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NCC, MUSLIM LEADERS AGREE TO
MONTHLY MEETINGS IN SEPT. 11'S WAKE

September 28, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – Concerned to build interfaith understanding and stop the wave of hate crimes that has followed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar invited prominent Muslim leaders to meet with him on Wednesday, September 26.

Dr. Edgar and his four guests agreed to a regular pattern of consultation among Christian and Muslim leaders, beginning with monthly meetings.  This builds on a foundation laid by the Council’s Interfaith Relations Commission over the past 25 years, which has included periodic meetings (but not the regular consultation now planned) with Muslim leaders and production of resources for interfaith understanding for use in local communities.

They agreed that a top priority was to work together to help major media producers demonstrate more sensitivity to Muslims and provide better information about Islam.

After the meeting, Dr. Edgar reported, “My Muslim guests and I shared our grief at the loss of innocent lives in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  We shared our repudiation of the attacks and of any who distort Islam, turning a religion of peace into a justification for murder. 

“We celebrated the fact that many Christians are reaching out to their neighbors of Islamic and other faiths.  At the same time, we shared our dismay and disgust at hate crimes against innocent people and the resulting fear in Muslim, Sikh and other faith and ethnic communities across our nation,” he said.

Dr. Edgar said he was saddened to learn of the more than 500 attacks on Muslim individuals or institutions across the United States since September 11, and of the extent of fear felt by Muslims, especially Muslim young people. 

“Never has interfaith understanding and cooperation been more important than it is today,” Dr. Edgar said.  “The peace of our neighborhoods, and the true security of nations around the world may well turn on our capacity to build communities of respect and to bear witness together for justice and peace.”

Dr. Edgar said that he and the Muslim leaders had shared deep concern about how the media presents Islam and Muslims.  For example, Muslims are not often enough acknowledged as part of the positive fabric of American society – doctors, nurses, judges, teachers, legislators, managers and business people -- valued colleagues, loving parents and good neighbors. 

In one of several initiatives to this end, the NCC is among groups circulating an interfaith “sign-on” statement, “Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism,” that to date has been signed by more than 2,800 Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others.  The statement offers both “a word of consolation for the untold pain and suffering of our people” and “a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be.”

After Wednesday’s meeting with Muslim leaders, Dr. Edgar said, “We will move forward with the Muslim community both to heal the wounds of the recent events and to work together for peace.  I am committed to bring the same kind of resolve for peace and cooperation to this effort as our Muslim friends have demonstrated in meeting with us.”

Attending the meeting were: Mr. Aziz Ahsan, representing the Islamic Society of North America; Mr. Naeem Baig and Mr. Shams Zaman, Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General of the Islamic Circle of North America; and Mr. Ghazi Khankan, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- New York.  Imam Izak-el Pasha, spiritual leader of Masjid Malcolm Shabbaz was, at the last moment, unable to attend.

The National Council of Churches, whose 36 Protestant and Orthodox member communions include 50 million adherents in 140,000 local congregations, has an active program of dialogue with people of other faiths, including Jews, Buddhists, practitioners of Native American traditional ways, and other faiths in our multi-religious nation, Dr. Edgar noted.

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