Friday's Sermon in Damascus
In Damascus, I was asked to speak at the Mosque Zahra. One of the very prominent religious scholars of Damascus asked me to give a khutba (Friday sermon) to more than 5,000 people.

 

So before I give the khutba, I must consider that there’s a lot of anti-American feeling. You can’t conceal that. So, bearing that in mind, I say, “America is just like Islam. You can’t consider it a monolith. Just like if Americans are looking at Islam like a monolith--that’s not correct. Americans consist of very, very different kinds of communities and people.”

 

Then I gave the examples of Bishop John Chane of the National Cathedral in Washington and Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of Washington Hebrew Congregation--these are two great friends of mine. Together, we are involved in having a dialogue. These two wonderful gentlemen have truly reached out to the Muslim community. I gave the example of Professor Judea Pearl, the father of Danny Pearl, and the dialogue we’re having. I said these are extraordinary Americans who are reaching out, just when you think the whole of America is on the warpath against Islam.

 

Yes, policies can change; foreign policies must alter. But these are warm, wonderful people, and we need to understand that there are people who are prepared to have a dialogue and build friendship a across these gaps.

 

And I must say, speaking of the dialogue works every time. Remember, we are wedged in right now in the Middle East, where on one side we’ve got the Palestinian ongoing crisis as they lock horns with Israel. People feel very strongly about that. On the other side you’ve got Iraq in a complete mess, and people feel very strongly about that. So in that context, to simply be able to talk about dialogue and to refer to Bishop John Chane and Rabbi Lustig and Judea Pearl is a huge, huge leap of imagination.

 

Anti-Americanism and Mistrust

Amman, Jordan, March 7, 2006

 

Americans have no idea how strong the anti-American sentiment is in the Arab world. For example, no one believes here that the mosques in Iraq were blown up by Muslims. Because they say no Muslim would blow up another Muslim’s mosque, whether Shi’a or Sunni--and certainly not a mosque which has stood for a 1,000 years and which housed the remains of a descendent of the Prophet. Even when all the ferocious conquerors came to that part of the world, that mosque was never damaged. And suddenly it has been blown up. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of resentment