A group of Muslims and Christians came together to better understand each other at the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood Thursday night.
A group of Muslims and Christians came together to better understand each other at the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood Thursday night and agreed that more understanding, patience and kindness is need among the religious groups.
Called “A Path Towards Meaningful Christian-Muslim Relationships,” the event was led by preacher and author Dr. Josh Graves in partnership with the Faith & Culture Center. The event featured a panel of people of both religions who talked about their experience with stereotypes, as well as similarities between the two faiths.
Panelists included FCC President and founder Daoud Abudiab, a veteran healthcare executive with more than 20 years of physician group management experience; Sarah Imran, a Pakistani graduate student at Vanderbilt University; Brooke Baker, director of programs at FCC; and Abdou Kattih, a member of the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro who has worked on Islamic issues since moving here in 1997.
“The stereotype of a Muslim male to be suspicious of can be found in cartoonish caricatures, the one with sinister eyes, a headdress, rubbing his hands together asking where he can get a pick up truck and home made bomb,” Graves said. “Most of this is about fear. It’s about fear based on stereotypes that have been projected and dictate who you can trust.”
Abudiab, who is Muslim and married the Christian daughter of a Methodist pastor, said the diversity in America is what makes him feel connected with a community.
“In fact for three years when I lived in Madison, Alabama, my parents were here as well as 12 other families that were connected,” Abudiab said. “It seemed wonderful for the first few months but then I felt suffocated. My world all of a sudden was shrinking and I couldn’t take it anymore. It just didn’t feel like community to me. Community looks a lot more like the group here tonight.”
In 2008, an Islamic Center in Columbia that Abudiab founded was firebombed. The community around him, including from the Hispanic community, the African American community, and “even the perfectly good white, Christian people,” came to his aid to help rebuilt the center.
“These were people who embodied God, in a way,” Abudiab said. “They were people who have the presence of God, regardless of what they subscribe to.”
Imran said being originally from Pakistan and growing up in a Muslim region was a formative experience for her. At age 13, a devastating earthquake destroyed her community.
“After that I started volunteering at orphanages, volunteer at organizations for women,” she said. “It’s been a spiritual journey since graduating from college. My love for serving other people has grown stronger from the values that Islam teaches me.”
At one point, Imran said she began to question her faith.
“I wondered if I am just a cultural byproduct, that just by chance I was born into a Muslim family and I’m Muslim,” she said. “I began to ask myself, why do I pray? Why do I do these things? That’s when I started really studying the Koran for the first time, and I fell in love with its content, what it stood for, what it asked of me.”
Baker, who is a Christian, studied comparative religion of Christianity and Islam while in school at the Vanderbilt Divinity School.
“It was the first religion outside of my own that I started exploring,” she said. “I encountered things I didn’t expect, I encountered all these similarities and see that Islam solves things at different angles that I hadn’t thought to explore. Most of my life I’ve had this struggle with figuring out who God is, always in this framework of Christianity and Islam. Through that experience I learned to really appreciate both religions.”
Kattih talked about some of the suspicions that are often centered around Muslims, including that it’s an extremist religion.
“The extremist narrative has taken over religion on both sides,” he said. “I realize I have two functions to do: First is to reclaim my faith from those people. You have the same job to do, as Christians, to reclaim and take back Christianity.”
Ultimately, the panelists all agreed that in order for the two religions to coexist peacefully, understanding, patience and kindness need to take the forefront.
“It’s not a liberal or conservative thing, it’s a Jesus thing,” Graves said. “But it’s actually deeper, about what resides in the deep recesses and secret places of your heart that maybe you don’t even admit to yourself.”
Graves is the author of How Not To Kill A Muslim and is an adjunct professor of Bible at Lipscomb University. Otter Creek Church is located at 409 Franklin Road in Brentwood.
Samantha Hearn reports for Home Page Media Group. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @samanthahearn.