THE BLOG
08/20/2012 02:57 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2012

Dear Neighbor: The Hope of Interfaith Cooperation

Dear Neighbor,

I'm scared. Two weeks ago, a congregation of Sikhs (supposedly mistaken for Muslims) was shot at, and six people were killed. The day after that, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri burned down to the ground in what may be arson. Then on Friday, a man stood outside my mosque in Morton Grove, Ill., during evening prayers and shot a rifle.

Things are getting serious. This is nothing like the time when a brick was thrown through our window after 9/11. And I know I sometimes have irrational fears that my headscarf will make me an easy target on the train, but it's a tough time for Muslims these days, and for those mistaken for Muslims, like our Sikh neighbors and President Obama.

All these years, growing up as a Muslim American I've been blessed with the best of neighbors. Thank you for not giving me weird looks when my mom made me deliver treats to your door on our Eid holiday. Thanks for taking us in and offering us water and rest when there was a fire at our home a few years ago.

My Muslim faith also inspires my theology of interfaith cooperation. In the Quran, God calls out the great diversity of humankind and the example of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. My parents learned that theology in Pakistan, and taught it to their children in the United States, and my siblings and I live it out in our daily lives. This is one of the reasons why we get along so well, neighbor.

And it's not just us with the neighborly love. There has been so much community-building this Ramadan. Last week, I attended an Iftar in the Synagogue, an event organized concurrently at three different synagogues across Chicago, where a Muslim leader spoke in front of the congregation with an honest disclaimer.

"There are members of the Muslim community who did not attend tonight because they saw some photos of your Jewish youth on a trip in Israel. This is a difficult topic for our community."

Still, many members of the Muslim community did show up. That leader spoke beautifully about his theology of interfaith cooperation. His son, a rising sophomore at the University of Illinois, is an interfaith organizer, so I know that his family, like mine, is living out that theology every day.

This week, I attended an interfaith iftar organized by the Muslim community of Palos Heights in honor of their partnership with Trinity Christian College. The lead Muslim organizer stood on the stage at the end of the night and said, "We all believe in the importance of this work, and we are all followers of Jesus."

His theology of interfaith cooperation comes from the life of Jesus, a revered prophet in Islam, and the divine word in Christianity. I know that that entire community lives out their theology of interfaith cooperation because Trinity, like the University of Illinois, is involved in the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Both campuses, along with over 200 others, have just completed a year of interfaith service work and are gearing up for another year of the Challenge.

Neighbor, these examples are uplifting. Trust me, you're not going to find too many Muslim leaders talking about Israel and Jesus this way in very public settings. To some extent, they were preaching to the choir, but that choir is growing. It is growing at colleges and seminaries, as Eboo Patel writes in his book "Sacred Ground." It is growing in our communities.

I wonder, if you and I were singing the song of interfaith cooperation outside my mosque on Friday night, would that guy have put down his weapon? The cynic in me doubts he would care. But the Muslim in me won't let him drown out our choir. Join me.