The Rev. Deborah Lindsay is building bridges with an interesting crowd. The leader of the Noor Mosque in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Hany Saqr, was previously an imam for another area mosque which at that time was the base of operations for the largest known Al-Qaeda cell in the U.S. since 9/11, including convicted jihadists Iyman Faris, Nuradin Abdi, and Christopher Paul. Saqr is one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America. Dr. Salah Sultan was the Noor Islamic Center’s unofficial scholar in residence. A protégé of Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sultan is now in the Middle East and has appeared on Egyptian television approvingly quoting the genocidal hadith about how the end times will not come until Muslims kill Jews. He previously appeared at events in support of Hamas and Qaradawi. The Noor Center has been directly linked to the Somali Muslims who have gone from the U.S. back to Somali for jihad terror training. Siraj Wahhaj, a friend of the Blind Sheikh and a potential unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, has spoken at the Noor Mosque. Mosque members threatened the life of Rifqa Bary, a teenage girl who left Islam for Christianity.
Lent is for Christians traditionally a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. There is no sect of Christianity that now or ever has defined Lent as involving waging war against and subjugating non-Christians. Yet a Shafi’i manual of Islamic law that was certified in 1991 by the clerics at Al-Azhar University, one of the leading authorities in the Islamic world, as “conforming to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community,” says that “jihad means to war against non-Muslims.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, O9.0). Many other Islamic authorities back up this definition. To point out, as Lindsay does, that other Muslims think of jihad in other ways does nothing to stop that violent jihad for even one second.
“Minister explores bonds Muslims, Christians share,” by JoAnne Viviano for the Columbus Dispatch, March 28 (thanks to Twostellas):
The Rev. Deborah Lindsay’s office isn’t exactly typical for a Christian minister.
Along with crosses on the wall, bookshelves hold Christian texts alongside Muslim scriptures. A dish on a table holds Muslim prayer beads. Behind her door hang clergy stoles, including one patterned with a colorful design adapted from a Muslim prayer rug.
The room at First Community Church in Marble Cliff represents what Lindsay has spent the past four years working to achieve. Just as she has found that Christianity can blend with Islam in her office, she has shown that Christians can sit beside Muslims in the community.
Lindsay is wrapping up a Muslim-Christian bridge-building project that pairs members of her church with members of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard.
Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb once said: “The chasm between Islam and Jahiliyyah [the society of unbelievers] is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of Jahiliyyah may come over to Islam.”
It’s part of her work toward a doctor of ministry degree in multi-faith studies at New York Theological Seminary.
“The thing that surprised me the most is that people in the congregation were surprised that we share common values with Muslims — the importance of loving your neighbor, compassion, taking care of people who need to be taken care of,” she said.
“Those are values that are deeply embedded in Christianity and deeply embedded in Islam, and people didn’t know that.”
Along with events at Noor, Lindsay has preached on a Lenten topic that might not have been so warmly welcomed at a less-progressive congregation. The pre-Easter season of sacrifice and repentance, she said, has a great deal in common with the Muslim concept of jihad.
“When we think jihad, we think holy war. And that may be what it means to fanatics and terrorists, but what the vast majority of Muslims understand jihad to be is ‘struggling in the way of God,’ ” she wrote for a 2013 sermon.
“The way of God being goodness, justice, mercy and compassion. It is a personal, spiritual endeavor.”
For Muslims, Lindsay said, jihad might mean marching on despite the loss of a child, building bridges through friendship or trying not to take simple things for granted.
Although she acknowledged that the concept might be a stretch for many, she said she seeks to push people out of their comfort zones so they see one another not as categories or stereotypes, but as people of faith who share the same God.
During the events at Noor, participants from both religions wrote their deepest values on slips of paper and the group was asked to try to determine which values were Muslim and which were Christian. No one could tell the difference.
She said the eventual goal is to replicate the project with other congregations.
“This is a great way of bringing communities together and erasing taboos and misunderstandings,” said Imran Malik, chairman of the board that oversees Noor.
He said the events led to friendships, evidenced by connections on Facebook and Twitter.
Interfaith understanding is growing in central Ohio, he added, especially as work in the area reaches Columbus’ suburbs.
Such activities are fruitful and should be encouraged, said Nimet Alpay, who has worked on a number of interfaith initiatives with the Turkish American Society of Ohio and as an executive member of Niagara Foundation.
“When we get over the minor differences we have and not prejudge the others by what we hear from media or from other sources, we see that we do have the same shared values and we can work hand in hand to better our communities for all of us to live in harmony,” Alpay said.
Lindsay started on her path in August 2001, when she was angered by threats from the Rev. Terry Jones in Florida to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.
She delivered a sermon on the topic that received more than 218,000 hits on YouTube and led to invitations to speak to Muslim and other faith groups….