What Muslims Really Pray at 'Interfaith' Gatherings

In his blog, theologian and scholar of Islam Dr. Mark Durie states:

It is remarkable that the daily prayers of every Muslim, part of the core of Islam, include a rejection of Christians and Jews as misguided and objects of Allah's wrath.

Devout Muslims repeat this Surat al Fatiha (Qur'an, 1:7) at least seventeen times daily during the five calls to prayer – over 5,000 times a year.

On Friday, August 4, 2017, I attended the weekly Jummah prayers at the Chautauqua Institution Hall of Christ.  The Abrahamic Program for Young Adults (APYA) leads the service each Friday with full support from the Institution's department of religion.  Each summer, the department selects four college-age students to serve for the season as the "face" of interfaith dialogues at Chautauqua: one liberal Jew, one liberal Christian, and two Muslims – one Sunni (male) and one Shia (female).

At the Hall of Philosophy, prior to introducing the various speakers, the department of religion director proudly invites a large audience (anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000) and residents to join the Friday Jummah, ostensibly to show how people of all religions can celebrate together through this Islamic service.

In this instance, some 50 people attended.  About 20 actually participated in the prayers – about half of the them non-Muslims.  All willingly bowed and prostrated themselves according to Islamic tenets.  Roughly 30 spectators sat, listened, and watched the ritual unfold.  Texts of the prayers were handed to the entire audience.

The Shia female asked participants to remove their shoes in that "sacred" space, which she called the Hall of the "Prophet," despite its actual name, Hall of Christ.  She didn't elucidate which prophet she meant.

The APYA Sunni Muslim, Omar, led the prayers.  He completed his undergrad at the Zaytuna College, Calif. – the first Muslim university in the U.S. – and plans to attend the Hartford Institute before enrolling in the U.S. military as a Muslim chaplain.

During prayers, Omar and few other Muslims recited the phrase "Allahu akbar" a few times.  It was explained that god is greater than any of us.  The event included Quranic chants in Arabic between prostrations.  Participants followed Omar's lead, bowing to the floor, then kneeling.  They repeated this ritual a few times.

Omar served as the imam, preaching a long sermon.  Since nothing in the world is going in the right direction, he stressed, "we need to look into a different direction," be kind to others, to our neighbors, and look inside ourselves and be connected to our spirituality.  Until 2010, he told the audience, he was a confused person, but now he feels good.  He suggested we can all also turn around our lives. 

Omar displayed Da'wa activity in full.  His sermon effectively served as an invitation to Islam, albeit indirect.  For now, the Chautauqua Institution prohibits official invitations to Islam (or other religions) and requires all denominational leaders to sign statements that they may not proselytize.  Yet I wonder how long these APYA Muslims will restrain themselves about their real intention, since Islam requires Muslims to invite all "infidels" to join them and "revert."

Then the female Shia Muslim young adult explained that during the Jummah prayer, she would stand behind Omar; she claimed that in her Shia tradition, she wouldn't have done so, and this was "just" a simple cultural difference.  She then explained that this tradition prevents the men from getting looks at the "women's booty."  The spectators approvingly laughed.  If there were feminists among the audience, they were silent.

Imagine if a conservative Christian said something similar about his religion.  All hell would break loose.  Muslims, however, get a free ride on most anything they say or do.  

The young Shia woman sang a melodic chant in Farsi.  Then came the Q and A segment.  The Sunni, Omar, said we had only six minutes.  I raised my hand, received the microphone from the male Jewish APYA young adult, and calmly stated:

"I am a student of Islam [at which Omar smiled with pleasure] – not the Islam that you are teaching here at Chautauqua, but the real Islam.  [All smiles faded.]  As such, I learned that Surat al Fatiha verse 1:7 in effect vilifies the Jews and Christians.  Those who go astray are the Christians, and those who earned Allah's wrath are the Jews."

Omar and the other Muslims in the room blanched.

I continued: "While the words Jews and Christians are not mentioned in the Sura itself, from my studying, Ibn Kathir referred to them as Jews and Christians.  Ibn Kathir quoted the words of Mohammed on this issue.  It's Mohammed – not me – who defined that those who went astray are the Christians and those who earned God's wrath are Jews."

I said every devout Muslim knows exactly to whom he refers when he recites that Surat al Fatiha.  In essence, I concluded, Muslims at the Chautauqua Jummah prayers invite Jews and Christians to join them.  Non-Muslim participants have no idea that they essentially denigrate themselves during the Jummah prayers.

I pointed at Omar and the other Muslims and stated that their prayers amounted to Da'wa.  "Yes, Da'wa," I repeated, "and I find it very sad that the Chautauqua administration allows that to take place."

I apparently caught Omar and his Muslim colleagues by total surprise.  Omar muttered several statements in reply, which made little sense to me.  He said it was out of context and cited this or that Muslim scholar on Surat al Fatiha.

He quickly ran out of explanations.  To my utter astonishment, he stated: "But what the lady was saying is correct. ... Yes it is correct."

Omar kept talking. By then, however, I had reached a sort of "circuit overload" – it was too much for me to continue to take.  I boldly expressed dismay and told the presenters: "What you are doing here is taqiyya" as I left the room.

Dr. Durie concludes:

That devout Muslims are daily declaring before Allah that Christians have gone astray and Jews are objects of divine wrath, must be considered a matter of central importance for interfaith relations. This is all the more so because the interpretation of verse 7 which relates it to Christians and Jews is soundly based upon the words of Muhammad himself. As Al-Fatihah is the daily worship of Muslims, and represents the very essence of Islam itself, the meaning of these words cannot be ignored or glossed over.  

Henceforth, to prove the effectiveness of Islamic Da'wa and its advancement, add this anecdote to your arsenal.  The left gleefully enables and supports this deceptive and quite dangerous Da'wa practice through interfaith dialogues.