Two religious leaders discussed the relationship between Christianity and Islam to promote open discussion between the two sides last week.
Reverend Bob Roberts, a Baptist minister from Fort Worth, first met Iman Ziah Sheikh, head of the Irving Islamic Center, several years ago when, on a whim, he decided to visit his mosque.
Roberts had done religious work overseas in Afghanistan but says he had never really thought about the Muslim presence around Dallas.
Roberts and Sheikh quickly became friends and now spend their time attending conferences and engaging in conversation with each other in order to teach about religious tolerance.
“I think there’s a lot of negativity out there,” said Sheikh. “Especially in the round up to elections. Politicians are spewing rhetoric of hate.”
But Sheikh said the most disturbing part was not that politicians were saying negative things about Muslims, but that they were receiving positive responses from it.
“I think people [who discriminate against other’s religious beliefs] do it primarily out of ignorance,” he said.
Roberts agreed. He said people who know someone who is a Muslim are significantly more likely to have a positive outlook on Islam.
This, however, is difficult for most, as Muslims make up a very small percentage of the national population. And the demographics at TCU reflect this fact.
But Sheikh and Roberts said they are unperturbed by these numbers and continue to preach a message of love and peace.
“You should know what you believe, and why you believe it,” said Roberts. “And the more you believe, the more you should love God, and love other people. And what that means is that you won’t live your life as an isolationist.”
“Peace and harmony are what we need to be propagating,” said Sheikh. “When we focus on our similarities, then we will create an atmosphere that is conducive to love and affection and happiness for everyone.”