The better angels of our natures: By Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

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Rivalry seems to be hardwired into human nature. Whether we take the Darwinian view or the theological one, it doesn’t bode well for peace on earth, good will toward men. “Why can’t we all just get along” might be the mantra of human history, resounding through all political systems as well as belief systems, wherever they come into close proximity. Transcending rivalries with compassion and forbearance would then be a spiritual step toward conscious tolerance that all religious revelations have insisted on.
With this in mind, for the non-Catholics among us the Pope’s visit to the United States was an opportunity to widen our mental telescopes and look beyond the fanfare headlines. It was an opportunity to take to heart the importance of interfaith respect in our increasingly fractious world.
Given tensions with the global Muslim community following the Pope’s Regensburg address in 2006, it is fair to say that Muslims watched the visit closely. The televised baptism of a Muslim convert to Catholicism during the recent Easter Service was also a serious and potentially volatile event that may have been construed as a deliberate slight by the Pope and could have created a violent reaction on the part of Muslims (thank God it did not). Muslims, after all, believe that Islam is the final revelation in the ancient chain of divine teachings, and anyone converting from it to any earlier one is something that, by our own spiritual etiquette, should not be flaunted publicly, as it implies active opposition to the subsequent message and Messenger of Islam.
For Muslims, deep love of the Prophet Muhammad and taking a strong stand for Islam are strong and sensitive issues because we value Islam so highly – not because we think ill of Christianity, repeatedly mentioned as a legitimate religion in God’s eyes in the Qur’an, along with Judaism. But human sensibilities are often dry tinder next to flames – I’ve always felt that Muslims should have ignored The Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie when it appeared, rather than catapult it to bestseller status and themselves as unflattering representatives of Islam at the same time.
It is imperative that Muslims should revere the devotion of Christians and all others as they do their own, and greet a man or woman of God among us, whomever it might be, as a reminder of Him, regardless of the details of their theological differences. God in the Qur’an says:
Surely those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans – [in fact] anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 2:62)
While the Church has its own agenda during this American visit, the Pope would also do well to extend its good will to the Muslim American community, putting aside any differences in its theological approach with non-Catholic believers. But it is equally important that Muslims remember that the Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all of mankind, as the Qur’an tells us, and that in fact kindness to neighbours of all beliefs and stripes, and even to peaceful manifestations of unbelief, is our paramount duty on earth to earn the good pleasure of God and draw nearer to our Prophet by imitating his good qualities.
Mutual respect – especially between religious entities – is one of the noblest human attributes worthy of cultivating, and betraying that respect has led to no end of human tragedies. By maintaining our humility and eschewing pride in all its forms, we quell any taint of ill-intentioned rivalry and encourage, as Lincoln said, “the better angels of our natures.”

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* Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore is a Muslim poet and author who lives in Philadelphia. Visit his websites: www.danielmoorepoetry.com and www.ecstaticxchange.wordpress.com. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews)

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