Eboo Patel is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit that promotes interfaith cooperation. His blog, The Faith Divide, explores what drives faiths apart and what brings them together. He is also author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (Beacon Press, 2007).
Posts By This Author
What Makes for Sacred Ground?
Summer is here, and I am looking forward to ice-cream cones with my kids in the park and long walks in the warm evenings. But I am also remembering the less-than-happy events of two summers back, when Cordoba House (also known as the “Ground Zero mosque”) became the subject of deep controversy in American discourse.
The strangest part of the Cordoba House debate for me was around “sacred ground.” People opposed to Cordoba House insisted that the blocks around Ground Zero constituted a holy area. Those who believed that Cordoba House ought to stay in Lower Manhattan liked to point to the nearby strip joint and off-track betting parlor and say that this patch of land was just like any other.
“Why can’t you just move it 10 or 20 blocks away?” a CNN anchor asked me on air at the height of the controversy. But that would still be sacred ground, I thought to myself. A hundred miles north, 1,000 miles south, 2,000 miles west—it’s all holy.
I believe every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea. I believe we make it holy by who we welcome and how we relate to each other. Call it my Muslim eyes on the American project. “We ... made you nations and tribes that you may come to know one another,” says the Quran. While that vision is for all countries, there is no better place to enact it than here. The promise of America is the promise of pluralism, of welcoming the contributions of all communities and fostering right relationship among them.
College Students Find Life 'Better Together'
Both college and religion are in the news as I write. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum called Barack Obama’s faith “phony theology” and spoke of campuses as “indoctrination mills.”
Our main partners in interfaith cooperation at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) are college campuses, and as founder and president I’ve set foot on dozens and worked indirectly with hundreds more. My experience offers a very different perspective than Santorum’s. With the right leadership, curriculum, and activities, campuses are places where people can deepen their faith identities and learn the very American art of interfaith bridge-building. In fact, campuses are environments that can model this interfaith bridge-building for the rest of society, a place where students can learn the knowledge base and skill set of interfaith leadership.
Take the University of Illinois, for instance, where interfaith cooperation has been a priority for the better part of a decade. The student leaders of Interfaith in Action include evangelicals, Jews, humanists, Muslims, and Hindus. Together, they mobilized thousands of volunteers from different traditions to package more than 1 million meals for Haiti in the aftermath of the tragic 2010 earthquake. The group is now coordinating a spring conference that will empower student leaders from around the country to engage people of different faiths and act together on pressing issues such as hunger and homelessness. One of the leaders of the effort, Greg Damhorst, told me he does interfaith organizing because gathering people from different faiths to serve others is one way of living out the command of Jesus to offer comfort to the afflicted.
A Different Kind of Atheism
Chris Stedman's "faitheism" doesn't hate God, it loves people.
When Faith is Attacked
It was not the stones thrown by his tormentors that made him suffer most, he said; it was the silence of his friends.
The Roots of Terror
The Oslo shooter took inspiration from America's own anti-Muslim rightists.
Remembering 9/11 Through Music and Literature
Ten years on, I'm remembering the literature I read and the music that kept me going in the days and months after 9/11. I had Rumi and Whitman on my bedside table, reading them back to back, alternating between selections of the Mathnawi and poems from Leaves of Grass, sometimes feeling like the two were one, the soul of America, and that the soul of Islam were intersecting at some point beyond where the eye could see:
Whoever you are!, motion and reflection are especially for you, The divine ship sails the divine sea for you. -- Walt Whitman
Come, come, whoever you are, Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving, Ours is not a caravan of despair. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times It doesn't matter Come, come yet again, come. -- Rumi
Until then, the Quran for me was a book of personal spiritual guidance, a convening symbol for my religious community. But after 9/11, I viewed it as a balm for my country's pain, especially lines from Ayat al-Kursi: "His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them."
Partnering for a New Beginning
The fate of the 21st century will be decided by civic leader-to-civic leader relations in a global context.
Beyond Guilt by Association
Mainstream Muslims detest the infection of radicalization far more than do other people.
Newt Gingrich: A Catholic Running Against Islam?
Democrary in the Balance
The whole idea of democracy is that the setiments of our fellow citizens have power; we put ourselves in each other's hands.
How Tolerance is Built
When Pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn Qurans at his church in Florida this fall, he hurt a lot of Muslims I know. He also hurt a lot of Christians.
When the forces of intolerance rear their ugly heads, the forces of inclusion go into action.
Campuses Take the Lead
The Stranger as Neighbor
Free Speech vs. Fundamentalist Islam?
Building a Movement
Have you ever been to a college campus at 8 a.m.? It looks like a ghost town. And usually an invitation to come out at that hour is synonymous with pressing the snooze button. So what motivated a thousand people to stand together outside Stanford University’s Taube Hillel House that early on a Friday morning?
Imagining a New Way
'Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together.'
Beyond Barrier, Bubble, or Bomb
My friend April grew up a church girl. She attended Bible camp and Sunday school, sang Christian songs, and went on mission trips.
Back from Retreat, Ready for Action
The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, is over. For me, as for other Muslims, it has been challenging, and beautiful. But the purpose of the month—retreat—is not meant to last forever.
An Interfaith Movement Against Malaria
In the Quran, it is written, “And anyone who saves a life, it shall be as if he saved the lives of all the people.”