On behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim community, I would like to offer our sincere condolences on the death of Pope John Paul II to members of the Roman Catholic Church and to all people of conscience. Muslims worldwide respected Pope John Paul II as an advocate for peace, justice and human rights. He worked tirelessly to build tolerance and understanding among people of all faiths. Muslims will remember Pope John Paul II as the first Pontiff to visit a mosque. In May 2001 the pope visited the Ummayad Mosque in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he held and kissed a copy of the Koran.

Furthermore, he built bridges between Christians, Jews and Muslims and encouraged respect for diversity. The late pontiff understood that ignorance, bigotry and oppression are a threat to our world and led by example to eradicate them. Religious, civic and political leaders in the Tampa Bay area and across the world would benefit by following his model. We look forward to reaching out to all segments of our society and continue on our mission of building bridges of understanding. Pope John Paul II’s message of international peace and interfaith reconciliation is one that will reverberate for generations to come. Though the world will miss him, his legacy can live on through furthering his work of building respect and tolerance. Ahmed Bedier, Central Florida director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Tampa; abedier@cairfl.org


ISLAM-OPED: ISLAM AND EARTH DAY – TOP ISLAM-OPED is a national syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis. The commentary below is available for publication.

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