(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/12/2010) – A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to help fund repairs to Malaysian churches damaged by vandals. The attacks on the churches came following a court ruling that overturned a ban on the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah,” by Christians in that nation.
SEE: Ninth Church Vandalized in Malaysia (NT Times)
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Islam mandates that churches, synagogues and other houses of worship must be protected. CAIR also noted that Arabic-speaking Christians universally refer to God as “Allah.”
SEE: Allah – the Word (NY Times)
Malaysian Muslim and ethnic Malay leaders have criticized the church attacks, saying they are contrary to the teachings of Islam.
All of the donations to the “CAIR Spirit of Islam Fund” (SEE: www.cair.com) will be given to the Malaysian embassy in Washington, D.C., for delivery to the churches.
“Muslims in America, Malaysia and worldwide must help protect all houses of worship, and thereby show the true spirit of Islam,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “American Muslims, as a symbol of their commitment to interfaith understanding and peaceful coexistence, will take the lead in helping to restore the damaged churches.”
He cited verses from the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, and Islamic traditions mandating both respect for other faiths and the sanctity of houses of worship.
According to the Quran, Muslims are asked to maintain good relations with people of other faiths and to engage in constructive dialogue. “And dispute not with the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) except with means better (than mere disputation)…but say, ‘We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you.’” (29:46)
The Quran also states: “(Rest assured that) those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians, and the Sabians – whoever believes in God and the last day and performs good deeds – will be rewarded by their Lord. They will have nothing to fear or to regret.” (2:62)
Islam’s holy text also reaffirms God’s eternal message of spiritual unity when it states: “Say: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is to Him that we surrender ourselves.’” (2:136)
Awad said Muslims are proud of the story of the Caliph Umar who received the keys to Jerusalem from the Christian patriarch Sophronius in the 7th century. When the Caliph was asked to pray in a Jerusalem church, he declined saying he did not want to provide a pretext for Muslims to appropriate a Christian holy site.
He noted that the early Muslims sought refuge with the Christian ruler of Abyssinia and that the Prophet Muhammad drafted a constitution for the city of Medinah in which all groups were granted equal rights and freedom of religion.
In 2006, CAIR asked for similar donations to help repair Palestinian churches damaged following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI perceived as critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com