Sunday, September 03, 2006

Walid speaks at Interfaith panel on Mideast

Interfaith dialogue held on Mideast
By Aatif Ali Bokhari -- The Arab American News:

DETROIT – A Christian, Jewish and Muslim panel gathered earlier this week to discuss the importance of the Holy Land in their faiths.
St. Peter Catholic Church in Harper Woods hosted the event, "Are You As Confused About The Middle East As I Am?" on Tuesday. About 35 attendees, the majority of them senior citizens, took part in the morning program.
Panel participants included Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations - Michigan Chapter (CAIR-MI); Sharona Shapiro, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee; and Reverand Daniel Buttry of International Ministries.
The goal of the meeting was not to have debate over political issues but to share feelings on the importance of the Holy Land. "If you came here with a sharpened sword, my job is to disarm you today," said moderator Steve Spreitzer, to chuckles from the crowd.
Shapiro spoke extensively about the meaning of the word Zion, noting, "Zion can also refer to the people of God, the kingdom of God and the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. … When praying, Jews face towards Jerusalem."
Shapiro added that throughout the centuries since Jews were exiled from the Holy Land, they have always clung to the idea of returning to Jerusalem. She said that a small number of Jews have always lived there.
Walid said that the idea of the Holy Land being sacred was not foreign to Muslims either. "In strict Islamic theology the city of Jerusalem is a sanctuary. The cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem are considered haram, which means there can be no fighting there.
"In the time of the Prophet Muhammed, the first place Muslims were told to face in prayer was not Mecca but Jerusalem, just as in Jewish tradition.
"It's very important to understand that although Mecca is considered the holiest site in Islam, it had been a place of idols. The Prophet Muhammed turned his back on this place as a symbolic gesture which is why he didn't pray facing Mecca first, as well as to show solidarity with the other prophets.
"In the 17th chapter of the Qur'an in the first verse is an event called the night journey of the Prophet Muhammed. From the location of the Sacred Mosque in Jerusalem he made a journey to heaven - it is the reason that Jerusalem is so important to Muslims," said Walid.
Buttry said that he was tempted to say that the Holy Land was not as important to Christianity as the other two faiths, and that the idea of Zion as a people was more important than as a geographic region to Jesus. "You are to be my witnesses to all the earth," said Jesus to the disciples, according to the Reverend.
Buttry said that today people visit the Middle East, but that is for personal inspiration, not religious mandate. The crusades, he said, were a way of busying idle Christian soldiers so that they would not cause trouble in Europe. Buttry said that the popes of Europe made the decision at the expense of Muslims and Jews who suffered greatly at the marauding crusaders' hands.
Buttry added that in the last 50 years, a number of Protestant groups – who interpret literally Biblical verses and claim the verses portend the coming of Armageddon after the Jews regain control of the Holy Land – have called for unconditional support of Israel. He said that he believed that Fundamentalist Christian support of the Jews is out of opportunism.

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