NEW YORK (RNS) Like many Americans, New York University chaplains Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna remember exactly where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Both men say that day and its aftermath were pivotal in defining what they now see as their lives’ mission: to promote a vision for interfaith engagement based on personal relationships.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Latif and other Muslims were hit by a backlash of blame. Latif’s father urged him to stop covering his head so he couldn’t be visibly identified as a Muslim. Other Muslim friends shaved their beards or stopped wearing hijabs.
Amid the suspicions, Latif said he was buoyed by an outpouring of support from friends of other faiths. That encouraged him to begin speaking out about his Muslim beliefs, “to tell people, ‘This is what we believe in, this is who we are, this is what our values actually are,’” he said.
Latif became active in building new interfaith coalitions, especially among other students.
Today, he and Sarna are leaders at NYU’s Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, which has become a national model for university interfaith programs.