A rise of organized interfaith dialogue across university campuses is finally seeing the fruits of its labor on the national scale.  Since 9/11, organizations such as Americans for Informed Democracy, the Interfaith Youth Core, and 20,000 Dialogue have taken the lead in facilitating interfaith dialogue between different American communities, with particular attention to the Muslim community.  These dialogues provide a space for mutual learning and relationship building between peoples of different faiths and backgrounds.  Interfaith dialogue has been playing an increasingly important role post 9/11 especially for our society so woven with diversity.

This presidential election has brought to the spotlight the marginalization of one of the many religious faiths that help make this great country:  Islam.  Several rumors have been injected in the presidential race labeling Senator Barack Obama as Muslim, which is a false rumor, but the real harm is that its been seen as a negative attack.  Last week, General Colin Powell’s appearance on Meet the Press brought that issue into the spotlight when he responded:  “Well the correct answer is ‘He is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian.’ But the really right answer is ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No. That’s not America.’”  Home of many religions and cultures, the US is celebrated for its tolerance and religious freedom.  Interfaith dialogue promotes these types of American traditions and Gen. Powell’s courageous comments, however long overdue, is an applauded attempt to revive this pillar of patriotism.
Not ignoring that his remarks come during a backdrop of a close presidential election, Americans should retake ownership of their society and protects its freedoms from abuse in presidential campaigns.  And it should not stop there.  The increase of political involvement seen across the country during this campaign season should be used as momentum for post-election activities that not only hold the next president accountable for their election promises, but also hold us citizens accountable for upholding a community of diversity.  Several actions can be taken and many are listed on AID’s website, including other initiatives by many of our partner organizations, so the real test is what actions will be taken!

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