Putting Extremists Back in their Place

Here is what the latest Gallup polling on religious attitudes tells us: Most Christians want better relations between Christianity and … Continued

Here is what the latest Gallup polling on religious attitudes tells us:

Most Christians want better relations between Christianity and Islam but believe most Muslims don’t. Most Muslims want better relations but believe most Christians don’t. Most Americans think most Muslims do not accept other religions. Actually most Muslims say they want greater and not lesser interaction between religions.

Reading that reminded me of the first stanza in William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

One hundred years ago, the great African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois famously said that “the problem of the twentieth century will be the problem of the color line”

Most people assumed that the color line divided black and white. But Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came around 60 years later and changed the paradigm. He suggested that the real dividing line wasn’t between black and white, but between those who wanted to live together as brothers and those who wanted to perish together as fools.

I believe the 21st century will be dominated by the question of the faith line.

Our first and most important challenge is to recognize that the faith line does not divide Muslims and Christians, Hindus and Buddhists or secularists from the faithful.

The faith line separates religious totalitarians and religious pluralists.

Religious totalitarians want a society where their group dominates and everyone else suffocates.

Religious pluralists want a society where people from different backgrounds live in equal dignity and mutual loyalty.

These recent Gallup poll numbers tell us what we already know: that the pluralists are in the majority, and yet the totalitarians have succeeded in convincing us to be afraid of each other.

Which brings up the second challenge of the faith line: for those of us in the majority to stand up for our pluralist vision, to tell our story, to put the extremists back in their place: on the extremes.

As I write in the Introduction of my book, Acts of Faith,

“Pluralism is an intentional commitment that is imprinted through action. It requires deliberate engagement with difference, outspoken loyalty to others, and proactive protection in the breach. You have to choose to step off the faith line onto the side of pluralism, and then you have to make your voice heard.”

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    thats good ibrahim- i hope your good relationships with your relatives lets you recognize the possibility of excellence in everyone- even muslims. at least i see you started to read the first paragraph- read the rest- it wanst me that said that- but i agree with it.

  • Relevance

    These qualities that the author talks about are only missing in the Muslim world.

  • John

    Mr. Patel,

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Victoria quotes:”Within the context of defensive warfare, The Prophet imposed strict limits destined to safeguard lives and properties. Thus, the Prophet Muhammad prohibited to kill, in the case of warlike conflict, women, children and civilians (Sahih Muslim:1744, and Sahih Al-Bujari: 3015).”Moi:Moi again:

  • ZZim

    Nice article Eboo.

  • Paganplace

    I think, Ibrahim, the only real solution to that kind of fundamentalism is for the pluralists among us to make them irrelevant. It’s hard for religions that really use the same language and texts to describe, perhaps, different attitudes. The tendency is for destructive differences and alienation to be ideological: the real bridges are built on more personal levels, and really, I think through rather mythic resolutions to conflicts and antipathies that have taken on the character of, really become, myths of themselves. Fundamentalists use fear, because fear alienates, and prevents the very kind of personal contacts that can show they are wrong. People paint each other some pretty scary pictures of people of my faith group, for instance, …this fear makes it hard to interact *as* a Pagan and expect anyone to see much more than the fears they were taught… when as ‘just people’ there can be friendliness and mutual respect… Maybe later they find out you’re a Pagan and ask some questions, maybe sometimes the fear just takes over again. It has much to do with what people teach each other about others, too, so people can feel that sense of common humanity which is really more powerful than hatred and antipathy and, really, violence.


    mr mahfouz asks- by using our own doctrine mr mahfouz- and proving to them that our religion is based upon social justice, and human rights are at the core of it. i recommend you read the post on interfaith work for a queen- its the last one- here, i’ll make it easy for you- i really hope you read this with an open mind mr mahfouz- there is no concept of excommunication in islam- but i came here to support mr patel’s exhortations to the inclusion and plurality of all mankind-


    I went to a Ramadan lunch at my company. It was a great time for all the different ethnicities, religions, and nationalities represented.There were people who you might call evangelical Christains there. But no preaching by anyone… There was a slide show on Islam playing, showing Mosques. We all rely on each other at work. Being there, it was hard to imagine the real difficulties “out there”.

