CAIRO - In a breakthrough of interfaith relations in the US northeastern state of Indiana, a Fort Wayne church will grant a major award to a leading Muslim faith leader in recognition for his efforts to promote interfaith understanding and respect in the community.
It touched the innermost portion of my heart, J. Tamir Rasheed, the leader of the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne, told News Sentinel reported on Saturday, March 2.
Rasheed was receiving Plymouth Congregational Church's annual Amistad Peace and Justice Award on Sunday, March 3.
Learning he had been selected to receive the award, Rasheed was overwhelmed by the fact that he is the first non-Christian to receive the award.
The award is named for Africans who were kidnapped and sold into slavery but then revolted and took control of the ship transporting them, the Amistad, in 1839.
The ship eventually was run aground off Long Island, and the Africans became defendants in a legal case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The Africans who were defended by early members of what is now the Congregational Church won the case and the right to return home.
Being of African descent, the significant award also carried a deep meaning for the leading interfaith leader.
Moreover, he confirmed that the title of the award, carrying peace and justice meanings, wasthe core of true Islamic faith.
Islam's Prophet Muhammad instructs followers that, if they see an injustice, they are obligated to right it with their hands, Rasheed said.
If the perpetrator of the injustice is an entity too large to handle alone, such as a government, the person should speak out against the injustice.
If the person can't create change by speaking out, he or she should at least change the injustice in his or her own heart.
The award is given to a person, but it represents a freedom of a people and a struggle that still is going on, Rasheed said.
Church leaders praised Rasheed for his longtime and ongoing efforts to promote interfaith understanding and respect in the community.
We wanted to applaud his past efforts and to encourage his future endeavors, Rev. John P. Gardner, Plymouth's senior minister, said.
Rasheed is widely known for his efforts in Fort Wayne community.
For example, he participated in many panel discussions and educational programs after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help local people understand the true beliefs of Islam, Gardner said.
Rasheed also served during that time on a local committee on tolerance created by then-Mayor Graham Richard.
Not only Rasheed.
Earlier this year, Muslim students at the University of Evansville in Indiana have distributed flowers among their fellow colleagues in an effort to promote peace among followers of different religions and spread information about their faith and culture.
Last September, the Islamic center in Indiana's South Bend city also organized a candlelight vigil in the city's Islamic center to remember the US ambassador to Libya who was killed in angry reactions to anti-Islam film.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
A recent US survey had revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.