joan Murray Naake, Director of the Athenaeum Symposia and Provost Sanjay Rai praised performance of the diverse cast that includes Pakistani, Indian, Afghan and American actors.