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Victoria says:”In the Koran, The Book revealed to Humanity as a guide, God orders Muslims to acquire an excellence in ethical and moral behavior. Islamic morality rests on values such as peace, tolerance, mercy or compassion.”Who are you kidding? The “Book revealed to Humanity as a guide’ is mostly a compilation of myths and legends and rituals borrowed from the Zoroaster religion of ancient Persia and the Sabaeans and the pagan religions of Arabia. The rest is a manual on how to eliminate those who do not subscribe to Mohammad’s teachings and his religion. I do not see any mercy for those who do not tow the line or tolerance for the other. Peace as understood by the Muslim Jurisprudence will happen only after the whole world is Islamized and not before, and that is a sure mandate for wars and conflicts.

  • Paganplace

    Mote. Plank. QED.

  • Paganplace

    I mean, seriously, Arif, what you trying to do, talk yourself into a fight? You want opposing scriptural literalisms, let’s fence all the apocalyptarians into the present suburb of Meggido, hand out the literal bronze swords and spears, and you can have at it. Maybe Pay-Per-View will sponsor it. Happy? Or is it more blood you want?


    Just Wondering, are all your arguements based on name-calling?Is it really truth that you are after? Or do you just want to humiliate someone?The company I work for celebrates Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender week once every year because we realize that intellectual talents are distributed amoung all types of people.I’m proud of that.

  • Anonymous

    FRIEND: “Just Wondering, are all your arguements based on name-calling? Is it really truth that you are after? Or do you just want to humiliate someone? The company I work for celebrates Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender week once every year because we realize that intellectual talents are distributed amoung all types of people.I’m proud of that.”………………..PROUD…….THEN BY ALL MEANS POST BY YOUR “REAL NAME,” SO WE CAN EXTEND OUR CONGRATS TO THE “REAL YOU.” NO NAMES AS PREVIOUSLY YOU ACCUSED, JUST PLAIN AND SIMPLE FACTS. BTW DID YOU THINK THAT YOUR POST WAS GOING TO CHANGE MY MIND ON THE ISSUE…..BE REAL WILL YOU AND STOP HIDING.


    All my friends, co-workers and family know how I feel about this subject.This is a human rights issue.50 years from now we will look upon gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender issue the same way we look at the Civil Rights struggle.I don’t think I’ll change your mind. But your behavior and mine may change other minds.Love.

  • Paganplace

    “You people are lost beyond imagination!”I dunno, you seem to be the one who ‘imagines’ lil’ ol me is a ‘gang,’ whereas JJ posts defamatory drool and slurs ‘cleverly’-separated by P.E.R.I.O.D.S to every thread he can….He’s not far gone enough to not know what he’s doing, but apparently not bright enough to keep a civil tongue, or in fact, demonstrate reading comprehension. If you believe he has ‘The Way,’ well, consider he called Pagans friends until he decided Mitt Romney was ‘The Way’ at some point… had some kind of episode or something.Perhaps you’d like to defend his statements? Perhaps start by reading my corrections. I’ve said them before.

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Arif:Victoria says:Moi:

  • Paganplace

    “When a mature person believes that rotating around a cubical stone would grant him admission into a place with running rivers of wine and honey and black-eyed virgins reclining beneath silken tents he can believe anything.”Can he believe, then, that we can all get along constructively?May as well try, I should think.

