The shared visions of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. can serve as a guide for religious activism today, a Christian minister told dozens of Muslims gathered at a Santa Clara mosque Saturday.

“They still are way ahead of us, and we who are serious about apprehending their dreams for us, have a long way to go and must run our races with greater speed and intensity to make human freedom a reality, human rights an actuality and human family-hood a certainty,” said the Rev. J. Alfred Smith Jr., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in San Jose, the oldest African American church in the city.

Joining Smith in addressing the gathering was an African American imam from Oakland, Faheem Shuaibe, who spoke of how King and Malcolm X are often “falsely” characterized as opposites even after Malcolm X renounced the Nation of Islam’s black supremacist thought and converted to Islam, whose holy texts dictate that all ethnic groups are equal.

Shuaibe said both King and Malcolm X were working toward restoring the humanity of all people.

“They recognized the injustice, the criminal treatment of us as a people – and people in general,” said Shuaibe. “Their common goal was ‘re-humanization.’ “

The two speeches at the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara came as religious groups are increasingly putting themselves at the forefront of social issues as varied as AIDS, global warming and poverty. Saturday’s speakers repeatedly spoke of how far American society needs to progress to match the visions of Malcolm X and King, two of the 20th century’s most influential American religious figures.

The event was also an attempt to bridge some of the social divisions vexing religious groups today, particularly Muslims. The rhetoric of a Christian-Muslim “clash of civilizations” is bandied about by many, but a Christian and Muslim leader found common purpose – civil rights for all – at a mosque.

In addition, the greatest cultural divide among American Muslims may be between those from immigrant heritage and African Americans, believed to account for a third of the domestic Muslim population. But this mosque founded by former immigrants sought two African Americans to stand before them. Zaid Shakir, another African American imam, routinely gives the sermon here on Fridays, the holiest day in the Muslim week. (MORE)


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