The past week I participated in a forum staged by the Interfaith Action Initiative. Happily, the participants — both students and professors — were eager to explore the differences between Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions and forms of observance. Indeed, all faulted our insufficient religious instruction for our failure to grasp “why all the fuss?”
Without blaming anyone, there is something deeply, fundamentally, absolutely disturbing in the interfaith symbol, irrespective of the symbol at its core:
The problem is not that it erases or makes light of 10,000 years of real history. The problem is that it assumes that difference is the cause for violence. Difference is not the cause for violence. The failure to recognize and accept difference is the cause for violence.
Islam is not a more advanced form of Judaism or Christianity. Christianity is not a more advanced form of Judaism. Islam is not a synthesis of Judaism and Christianity. At best — at best — Judaism is a foundation, but only for Christianity and Islam; not the myriad other spiritual formations that have found their place in history.
I will acknowledge that there is something comforting in the notion that we all, ultimately, believe the same thing. But historically, socially, even analytically, that is not true. It is false. Even though Jews find expressions of G_d in Creation, no Jew who is a Jew (as opposed to a “Jew for Jesus”) will countenance a G_d born even of a Virgin. These are not the same things.
The Holy Prophet, blessed be His Name, is not Jesus, but better. The Holy Prophet is wholly human, but not for this reason uninspiring and uninspired. This is different, fundamentally different, than Jesus or Moses. To reduce the Holy Prophet to the latter is to fundamentally misrecognize and disrespect Islam. Salaam.
Not to mention eastern, non-Abrahamic spiritual disciplines.
We behave, all of us, as though difference is a cause for violence. Difference is a cause for understanding, and, we hope, for better appreciation. So please, please, please, do not feel that “we are all the same” is an expression of appreciation. It is not. It is an expression of disinterest and ignorance.