  • Anonymous

    In all fairness to Christians it must be said that there is no teaching in the New Testament or in the example set by Jesus Christ or His Apostles to justify any hatred by Christians towards Muslims or anybody else.Christians only need to be reminded to follow the life of Jesus Christ and His teachings more closely.As a Muslim you have a difficult job of convincing Muslims to accept plurality because some verses in the Quran can be interpreted negatively. If Muslims choose to tell Christians that they have got their own Scripture wrong, there is bound to be some objection. A dialogue cannot be founded on a Muslim telling a Christian that a Muslim understands Christian Scripture better than Christians themselves do. You are doing your best to build bridges and it is greatly appreciated by people of all faiths you work with. Keep up the good work! Convincing Muslims is going to be more difficult than convincing Christians.

  • wiccan

    “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.””Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”Why do you have a book if you’re not going to listen to it? It doesn’t seem right to use it as a weapon to hurt someone, but you would know better than I.

  • Merry Anonymous

    What is this sudden attack of “famouslys,” felicitously absent from OnFaith blogs until now, when it evidently infilitrated in an unguarded moment both Eboo Patel’s and Susan Jacoby’s essays?Sincerely,M. Anonymous

  • Paganplace

    See… I know this is from a troll, but… it makes a good example of what I was talking about. Call it rhetorical:Here’s JJ, with some prejudices that he should be informed better about by now, but continues to say, anyway: he’s either lying or incapable of getting it… “P A G A N P L A C E(aka Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Nordica… la la la .. Neo-Pagans of Wicaans/Witches; which are mostly “Non-Straights” All White )”I’ve told you before that none of this is true. Do you have something against these ethnicities that you seem obsessed with? You seem to imply so. No, we’re not ‘mostly Non-straights,’ we just have nothing *against* non-straights. No, we’re not ‘all white,’ …I could refer you to some black priests and priestesses if you like, …the Pagan columnist here is of Semitic ancestry, (I forget if that ‘counts’ to racists)..and we got people from all over. Certainly we’re a heavily European faith group, and for those seeking their ancestral ways, there’s gonna be a lot of Franks and Teutons and Gaels and Britons and Baltic and Mediterranean and Near Eastern folks, as well as the tribal groups you’ve mentioned, but that’s mostly cause those who had their ancestral ways till colonialism have more to go on in those fashions, but there’s nothing exclusive about it. You may as well claim all Muslims are Arabs, just cause a lot of Islam comes from, err, Arabia. Why would we want such a thing, never mind be jealous of them? History shows pretty clearly they’re nothing but trouble. We keep the ‘Scripture’ short and sweet and learn and discuss myth and story. Our Gods are in *everything,* not off in some other realm from which They supposedly like Fedexed a *book.* We value literacy, not literalism. You can see in this discussion how so many big stumbling blocks about better relations between ‘religions of the book’ both tend to center around some idea that the other has a Scripture which can be and certainly has been interpreted to justify, if not command, ill-treatment of neighbors. Certainly both Islam and Christianity both have plenty in books about converting the whole world, which has obviously, inevitably, led to conflict, cause you Abrahamic monotheists (Yes, you’re doing basically the same thing, JJ,) …all seem to want the same thing and essentially, revere a bunch of words which can be used to justify, if not command, oppression, aggression, and atrocity. History shows this.Faith, and humanity, cannot be contained in a book, any more than it can be contained by a building, border, or belligerence. You can *have* all the books you want, but if the books are good, they are a springboard, maybe a shelter or comfort, –not a fence, wall, or trench of ‘war.’ Certainly not if you have some kind of faith that ‘God’ or the Gods aren’t as crazy as we are. 🙂 Humanity does not have to be the way some book-people say… The books offer a sense of ‘certainty,’ of control, first it seems appealing, then dependency develops, then more and more conditions and ‘sacrifices,’ and when that doesn’t seem to work… Ever more conditions and appeasements and blame and blindness and conflict. If you believe in only One Ultimate God, I’d you must eventually come to the conclusion that She/He/It/Them ain’t stupid. That this wonderful world is not a *mistake,* not a barren, hostile, desert wilderness with only one book or another to connect us to ourselves, each other, and the world.That even if in the past we have much delighted in fighting each other, the bloom’s gone off that. That with, and ironically from, great power to kill each other ..has come great power to do otherwise. And all the weariness and knowing-of-the waste that now comes of what was once counted as strength… does not mean the world is wicked or that yours or my or Muslims’ God is cruel, but that slouching toward Apocalypse is *obsolete.* We just don’t all know it yet. Most things are learned the hard way. Yes, some books have been used as weapons a long time. Tragicly. But two armed people can shake hands, if they have the will and courage. This is where that little ritual came from. Let’s do it. And those who are yet afraid, won’t become less afraid if we hang out behind them.Let’s stand in *front* of them.

