Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Park51 Imam to Speak on Muslim-Christian Relations

When the former Park51 spokesman visits campus March 1, the planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero that sparked national controversy last fall won’t be on the table for discussion.

Rather, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is coming to the university to lead a conference on the role of religion in American politics as part of a multi-city tour.

The conference — “Religion in American Politics and Society: A Model for Other Countries?” — will feature three panels of religious experts on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each of the speakers will address American attitudes about the relationship between religion and the political and social spheres. They will also comment on how those opinions affect the international community.

A number of distinguished religious figures will be in attendance alongside Rauf, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Rauf specifically plans to articulate his vision for the future of U.S.-Muslim relations at the lecture. He founded the Cordoba Initiative soon after the 9/11 attacks to bridge what he defines as the U.S.-Muslim world divide.

“We believe that America needs a national discourse around Islam, both domestically and internationally, to heal the perceived divide and the voices that are so in discourse between America and the Islamic world. And I think America is ready for it,” Rauf said in a phone interview with The Hoya.

Rauf argued that the United States has reached an important turning point in its relations with the Muslim world, citing President Obama’s welcoming statements to Muslims in the State of the Union address as proof of the American commitment to religious freedom and tolerance.

These words can become action, Rauf said, and the United States can demonstrate its commitment to improving interreligious relations on an international scale through the ongoing Egyptian conflict.

“What we see right now, in Egypt, is a test of Obama’s Cairo speech which he gave in June of 2009, in which he said he wanted a new beginning with the Muslim world,” Rauf said. “And this is a test of how well this administration is able to engage with Islam internationally, and so far I must say the indications are positive.”.

Ultimately, Rauf said that he hopes that students will understand that interfaith dialogue is vital to politics and society.

“I am very optimistic about the future, and I encourage students, for instance at Georgetown, to learn more about and engage more in Muslim-American interactions and to understand a brighter future that hopefully we will eventually reach one day,” Rauf said.

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