Posts Tagged ‘statement’

Does Christmas offend?

At this time of year, stories about ‘banning’ Christmas appear. So here is the Christian Muslim Forum’s ‘Christmas Statement’, first published in 2006.

Over the past few years there has been concern about the secularisation or deChristianisation of certain religious festivals. In particular, concerns that local authorities decided to rename Christmas. In fact, this was not the case, although stories persist of Christmas ‘being banned’. Some have suggested that Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ offends members of other religious traditions.

Some suggest that wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ offends members of other religious traditions.

As Christians and Muslims together we are wholeheartedly committed to the recognition of Christian festivals. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. We believe that the only beneficiaries of a declining Christian presence in public life are those committed to a totally non-religious standpoint. We value the presence of clear institutional markers within society of the reality and mystery of God in public life, rather than its absence.

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life.

We believe that our open and democratic society should promote freedom and expression of religion in the public space rather than restrict it. We welcome, for instance, public recognition of ’Id al-Fitr (Eid al-Fitr), as Muslims celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan. We value partnerships in some local communities which enables others to share with Muslims at this time of celebration. This affirms the public contribution people of different faiths bring to our society. We believe that downplaying the celebration of religious festivals promotes frustration, alienation and even anger within religious communities. Such negative approaches devalue religion and undermine the positive contributions that faith communities bring to society.

We believe that downplaying the celebration of religious festivals promotes frustration, alienation and even anger.

We also rejoice in the contribution and value of all religious communities in our country – Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others. It is important for the integrity of all religious traditions that we recognise the centrality of their major festivals. In our diverse society we need to foster a mature and healthy outlook which recognizes this country’s Christian heritage as well as the important part that other religious traditions play within our culture. This demands increased religious understanding by
government and local authorities, and we are encouraged by the involvement of the Department for Communities in this area and the annual Inter Faith Week.

In our diverse society we need to foster a mature and healthy outlook which recognises this country’s Christian heritage as well as the important part that other religious traditions play within our culture.

We are thankful for policies and actions which respond helpfully to our changing religious environment. On the other hand, we are concerned that approaches based on anti-religious philosophies, or fear of religion, risk causing alienation in many communities and fanning the growth of extremism. Those who react to religious pluralism by downplaying the place of Christianity in British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda which they do not hold.

They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda which they do not hold.

People need occasions for festival and celebration. For many in our society, these opportunities are fundamentally religious and spiritual. We encourage everyone with responsibility in national and local government to give an open and welcoming space for religious festivals as part of a positive contribution to community cohesion.

First issued November 2006, updated.  Download the statement.


Good News for Eid

Giving Thanks at the end of Ramadhan

Eid, the feast at the end of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting is a day of good news, the fast has been completed, a month of repentance has come to its conclusion, the whole of the Qur’an has been recited and the feast begins. It is often said that Eid is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.
This Eid, 10 September 2010, the day before the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is a day of good news for another reason. Like many people travelling to work this morning I picked up the Metro (free UK newspaper) and read ‘Pastor cancels Koran bonfire after protests’. An answer to prayer just as I was preparing to load our statement about this onto the Christian Muslim Forum website. BBC news report.
Eid Mubarak!
Extracts from recent statements:
‘We fully endorse the Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence that there is no place in our traditions for violent response.  The work of building up good understanding between Christians and Muslims remains as vital as ever.’  The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain, OBE, DL, Co-Chairs, Christian Muslim Forum
The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘At the present time our religious communities face many challenges and many provocations. In this country there are those who speak maliciously about religion in general and often against Islam in particular; demonstrations in many of our cities are intended to provoke; and in other parts of the world the threat to desecrate scriptures is deeply deplorable and to be strongly condemned by all people. These are challenges that we must respond to with a consistent message: that we oppose collectively all such provocations and insist that there is no place in our traditions for violent response. In solidarity with each other we will resist all attempts to induce violence by a constant message of peacefulness and reconciliation.’
Revd. Canon John Hall, Director of the St Philip’s Centre Leicester said, ‘The plan to burn the Holy Qur’an is a violation of our interfaith principles. As a Christian who is deeply involved in interfaith, I condemn this deplorable act. Christians and Muslims have a very strong joint track record of living and working together. Our scriptures share much in common.
Suleman Nagdi MBE DL of the Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations added, ‘The burning of any religious scripture is a degrading act which all of us must speak out against. I have worked with Christians for a very long time and I know that they are very angry with this stunt. As Muslims it is part of our faith that we revere and respect all holy scriptures particularly the Torah, Psalms of David and the Hebrew Bible. I urge Muslims to act in the spirit of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to show their disapproval through peaceful means. We can do this by continuing to work alongside our Christian cousins so that collectively we can overcome bigotry and prejudice.’
On behalf of the Christian Muslim Forum I hope that those who have held a copy of the Qur’an recently will take the time to learn more about Islam and find out that it does not condone terrorism, suicide bombing and enmity with people of other faiths.
Other messages
Friendship letter from Christians and Muslims at Lambeth Palace
Christian Muslim Forum’s Ethical Witness guidelines
Christian Muslim Forum’s Christmas statement
Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum

