Discussion Guide: Interfaith Dialogue
Featuring Regina mustafa
Regina shared some common misunderstandings about our Muslim neighbors, the struggles and joys of living in the United States as a Muslim given our current political and social climate, and helped us ask a very important question together – why is interfaith dialogue so important? And maybe even more at the heart of it – why is it important for each of us to be in relationship with those who aren’t like us?
“So, two years ago… everyone has heard of ISIS, right? I became so frustrated and fed up with their notoriety, with their beheadings… Because I was constantly getting these questions from people - ‘does Islam really teach this?’ What is reliable information about Islam?’ ...I felt that there needed to be an organization kind of like a home base that people, Muslims and non-Muslims could rely upon for correct information about Islam. And so CIDI - Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam - was born. ”
What other faith traditions have you learned about?
What do you know about Islam?
Who have you learned from and how have you figured out what information is true?
What questions do you have about other faith traditions?
“And I began it with ‘Interfaith Call for Tolerance - ISIS is Not Islam’... I used the word tolerance for a while, until I was having a conversation with a man from England and he said ‘You Americans, you use the word tolerate in such a different way. The way we think of it, I would tolerate the pain in my knee.’ Since then I’ve been moving away from the word tolerate and moving towards acceptance. Because that’s what it truly is. ...acceptance really conjures up an appreciation for your similarities and your differences.”
How would you define words like tolerance, acceptance, or understanding?
Do you find Regina’s story to be helpful?
What might it look like to practice acceptance of and for those who are different from you?
“My other initiative - it’s called Bridges - what’s a great way to meet people? Instead of having gatherings and just asking people to come learn about Islam, I want to learn about what you believe. I tell people that the best way to learn about Islam is through a person who actually practices. So I want to also demonstrate that by going into churches, synagogues, meditative gatherings, and quietly observe... ”
How might you help to create an open dialogue?
How can you learn from others and participate in healthy discussion of our varying beliefs and understandings?
“It is a lot of work keeping that all up, but I do absolutely love it. It is my passion. It doesn’t make me a dime, in fact it costs me money. But I would rather be out in public speaking, doing these events, putting my neck out there than sitting at home. I’m not comfortable with sitting at home and wishing that things weren’t so bad. I’d rather go out and face what the hardships and challenges are.”
-Section Five - 13:02-13:58
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by things happening in the world around you?
Do you have issues that you are passionate about and would like to see made better?
What small step might you take to make a difference?
How can you encourage others to take similar steps when they feel overwhelmed?
“So why Interfaith Dialogue? Why is it so important? I believe it is at the core of all of our faith traditions - learning about the other. Isn’t the message of Jesus Christ to go out and meet the other? Go talk to the person in the community who has been shunned for a while. Isn’t that his true example? The Quran, that Muslims believe to be the literal word of God, says ‘O mankind! We have created you as nations and tribes not so that you may come to know one another, not that you may despise each other. So I believe that the more we go out and meet people from different walks of life, we come to understand God more.”
How have you experienced God in others?
How might someone of a different faith help you see a little more of God?
“So what are the challenges of the work that I do? Every time something happens in the world by a Muslim, I have to answer for it. I turn on my news in the morning and that pretty much determines the kind of week I’m going to have… [Story of Lonsdale restaurant]”
Have you ever taken a brave step to address something challenging with another person? How were you received?
“When you get coffee with people who post negative comments on Facebook, or meet that restaurant owner… What’s challenging about these conversations? What’s most fulfilling? … I’m not going out there thinking that I know everything. People have taught me too... Meet people. It does so much good.”
When have you had a challenging conversation?
How did you feel before, during, and after that conversation?
Did it help strengthen a relationship between you and the person you were talking with?
What did you learn, or what surprised you?
“There are probably one or two things that I could point to that are why I continue to practice my faith. Would you be willing to share one or two things that make your faith personal and important to you?... Physical and spiritual. I love our worship. When I pray five times a day I put my head to the floor, which brings me back to the presence of God and I can reflect on my day… That should be your ultimate comfort, knowing that God is there.”
What experiences, practices, or stories do you love about your own faith tradition?
Why do you find them meaningful?
Do these aspects of your faith help you find comfort in knowing that God is with you?
Have you ever heard someone say something about someone else that you knew wasn’t true?
How did you respond?
How might sharing the truth about someone’s story be a way of caring for our neighbors?
Moving Forward, Think About This
There are many things that prevent us from listening and learning from those who are different from us. But simple things like sharing a meal, a cup of coffee, or good conversation are often great ways to begin. What simple step can you take in the next week to make something beautiful with and for others?
About Regina Mustafa:
Regina lives in Rochester, Minnesota and is the founder of Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam, a local organization focused on sharing reliable and accessible information on Islam, as well as promoting healthy interfaith dialogue.