Ground Zero mosque imam stresses need for interfaith dialogue

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is key proponent of controversial Ground Zero Mosque.

Last Updated: Sep 02, 2010, 14:52 PM IST

Dubai: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the main proponent of the controversial `Ground Zero Mosque`, has said that the key to cultural progress and religious acceptance is interfaith dialogue.

"We are Christians and Muslims, but one of our faults is instead of worshipping God, we worship our religion and use that to cause division between us. The demand is on us (Muslims) to feel a special brotherhood with the Christian and Jewish faiths and certainly our own. It is time to accept that the Laws of Moses, Jesus and Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) were never opposed to each other," Rauf said.

Rauf was addressing a talk on `Religious Tolerance and Muslim Life in America`. He also described tolerance for diversity, religious understanding, bridge-building and moderation as key to cultural progress.

Rauf is the main developer of the controversial Islamic Centre. The latest poll shows that 70 percent of people in New York state are against building the mosque so close to the World Trade Centre, which was attacked by terrorists on 9/11.

"The sense of brotherhood and unity that the prophets had for each other as servants of the true God is the primary lesson we should all learn," he added.

Rauf is the founder and CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society) has said.

During his talk, Feisal discussed the need to promote healthy dialogue and understanding between Muslims and the West. He also described the reality of Islamic life and freedom of worship in the US.

He added: "It is important to raise awareness and disseminate knowledge to minimise misconceptions or prejudice. For this purpose, it is important to augment the avenues for studying Christian or Jewish culture in the Middle Eastern universities, which is in stark contrast to the universities in the West, many of which offer courses in Islamic studies."

The imam is on an outreach trip spanning key countries in the Middle East organised by the US State Department.

Justin Siberell, the US Counsel-General in Dubai, as well as officials from the Consulate and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, were present at the lecture.

Tarik Yousef, Dean of the Dubai School of Government, said: "The need for tolerance and religious understanding is greater now than ever before. There are those who would drive the world toward a `clash of civilisations` scenario, but the vast majority of people in both the Islamic and Western worlds seek a peaceful world based on mutual respect."

Rauf is the imam of Masjid Al-Farah, a mosque in New York City. He has dedicated his life to building bridges between Muslims and the West and is a leader in the effort to foster religious pluralism and integrate Islam into the contemporary American society.

PTI