Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Seemingly at odds, these religions found common ground Monday night, kicking off Islamic Awareness Week with an "interfaith panel" in the UC.
Sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, the panel featured the Rev. Charles Fels, Rabbi Alon Ferency and Imam Rafiq Mahdi who discussed each of their religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
"Today's event is meant to focus on understanding each other a little bit better," Abdelrahman Murphy, UT's Muslim campus chaplain, said, "and to dig a bit deeper than we're used to."
Each religious leader gave an introduction of his religion and addressed some of the misconceptions the general public might have about each.
"A lot of times Muslims are seen as the 'foreign' or the 'other,'" Murphy said. "One of the goals we had was not to convert, not to preach, but to simply enlighten and educate people about our faith."
Ferency empathized with Murphy, saying Judaism, too, suffers from misunderstanding.
"It is quite challenging to describe something that is 3,000 years old and has a diversity of traditions," Ferency said. "A historic misconception is that Judaism is very legalistic, that we care more about how you do things than what you do. I think there's a value to action, there's also a value to understanding your action."
Fels followed, highlighting the contradictions between Christian doctrine and society's view of Christianity.
"Our starting point for a meaningful life is to love God with all your heart, your mind, and your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself," Fels said. "National surveys tell us this, that Christians are narrow-minded, judgmental, holier-than-thou and hypocrites."
The final member of the panel to speak, Mahdi, addressed the definition of Islam and post-9/11 assumptions.
"Islam is an Arabic term that means submission, and the Muslim is the one whom is trying to submit their will to the will of the Creator," Mahdi said. "Muslims are not terrorists. The same thing can happen to Christianity, to Judaism, to any religion, just right now it seems to be more our turn."
Following introductions, the floor was opened to the audience for questions, which ranged from general doctrinal questions about each faith such as the beliefs about an afterlife and meanings of the different names for God.
Concluding the event, the panel was asked to explain why their faith was "true." Each panelist answered similarly, asserting that religion is a matter of personal experience.
"I don't say that my faith is right," Ferency said, "but it certainly is right for me."
Mahdi chimed in next with his response to his faith's validity.
"Everyone's faith is indeed personal," Mahdi said, "It's a condition of heart. It's what I feel in my heart."
Fels concluded the panel with his take on the question.
"My own view on the interrelationship between Christianity and other faith traditions is quite simple," Fels said, "One light, many windows. These are other windows, and I share their quest for the mystery called God."