Muhammad Musri, peacemaker

There are a lot of ways to look at what happened with Terry Jones, the pastor from Florida who wanted to burn the Qur’an on Saturday but later thought better of it. We can accuse the media, as Jason Linkins does. We can blame a frightening wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric and action, enflamed by people whose political interests it serves. We can examine the dynamics of a small church and a big world. But there's another story here.

In the spotlight of the controversy was Muhammad Musri, director of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, who went to meet with Terry Jones last Wednesday. Few details of their conversation were offered to the media, but those details were telling. Jones’s meeting with Musri marked a turning point in Jones’s rhetoric and accomplished what long-distance denunciations by world leaders could not.

When Musri waded into a difficult and tense situation, he used exceptional skills at interfaith dialogue:

  • He took a risk. Musri had little to gain from wading into the controversy. It would have been safer to sit on the sidelines and wait for the drama to play out. He risked failing, looking like a fool and making everyone angrier.

  • He entered the conversation with a premise that few of us would have offered. “I believe that Terry Jones is a good person at heart,” he told CNN. He spoke, as a Quaker might say, to “that of God” in Jones. Jones cited the imam’s expression of respect as crucial to their conversation.

  • He sought common ground, agreeing with Jones about the need to stand against terrorism and suggesting room for dialogue on the issue of the mosque in New York. While this was tricky, it provided space for more dialogue.

  • He used an empathetic understanding of Jones’s religion to move the conversation forward. “He [Jones] will pray about it,” Musri told reporters. “I told him that Christ in the Bible has offered a different solution, a different way.”

Jones did pray about it, and remarkably, he heard God telling him to stop. Musri has since been accused of “religious blackmail.” Bloggers immediately began to try to dismantle his reputation. But Musri succeeded in having a conversation and made a careful, but dramatic, step toward peacemaking.

See also the Christian Science Monitor’s profile of Musri, along with AOL's post on Musri's other moments in the spotlight.

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Comments

Joseph R Carreiro Sr Joseph R

Joseph R Carreiro Sr Joseph R Carreiro Sr
If the modern
Muslims talk Peace,live Peace,Love Peace the the modern Muslim must
condemn any Muslim belief that is on the opposite side of Peace. The
Sharia Law is the opposite of Peace,The belief that all non believers or
... infidels should be killed in the name of Allah is the opposite of Peace
and the beliefs of all R...radical
Muslim Terrorists is the opposite of Peace,then what do we do? If the
tremendous percentage of Muslims around the World oppose Muslims who do
not practice Love and Peace the the objectors of Love and Peace will
soon be eradicated because Millions can easily defeat thousands or even
many thousands of those who reject Love and Peace.Think about this. Nothing to do with Religion,everything to do With Radical Muslim Terrorists.This was put forth by a Muslim Doctor from New York City as a way to deter the Radicals.

Mark Rich said... Amy,

Mark Rich said...

Amy, thanks so much for this irenic and informative posting!

Anonymous said... In

Anonymous said...

In fact, he destroyed the trust that those of us who believe in dialogue have built up and nurtured for decades. On the other hand, it goes way back to the Hagar - Sarah story where Ishmael got kicked out etc. and also the so-called (un)holy crusades initiated by European fanatics for over 300 years to destroy the Muslims – this is not over yet – this shall remain with us for centuries to come! Even the abortive Blair-Bush undertaking for weapons of mass destructions is not unrelated to this incident.

Amy Frykholm said... I

Amy Frykholm said...

I thoroughly agree. But isn't it remarkable then that he stopped? How do you account for that?

Anonymous said... Did

Anonymous said...

Did Jones pray about burning the Qur'an and ask God's interest in his irrational undertaking? God told him to stop his stupid venture? God couldn't care less if fools like him burned all the scriptures of all faith traditions! In the early 1500s, when the Portuguese Roman Catholic missionaries found out that the Christian faith introduced in Kerala, south India in 52 CE - centuries before their advent, they burned the Gospel of Thomas! Where was God in all that colonial missionary enterprise initiated by spice-traders, sailors and soldiers - not necessarily by saints - ?
- The Rev. Dr. John Mathew

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