Shiite, Sunni Muslim Sheikhs Talk to NCC Delegation About Violence, Jihad, Peace
Violence, Jihad and peace were among topics of NCC delegation conversations with two Muslim leaders -- one with the head Shiite sheikh in Beirut, the other with a leading Sunni sheikh in Cairo.
The Grand Sheikh of the Shiite Community in Beirut expressed his conviction that all religious communities have not done enough to avoid violence by their respective members. He reiterated the statement that Islam is a religion of peace; he also stated that those who go beyond this are not true Muslims. He speculated that many might be manipulated by others in power.
With specific reference to the subject of teaching tolerance, the Grand Sheikh stated that religious leaders don't have to defend their respective faiths. Instead, they need to teach the faith and morals, and try to inculcate the faith in their adherents. He laments that people have gone astray. What is needed is to teach the faith so that people grow in faith.
In Cairo, we heard similar views from a leading Sunni Muslim sheikh, who is one of the most prominent and respected Islamic authorities in the world. The Jan. 27, 2005, Egyptian Gazette, covered the meeting. Here's the Gazette's story:
"'Peace is fundamental to Islam, which condemns all sorts of aggression and terrorism,' Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, told a visiting American religious delegation yesterday.
"Sheikh Tantawi regretted that certain people attempt to associate Jihad (holy war) with terrorism.
"He told the 11-member delegation, representing the US National Council of Churches, that Islam allows Jihad in defence of one's life, honour, property and homeland, as well as for restoring one's usurped rights or for the sake of justice.
"However, Islam denounces terrorism because it is an aggression on human life and people's rights and homelands, Sheikh Tantawi told the delegation, led by NCC President Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr.
"Mr. Girgis Amin Saleh, Secretary General of the Council of Middle East Churches, also attended the meeting."