Communities Together Preventing All Forms of Hate

The theme for this initiative is “Communities Together Preventing All Forms of Hate”.  This is to highlight civic responsibility and engagement which chimes with the aims of many national organizations, including inter-faith forums. The Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) have teamed up with the Christian-Muslim Forum, local schools and other places of worship in initiative open for all sections of the community to take part in this unique event.

We hope that this event will help raise further awareness of all manifestations of hate crime and the burdens placed on society by them. We also hope that this approach helps rekindle a new sense of collective community responsibility to curb the spread of hate crime, renewing our conviction that all people, faiths and cultures are able to live together in peace and harmony.

In preparation for the launch of the campaign, young people from 12 local schools have participated in an art competition themed on showing positive messages to challenge all manifestations of a hate crime. The winner of the competition will have his/her drawings printed on T-Shirts that will be worn by pupils. Sarah Teather MP, the minister of State at the Department of Education has kindly agreed to present the award during the morning session of this event. I would be grateful if you could deliver a short speech in this session.

There will be another session in the afternoon where community and religious representatives will gather to support this initiative and show their united stand against all forms of hate crime. You will also have an opportunity to view the art exhibition, displaying the drawings drawn by the pupils. The event will end with a symbolic reception function, which I hope your time will allow you to take part in.

This is the statement that was agreed and signed on the day:

‘We the undersigned pledge to support together the ‘Communities Preventing Hate Campaign’ by taking a stand against all promotion and encouragement of hatred between and within communities, whether religious or non-religious. We declare that there is no place in a harmonious society for groups or factions who aim to divide and undermine – our strength and future lie in our unity. We, therefore, oppose all forms of hate-crime and incitement to hatred, including:

  • Vilification of religion, religious believers and non-religious value systems
  • Gang-crime and mischievous fostering of inter-community tensions
  • Abuse of the vulnerable
  • Any offensive and aggressive extremism
  • All words and actions which justify and glorify domestic and international terrorism

We are committed to working towards the goal of all faith, and non-faith, communities working together to promote a new sense of collective community responsibility. Our vision is that such community responsibility has the power to curb all manifestations and expressions of hate-crime. In signing this statement we renew our conviction and commitment that people of all faiths and no faith are able to live together in peace and harmony.’

This is the agreed statement

Response to ‘Generation Jihad’

Faith Schools Seminar (Primary)

As the Muslim and Christian Presidents of the Christian Muslim Forum we deplore terrorism and violence, especially any which claims to be religiously justified (‘Chief Constable warns terror fight will take decades’ comments to BBC2′ ‘Generation Jihad’). We re-affirm that our scriptures and prophetic traditions themselves neither inspire nor support violence. Rather they call us to peace, bridge-building and being good neighbours with each other and discourage the waging of war. The roots of religiously justified terrorism and violence lie elsewhere, as many in the community and inter faith organizations have been saying for some years.

We were very disturbed and concerned that the image of a Muslim praying at a mosque was originally used to accompany the online report of this news item. This allows, or encourages, people to wrongly associate religious practice with violence and terrorism. We are pleased that the BBC has recognized that this was inappropriate and have now replaced it. We also ask the BBC, and other media, to avoid associating the mainstream Muslim community, and practice of Islam, with violence and terrorism and clearly identify these as criminal, not Islamic acts.

The Christian Muslim Forum, whose origins pre-date 7/7 and 9/11, exists to promote positive dialogue and better understanding between both faiths by challenging myths, misunderstandings and prejudice. We have contributed to improved public understanding and better relations between both communities through our statements on Religious Festivals, our Ethical Witness guidelines and our current Mosque-Church twinning and Campus Dialogue projects.’

Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Dr Musharraf Hussain OBE (Co-Chairs), Revd Esme Beswick MBE, Shaykh Abbas Ismail, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Shaykh Haytham Tamim, Dr Nicholas Wood

Who do you say I am?

Christian and Muslim answers at Christmas

Jesus asks this question in the Gospel, there were various answers, but he wasn’t satisfied until Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. Christianity still stands by this answer, as do the Christian members of the Christian Muslim Forum. The question is often used today by evangelists but it is not often wrestled with as it was in the time of Jesus.

But this December emel, is asking, ‘In a world of divisions, can the man both Muslims and Christians call the Messiah, have the potential to be a bridge? The Muslim understanding of Jesus is simple. He was a man, born of a virgin (the account in the Qur’an’s third chapter very similar to the gospels). He was given prophethood by God from birth and performed miracles during his life by God’s leave. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion; and the majority orthodox belief is that he did not die and will one day return. In a nutshell, that is it. But there is more.’ The article goes on to ask, ‘How is it possible to accept his virgin birth and yet reject him as divine?’

Muslims recognise the religious importance of Christmas for Christians and are opening up a dialogue and challenging the perceptions of many who are unaware of Jesus’s place in Islam. There is also an article in a recent edition of the New Statesman, while the Barnabas Fund addresses it in their January/February magazine. Muslims engaging with Christians about Jesus is an encouraging development, even if it has its own difficulties. I remember an ecumenical Lent group where we talked about a Radio 4 series – people of different religions were reflecting on Jesus. One of my friends crossly said, ‘I don’t want to hear about Jesus from a Buddhist!’

We can’t be Muslims and Christians and agree entirely about Jesus, though we can try to convince each other of the rightness of our own beliefs, in the best possible way. When we don’t handle our differences honestly we end up fudging or being perceived as compromising each faith’s distinctives. This is one of the concerns which many Christians have about some conversations between Muslims and Christians about Jesus. Our work in the Christian Muslim Forum depends on there being difference between us so we should be in a good place to explore the different opinions. So let’s ask ourselves, as Christians and Muslims, ‘Who do we say Jesus is? Is emel right that can he be a bridge?’

Christian Answers, Julian Bond

Muslim Answers, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

So where does this leave us? We are still different, we have not accepted each others beliefs. Some conversations about Jesus become unhelpful and unconvincing arguments about who is wrong and who is right. The best conversations are those where we listen patiently to each other and seek to understand, and hope that what we are trying to do is share what is important to us while giving space for ‘the other’ to share in the same way.

With greetings of Peace this Christmas,
‘Christmas statement’
Julian Bond, Abdal Hakim Murad, Ibrahim Mogra
with grateful acknowledgments to emel for the use of their image and their article

Attacks on Christians in Pakistan

The inhumane attacks on the homes of Pakistani Christians which resulted in the deaths of eight people is a major crime. Senior Muslim scholars from Pakistan personally known to me, have unambiguously condemned this as a serious crime, and a sin. They have shown their solidarity and extended hands of friendship to the bereaved Christian families. Amongst these scholars are the following: Pir Ameen al Hassanat, spiritual leader of the Chishtia order; Allama Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, President of Jammat ahl Sunna and Haji Fazal Karim. Our British charity Muslim Hands  has already visited the affected Christians to provide support to the victims and will continue to do so.

I would like the Pakistani High Commissioner in London to do two things to stop this kind of violence against minorities ever happening again:

1. Ensure that the police take seriously the issues of minorities and their treatment. This tragic incident could have been averted if the Pakistani police had taken notice of the Muslim-Christian tensions in the area.

2. Amend the blasphemy law so that it cannot be abused, or exploited, by extremists and others.

On behalf of British Muslims I urge the Pakistani government to take special measures to give respect and full rights, as well as protection, to our Christians neighbours.

I would also like to appeal to the British government to take positive action in promoting trust building and peace and reconciliation amongst Christians and Muslims in Pakistan.
Musharraf Hussain OBE, DL
Chair, Christian Muslim Forum

Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement, also Archbishop’s statement on recent violence against Christians in Nigeria

Islamic Society of North America’s statement

Make a donation to our ongoing bridge-building work, or to Muslim Hands or Christian Aid