Interfaith discussion with Abdul Rauf will focus on peace

Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf — Photo courtesy of Susan Assadi

Against a backdrop of continuing violence in the Middle East, Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Sufi imam, author, and activist, will join Rabbi Caryn B. Broitman Wednesday, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven for an interfaith discussion about religious harmony.

Mr. Abdul Rauf is familiar with the tensions religious differences can create. Last year, he found himself in the national spotlight when he announced plans to build an interfaith cultural center two blocks from ground zero in New York City.

A religious leader since the 1980s, he has consistently denounced violence against, and within, his religion.

“We all believe in religions that seek peace and harmony,” Mr. Abdul Rauf said in a phone interview. He said the focus must be on solving problems within one’s own religion. “The battle isn’t between Muslims and Jews, it is against extremists in all religions.”

In 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). “I wanted to create something to help shape the Islamic American Identity and bring us together,” he said.

Seven years later, Mr. Abdul Rauf founded the Cordoba Initiative, “a multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving understanding and building trust among people of all cultures and religions,” according to the group’s website.

He has written three books on the relationship between American culture and Islam, most recently “Moving The Mountain,” which he will discuss Wednesday.

The book explores the relationship between places of worship and community and how to make religious centers inviting to all.

“A non-Muslim has no reason to come to a mosque, but a cultural center offers more for the community,” he said. He has not given up his plans for New York.

The program begins at 7:30 pm. For more information call 508-693-0745.