Lebanon as a child, Nuha Dabbouseh remembers how she and a Christian friend
would help each other through their respective religious fasts. Her friend
would observe the Muslim month of Ramadan with her and, in turn, she would
observe the 40 days of Christian Lent with her friend.
It was a
gesture shared by children a long time ago, Dabbouseh said, but on an evening
when Muslims and Catholics were coming together over dinner and a mutual desire
for respect, it was a fitting and relevant anecdote to share with tablemates.
19th-annual Catholic-Muslim Iftar, sponsored by the Council of Islamic
Organizations of Greater Chicago, was held Monday night at the Zakat Foundation
of America in Bridgeview.
people gathered to, first, hear experts talk about ways to build bridges across
both religions, and then to break the day's fast at sunset in the Muslim custom
n a large
room inside the foundation that Helil and Donna Demir started just months
before 9/11, Catholics and Muslims shared tables and stories as the evening's
panel took turns addressing Islamophobia in today's volatile and violent world.
event "an important opportunity to learn more and become better acquainted
with our neighbors," Cupich said, "This is a model for what can be
done in neighborhoods all over Chicagoland."
the recent killing of 49 people in Orlando underscores the need for more
almost two decades of interfaith Iftars, thankfully, we have a solid foundation
here in Chicago on which to continue to build rapport, to nurture our
friendship and to address topics of mutual concern," he said.
Francis, Cupich told the crowd, "Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Evangelicals
— we are all children of the same God. We have to live in peace. We want to be
Merchant, spokesman for the Zakat Foundation, said, "It's really important
that faith communities come together right now with a strong message of
solidarity. It's important that we back each other up and not allow each other
to be demonized because of the actions of a few misguided individuals."
Nizamuddin, adjunct professor of theology at Loyola University, challenged both
Catholics and Muslims to look at the issue differently.
of people think Islamophobia is simply another phase of discrimination,"
he said. "But is it merely another rite of passage of immigrants from
other lands who take their lumps for awhile and then find acceptance through
social integration? Are we simply another version of Irish in early 20th
century, or Jews in late 19th century, or even Catholics of 75-80 years
He said the
issue demands that Americans dig deeper, into the pockets of those funding
hate-mongering. The public needs to recognize that there are people who are
funded to purposely promote bigotry and hate, he said.
That can be
countered, he said, "by reaffirming our Christian and Muslim
George-Tvrtkovic, associate professor of theology at Benedictine University,
brought her children, Luka, 11, and Anya, 9, to the event.
speech, she offered ways Catholics can fight Islamophobia. They include
mutually studying the past and understanding the effect it still has today; by
being open to newcomers; and by persevering in friendship.
The time to
get to know the people at the nearby mosque is not after something happens, she
said. "You have to establish friendships and relationships first, and then
when things happen in the world, you can call your friends."
Thomas Baima, vicar for inter-religious affairs with the Archdiocese of
Chicago, said even though terror attacks, such as those in Paris, California
and Orlando, are perpetrated by a few, too often the tendency is to blame an
media understandably portrays the sensational side of things," he said.
"The reason this (dinner) is so important is it shows the other side, the
common side. Here are Muslims and Catholics who are neighbors getting together
as friends, as they have for 18 years."
the Iftar provides a balance and projects an image of acceptance and
see the misuse of religion in the terrorist acts, which need to be condemned by
all religious leaders. What we don't see immediately are the neighbourly acts,
the common life of ordinary believers who reject violence in the name of
religion. Frequently the Muslim community is asked where are the other voices?
Tonight you see the other voices."
there are more similarities than differences between the two faiths, including
the ease with which either religion can be misinterpreted.
that's being said negatively about Islam could equally be said about Judaism
and Christianity," Baima said. "All of our sacred texts have passages
that could be twisted by fundamentalists to condone whatever ideas they have.
But that's not the way the mainstream communities interpret the texts."
speakers finished at precisely 8:32 p.m., which was officially sunset, the
buffet line opened and Iftar, the meal served at the end of the day during
first to the foundation's prayer centre to practice their faith and then joined
their Catholic dinner mates in line for shish kebab, chicken Tawook, Baba
Ghanouj and hummus, supplied by Al Bawadi Authentic Mediterranean Grill in
her husband Muhamad Dabbouseh, president of the Islamic Cultural Center of
Greater Chicago in Northbrook, were joined at a table by Melissa Keegan, who
handles the ministry of care at St. Patricia's Church in Hickory Hills, and her
father, Charles Keegan, deacon at the church. Medical student Catherine
Jimenez, who attends the University of Illinois Chicago, also took a seat.
at any dinner, discussion ranged from an explanation of religious practices, in
this case Ramadan, to stories about family members and talk of health issues.
Dabbouseh said: "We are just like everyone else. We are peaceful people
who want to raise our families. The people who are violent have nothing to do
with Islam. In any religion there are extremists. But a terrorist is a
terrorist. If someone who is Christian creates a terrorist act, they don't say
he is a Christian, they say he is a terrorist. And, around the world, Muslims
are being killed by terrorists, too. If you don't agree with their ideology,
they kill you."
efforts of many Muslims to show Christians in America and Europe that they
strive to be law-abiding citizens, Dabbouseh said fear and hatred are still
said she attended the dinner "just to learn more."
have several classmates who are devout Muslims. I just want to learn more about
the faith," she said.
Catholic, Jimenez said, "I guess I am following the Pope's example."