October 18, 2007
Interfaith panel wrestles with troubling texts:<BR>Will the real 'chosen' please rise?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Like other presenters, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, vice president of the Academy of Judaic-Christian and Islamic studies in California and chair of the Shura Council of Southern California, chose to examine a text that dissuaded believers from dealing with people from other faiths: "You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies: they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them - God does not guide such wrongdoers."
(A Jewish version from the Talmud says, "He who conceded to gentiles falls into their hands; and he who trusts them -- what belongs to him will become theirs.")
Siddiqi did not explicitly deal with the more troubling texts in the Quran, used by many terrorists today to justify murder and violence.
He said afterward in an interview that people who quote the Quran to justify murder are "misquoting and abusing" the text, taking it out of context. "There is no text in the Quran that says to kill anyone because he or she has a different belief," Siddiqi said. "There is no coercion in matters of religion: you cannot force people to accept your faith."
The point of the conference, Diamond said, was not to find the fault in other faiths. "We should focus the troubling passages on in our own traditions, not to point out disturbing parts of other traditions."
The hope for the conference was that by examining the problematic passages and their misuse over the centuries - from the Crusades to the Holocaust to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Sept. 11 -- it will effect a change in the way clergy, and then their followers, interpret and act on those texts.
"Interfaith relations have to be more than just touchy-feely," said Rabbi Stewart Vogel, president of the Board of Rabbis. By struggling with difficult issues, people gain a respect for other faiths and that translates into better interfaith relations.
Also, "if you push them to reflect on an issue with a new sensitivity, they will go back to their seminaries," Vogel said, and teach it differently.
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