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CURRENT ISSUE:  November 19, 2007
VOL. 45, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
U.S. bishops address ‘failures in Iraq’
U.S. bishops issue statement to help
form consciences for political life

Veterans share their experiences,
are honored at St. Michael School
Islamic Studies Center dedicated at Graduate Theological Union

Theologian Hans Kung often emphasized that there will never be peace in the world unless there is peace among religions. Maboob Khan, a Sufi Muslim and imam at Oakland’s Masjid Al-Iman Mosque, brought that conviction into the spotlight during Nov. 5 ceremonies marking the dedication of the new Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Khan emphasized the need for dialogue in both interfaith (different religions) and intrafaith (same faith, different points of view) settings.

Five years in the making, the center hopes to build an academic base to help scholars and students of every faith understand Islam as a living world religion, and to tap into the common moral ground that exists within all of humanity, said Holy Cross Sister Marianne Farina, professor at the GTU’s Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology and a faculty member at the new center. She wrote her dissertation at Boston College on the moral teachings of Thomas Aquinas, a 13th Catholic theologian, and Hamid al-Ghazali, a 12th Century Muslim scholar.

As part of the dedication festivities, a panel of Muslim scholars discussed the importance of mutual understanding.

“As a Sufi Muslim, I must sit down and listen to people instead of preaching,” said Khan. But dialogue cannot begin until politics are removed from the conversation, he emphasized, citing the differences between contemporary Sunnis and Shiites and the necessity of bringing them together to celebrate instead of warring against one another.

Ameena Jandali, a founding member of the Islamic Networks Group in San Jose, spoke about the group’s goal to break down Muslim stereotypes. Referring to the Qur’an, Islam’s Holy Book of teachings, Jandali said Muslims believe that “diversity of religions is part of creation. It is God’s will.”

She said Muslims also believe that no nation is superior to another. God created different nations and people so that they can understand one another, she said. “If we looked and believed the same, we would be a boring people. Diversity is essential for our growth.”

In her concluding remarks, she emphasized that tolerance is the keynote of Islam, but that within some elements of Islam today that virtue “has been lost in immaturity and politics.”

Another speaker, Ali Sheikholeslami, a founder of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, located in Oakland, likened the various perspectives of world religions to “the reflection of lights on different kinds of walls.”

The bottom line for both interfaith and intrafaith dialogue, he said, is learning how to come to the common good together so that people can unite to take on the problems of poverty, global warming, racism and social injustice.

The new Center for Islamic Studies is offering introductory and advanced classes in Islamic history, theology, philosophy, culture, arts and religious practice. It is also sponsoring conferences, workshops and research projects to build bridges of understanding across religions and cultures and to foster scholarly exchange.

In addition to Sister Marianne Farina, the faculty includes Munir Jiwa, assistant professor of Islamic Studies at GTU and founding director of the center, and Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje, professor of cultural studies/Islamic studies at Starr King School for the Ministry.

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