March 29, 2006
Muslim Students For DialogUE Club OF
University SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
ARTICLE I: NAME, PURPOSE, and PRINCIPLES
Section A. This organization shall be known as Muslim Students For Dialogue Club (hereafter known as MSD)
Section B. The Purpose of this organization shall be:
To convey Islamic view of life through dialogue and educational activities.
To provide an atmosphere of exchanging ideas between Islam and other beliefs.
Section C: The principles of this organization:
In the age of globalization coexistence of civilizations is possible only through dialogue.
The pillars of dialogue are love, tolerance, compassion and forgiving.
Love is the essence of existence.
Tolerance is our binding spirit.
Compassion and forgiving are inclusive aspects of a harmonious society, in which individual will flourish, community will arise.
About 70 people attended the iftar, which is a fast-breaking dinner for Muslims during the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, which ends Friday.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and intimate relations between sunrise and sunset.
The Muslim Students for Dialogue, members from other religious groups and guests attended the dinner and listened to speakers talk about the importance of interfaith dialogue and their individual faiths.
"We have a great deal to learn from one another," said Murat Surucu, the student leader of MSD.
Surucu talked about the recent disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and the earthquake in Pakistan.
Before dinner, he asked the guests to have a minute of silence to pray in their own tradition or language for the victims of these disasters.
The five speakers were Megan Reid, an assistant professor of religion and adviser for MSD; Rev. Frank Wulf of the United University Church; Rabbi Jonathan Klein, the Allen and Ruth Ziegler Rabbinic director at the USC Hillel Jewish Center; Rev. Lawrence Seyer, director of Our Savior Catholic Center, and the USC Catholic Student Association; and Ensar Demirkan, the president of Global Cultural Connections, a non profit foundation that focuses on interfaith and intercultural activities.
"Although we are created in the image of God, we manage to kill ourselves," Demirkan said, as he recounted religious killings in history and recent terrorist acts.
"Our history is dirty," he said. "We have a lot of blood on our hands."
Demirkan, an engineer and businessman who is active in the interfaith arena, talked about the one similarity among people of all faiths - "We are all human beings."
He said people have to break down barriers to achieve peace.
"We all have our extremists," Demirkan said, as he referred to the misperception that Muslims are closely associated to Islamic terrorists. "We have to be fundamentalists," he said, calling the audience to stick to the fundamental ideas of their faiths, such as respect and forgiveness.
MSD organized this event because it is a special time for Muslims and they wanted to initiate a conversation among different faiths, Surucu said.
Muslims are negatively stereotyped by the media, he said, and MSD wanted to show others that Muslims are ordinary people, not evil, and can be good neighbors.
It is difficult to enter a dialogue when faiths claim to be possessors of all truth, Wulf said, as he spoke from a Christian perspective and mentioned the divisions in Christianity.
"I've never been in a dialogue where I haven't been changed in some substantial way," Wulf said.
He said people desperately need to hear and understand what other faiths have to say.
The goal is not one of separation, but understanding, he said.
After sharing his remarks, Wulf thanked MSD for organizing the gathering. "It feels like family," he said.
Klein said that according to Jewish beliefs we all share a common ancestry in Noah and his family.
"If we delve into our tradition and look at it from a lens of the potential for dialogue, from the lens of agreeing to the possibilities, instead of looking at the finitude of our existence, we see that throughout our traditions … there is a possibility for dialogue," Klein said.
"Dialogue is very important," Seyer said, as he talked about peace, justice and understanding.
Seyer said people often make assumptions about other faiths, but dialogue allows us to ask, "What do you really mean?"
Sharon Tool, who has been a member of the United University Church since 1971, said she and some other church members went to the interfaith dinner after members of MSD joined their group for a Thanksgiving event.
She also said she wanted to learn more about the Muslim faith.
People of different faiths can come together if they work on projects together, marshaling their energies for the same purpose, Tool said.