ISNA Joins American Baptists for Interfaith Celebration in Kansas

On June 21, 2013, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA National Director for Interfaith & Community Alliances, took part in the biennial celebrations of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) in Overland Park, Kansas. The event included discussions about justice issues, including religious freedom, civil rights, and the mass incarceration of minorities and the poor. Dr. Syeed spoke at ABCUSA’s Christian Unity/Interfaith Relations Dinner.  “Baptists have played an important role in preparing this country for the religious diversity that helped us to grow and prosper here,” he said. “From Roger Williams to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Baptists have been strong advocates of the separation of religion and state. Our experience of religious freedom as Muslims in America is a source of strength for us, and we are promoting this approach in Muslim majority communities around the world as the only true model for healthy interaction between religion and state. We need to work together not only to create a more perfect union but also to provide leadership in generating healthy approaches to the role of religion and the growth of democratic traditions.” Dr. Syeed added that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  “Our 50 years of Islam in America have shown to the world that Islam prospers in a democratic environment with positive relations with other faith groups. We have been praying for years for the end of tyranny and for freedom in many Muslim majority countries and we are grateful that our prayers are being answered. But it is our joint responsibility to continue to help build an environment of religious freedom and political stability.” Dr. Syeed talked about our partnership with ABCUSA and how it has produced tangible results here in America and globally. Together we held two national Muslim-Baptist dialogues and several regional dialogues, and published scholarly papers from the conferences.  We also helped produce the documentary “Different Books, Common Word,” which was seen by millions of Americans on ABC television. “We have also  participated in dialogue efforts at the grassroots in different cities in conferences and public discussions, he said. “When some Islamic centers encountered discrimination or became victims of vandalism, Baptists were often the first to show their support and solidarity, representing the ideal Christian character described in the Qur’an (3:113).” “Last year, a delegation of Baptists, under the leadership of ABCUSA General Secretary Dr. Roy Medley, visited the former Soviet state of Georgia and offered a plea on behalf of local Muslims who had been barred from building a mosque for quite some time. We were impressed that they were able to convince authorities that a Muslim community should be allowed to build their mosque. It made headline news in Georgia that Baptists would advocate for Muslims to have permission to build a mosque.  Similarly, ABCUSA has shown great leadership here in America by honoring religious diversity and joining the interfaith campaign, Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values.”