  • Sonja

    May i interject a new group title:Religious IntegrantSociety is pluralistic.The tenets of all world religions ask followers to live lives of morality and integrity and to be patient and tolerant.If the religious lived perfect lives, we could all live in a blissful pluralistic society.Sadly, human nature trumps religious integrity.The natural man is an enemy to God, himself, and society.Our pluralistic societies’ obligation to teach self-respect, temperance, non-violence, and compassion is, apparently, woefully lacking.Too many people lack the strength required to JUST SAY NO to their depraved and murderous fantasies.ENVY, POWER, AND GREED win the hearts of our leaders.We are all doomed if we don’t get a handle on the trends that marginalize many in order to enrich the few.Can’t you hear Mother Earth weeping?


    arif- “you people”? is there a more xenophobic statement in america? ive written a book in answers to mr mahfouz- and while i repsectfully read and respond to his posts- he never reads what i write! or responds, he just drones on with his cut and pastes- mr mahfouz- im watching john mccain pandering to AIPAC right now- that is what islam demands of us- the rest im sorry- but your ideas are nto based on doctrine but some old tribal prejudices.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    As Victoria pointed out, it can be said in all fairness that the Muslims who commit themselves to plurality and peace can be trusted to lay down their lives for the cause. The world needs Muslims like Dr Eboo Patel, that cannot be mentioned often enough.

  • Anonymous

    If I’m a Moslem, colored and living in the US, I would write the same thing as Eboo did.

  • Paganplace

    “Generally speaking I usually speak of or against an act that is committed and not against “the person.” Maybe I should write better with my English grammar and not quantify the “person” but quantify the “act” more clearly.”To my experience as a queer American, you guys say it’s about an ‘act’ after defaming *people* and then trying to say you’re not in fact the kind of people who would do what you insist upon doing. If you have that big a problem with language, you got no business using a book to ‘rebuke’ *anyone.*

  • Paganplace

    I mean, you know, it takes a lot of frickin’ gall to claim, “My reading of my book says God tells you to do exactly what I say, this is the Literal Word Of God,” …then when called on what you demand, say, “Excuse my grammar.”

  • Alberto Torres

    Good evening:

  • Anonymous

    JJ, what’s the matter, baby? Daddy not treating you right?

  • Arminius

    JJ, go back to your cell. You know Daddy will make you feel real good….Meanwhile, your village called again. Their idiot is missing. Try to go home.

  • Paganplace

    There’s that weapon metaphor again, Anonymous, even if you say your Bible gives you some special permission to use the same book for that purpose… Whatever right you may think you have to create strife with those who are different, I doubt that’s a wise procedure, when some of those you want to ‘convert’ are people who have a book of their own that says similar, but rival things. The effects of those actions by fundamentalists on both sides are in fact in the way of peace and trust and cooperation between peoples, not the answer to them. And even if you both would like to fight it out, there’s other people living here in this world. If you want to be part of the problem, Anonymous, that’s your choice, but don’t expect it to find respect among those of us who would be peacemakers.

  • Anonymous

    There’s that weapon metaphor again, Anonymous, even if you say your Bible gives you some special permission to use the same book for that purpose… And even if you both would like to fight it out, there’s other people living here in this world. …………………..Actually, I am not trying to convert anyone, did I say that or perhaps that is your interpretation of anyone who quotes the Bible. I just merely stated what the Bible says and if you or anyone have a problem with the contents of the Bible your issue is with its writer……………God, not with me.Generally speaking I usually speak of or against an act that is committed and not against “the person.” Maybe I should write better with my English grammar and not quantify the “person” but quantify the “act” more clearly.It is not my job, desire, or purpose to convert anyone. If others seek truth in others places than where I seek truth, it is their right, period.

