“Reflections on the Wroxton Gathering,” by Khaleel Mohammed

Most meetings on interfaith dialogue, whether they are held under the auspices of academic or confessional discourse, follow a certain format. The presenters are generally selected in a manner that will seek to ensure that they contribute to perceived harmony among the participants. This inevitably means that those who question certain cherished traditions will be ostracized. It also means that differences which are what foster the need for such dialogue will often be overlooked, and instead points of convergence, real or assumed, focused upon. Sometimes, participants may be apologists, in which case the sense of harmony precludes opposing any of their viewpoints; or they may be polemists against their own religion, which endears them to a certain crowd. In either case, very little is actually accomplished on the level of widespread benefit, although individual friendships may be forged. And perhaps this is the reason why, after more than a decade of interfaith encounters through North America, spurred on by the horrific memory of 9/11, little has been achieved. The latest Pew polls show that relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims are still, while not acrimonious, certain not indicative of a pluralist outlook. The focus of many states on banning Shariah law—something that no mainstream Muslim organization has ever solicited—indicates the result of negative othering.

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