The November terrorist attacks in Paris struck a nerve in this country, which nearly 15 years after Sept. 11, is still grappling with the role of Islamic faith in society. Within the religious meetings community, the views of Muslims are as diverse as the United States itself. We asked five planners from faith-based/cultural organizations—including the Muslim-based Islamic Society of North America—for their perspective.
In your opinion, do religious Americans accept Islamic worshippers to the degree they accept Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, etc.?
Basharat Saleem, director of conventions, conferences and marketing for Islamic Society of North America: As a professional within the meeting industry, I have not experienced any resistance with convention centers, hotels and other vendors. From a community standpoint, people may have a different view though.
Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer for Mennonite Church USA: Accept may not be the right word. Have we really accepted theology that does not agree with our own? Religion still deeply divides our nation across many lines. Within the Protestant community, we are still divided by race and denominational doctrine. In regards to the Muslim community, I think many people are confused and somewhat ignorant.
Michelle Henderson, program coordinator for United Methodist Association: Many Christian Americans I know accept all people as children of our creator. I sincerely hope Americans are open to loving our neighbors as Christ has called us to do.
“I don’t accept or embrace the beliefs of many Christians, Mormons, Jews or Muslims. Nevertheless, as a Christian, I treat them as I would want to be treated.”
Charles Melear, conference planner for United Church of God: I don’t accept or embrace the beliefs of many Christians, Mormons, Jews or Muslims. Nevertheless, as a Christian, I treat them as I would want to be treated. Islamic worshippers are not monolithic, just as Christians are not monolithic. American culture is basically one of living peacefully with others who don’t threaten their safety or long-term culture regardless of their faith. I just returned from Turkey. As an American and Christian, I always felt safe and welcomed. That would not be true in all Islamic nations.
Rev. William E. Townes Jr., convention manager and vice president of convention finance for Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee: There is a growing awareness in the faith-based community that individuals who hold to religiously informed values and belief systems are increasingly being bombarded by a culture drifting toward secularism. I think these factors draw together many different faith-based groups to support each other’s right to exercise individual religious freedom and the inviolable nature of conscience and faith.