  • Anonymous

    PP wrote, “Paganplace: “I mean, you know, it takes a lot of frickin’ gall to claim, “My reading of my book says God tells you to do exactly what I say, this is the Literal Word Of God,” …then when called on what you demand, say, “Excuse my grammar.”” ………………………Amen and amen………I love my sense of humor, don’t you? I am so proud of myself for admitting to and correcting a perceived “mistake,” aren’t you pround of me too?

  • Anonymous

    Arminius: “JJ, go back to your cell. You know Daddy will make you feel real good….Meanwhile, your village called again. Their idiot is missing. Try to go home.”………….Excuse me, but it takes an “idiot” to say the above statement containing the sexually intended concept for the reason you did, “what was your, the reason again”?

  • Anonymous

    Alberto Torres, no Christian should fall into the trap of feeling upset because someone chooses to insult Christianity, or mock Jesus or the Pope. Ignore the insults. What does it matter what people say? The reality of Christianity, Jesus, or the Pope is not dependent on those who mock them. Think of how politicians in democracies put up with ridicule everyday. Learn from them. Just ignore the lies and insults. Never ever make the mistake Muslims made in their reaction to the Danish Cartoons, lecture by the Pope etc. Christianity can survive in spite of criticism. It had to survive three centuries of persecution at the very beginning when accepting Christianity meant death, including for the Popes. We are lucky to live in times where the price of being a Christian does not have to be paid for with one’s life. Fate of Christians in Muslim countries is an issue that requires attention.

  • Concerned

    Eboo, Eboo, Eboo,You forgot to mention the “fems” (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of contemporary religions during your campus visits.e.g. The “Fems” of Islam:Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab who also had embellishing/hallucinating/ plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of the non-believers.This agenda continues as shown by the assassination of Bhutto, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, (ditto for the Sunni bombers), the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali “crazies”, the Kenya “crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, and the Filipino “koranics”.And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axia of Evil and also the Sunni “Wannabees” of Saudi Arabia.

  • sally

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  • Dolores Lear

    Who really is a Child of God today on God’s Earth? Who are Jesus Christians today? What does a Christian mean? A Lifestyle Follower of Jesus, or followers of a Religious Denomination? How many different Divisions of God’s Children are Jesus Christians?Until recently Protestants did not consider Catholics Christians, and vice versa. All Christian Divisions have differences. Saying you Love Jesus, and then Hate your Brothers/Sisters of Life, and fight Wars with each other, and not Share Resources Equally, is not a Jesus Christian.What does a Child of God mean? Being the Human Caretaker Species, and Taking Care of All Life on God’s Earth? Being the Human Killer Species of All God’s Life on Earth? Having Nuclear Waste and Pollution, on Gods Planet? Having Nuclear Weapons, the Abomination of Desolation on God’s Planet? What is the Proof of Love of God, and Love of Brothers/Sisters of God on our Home Planet?Earth is the Temple of One GOD, the Creator of All Life, visible and invisible. The Humans Species was to be the Equal Caretaker Species, not build Pagan Temples. What happened? It is Time to find the Reason for Brother/Sister Inequality, beside saying ‘Original’ Sin. ‘In the beginning’, Unequal Heterosexual Body Birth, did Divide the Original Equal High Tech Birth Peace Humans, into Unequal Humans and Death.Will Fallen Humans destroy, with their weapon arsenals, all this Mis-bred Killing Life on Planet Earth? Or, Unite in Peace, and Stop this runaway Body Birth Population Explosion of Mis-bred Humans and Death?Life is for the Living Humans, After Birth, with Equality and Peace for All, on Planets and in Spaceships. Is there any kind of Life After Physical Death, except GODs Elements?