In “Good Neighbors” in the Boston Globe, Diana Eck of Harvard University dismisses the David Project’s well-founded accusations against the Islamic Society of Boston and the Boston Redevelopment Authority as obstacles to the neighborliness she so desires, since after all, “Boston is part of the Islamic world.”
What does that mean? I’m not sure. I don’t think she is sure. But this is the kind of muddled thinking that rules the day.
Still, much work remains. At the heart of Boston in Roxbury Crossing stands the magnificent shell of what will eventually be the Islamic Society of Boston’s landmark mosque, as yet incomplete. Progress is swamped by the well-publicized accusations of the David Project, a Jewish advocacy group, about the mosque’s funding and leadership and the ensuing litigation against the David Project by the Islamic Society of Boston. Meanwhile, Jewish-Muslim relations in Boston have become tense, undermining honest and difficult dialogue at the very time we need it most.
Last month, as I stood under the great dome of the mosque at Roxbury Crossing, I prayed, as a Christian, for its speedy completion. In 2006, it should not surprise us to learn that the so-called “Islamic world” is not somewhere else. Boston is part of the Islamic world. Looking to the future, the vision of an Islamic Center dedicated to interfaith outreach and education at the crossroads of Boston is worth the commitment of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Interfaith dialogue is not happy hand-holding premised on agreement. It is the kind of encounter we need to understand our deepest differences and build a society that bridges them. Our local efforts to overcome ignorance and fear may not be able to solve the searing conflicts of the wider world, but we can make a big difference in the climate of Boston.