A Muslim writing about religion in a newspaper with a predominantly Christian audience is a testament to the value of interfaith dialogue in our society. It is imperative in today’s ever-shrinking world that we do not use others’ faiths as a criterion to separate them from engaging in our civic arena. We cannot afford to claim ignorance towards other religions. We must not claim to be religious by stating that it is only us, and not others, who matter. We should appreciate that there is dignity in difference. Assimilation and respect for others who are different than us should be an integral part of our faith. These are the central tenets of interfaith dialogue. It is an exercise of learning about other faiths that are different than ours. It is about respectful coexistence with others whose faiths, customs, and worldviews are different than ours.
The key to a productive democracy is to encourage interfaith communication. It is important not to marginalize people of other faiths, including those who do not identify with a faith at all. The foundation for interfaith dialogue should be that all parties engage in the discussion without any hostility or preconceived notion. The objective of interfaith communication is not to resolve our faith-based differences but to appreciate others’ faiths. Despite having different beliefs, we should still be able to work together for the betterment of our society to address issues such as homelessness, hunger, or job opportunities for the marginalized. We know that bridges of understanding do not fall from the sky or rise from the ground. They are built by engaging in dialogue. A religiously diverse democracy can help create spaces, organize social events, and foster friendship among people of different faiths to share a common life together.