From the Pulpit

— Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi, American Muslim Institute, Omaha, NE 

In America, each of us is entitled to a place at the Thanksgiving table Quran Chapter 1:

“In the name of Allah/ God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, praise be to Allah/God — The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds. Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment, Thee do we worship and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straightway, the way of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy grace, those whose portion is not wrath and who do not astray.”

During the daily mandatory five prayers, Muslims recite this chapter at least 17 times, so a Muslim is constantly thankful to Allah/God… Sometimes we take things for granted and behave as if we created ourselves and acquired everything we have from our own efforts. Thus, the concept of giving thanks immediately raises the question: to whom, for what and how should we express our thanks?

We have much more in common to be thankful about than to disagree over. It is very inspiring to see these different faiths coming together every year through the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service to unanimously celebrate this national holiday. We need to reach out to other people of faith and introduce ourselves as colleagues, not opponents. We do not deny that we have differences, but we can denitely combine forces and honor each other’s traditions without having to diminish our own.

The Thanksgiving Interfaith Service this year is on Nov. 24. At Countryside Community Church, on the Tri-Faith campus, will be a powerful evidence against those who see religion as exclusionary. It dispels these misconceptions and allows the doors of all our faith communities to become wider than before. It also gives people the opportunity to explore the various paths to God. We are wary to be perceptive, but we also want every group to be authentic as to how they offer their thanksgiving.

As an ideal holiday, Thanksgiving expresses gratitude, focusing on family and friendship and showing appreciation for the land of freedom and opportunity. We celebrate the freedom of worship and the diversity of our nation; however, while we thank Allah for all the gifts that have been bestowed on us, we are mindful of the challenges facing American Muslims these days.

What I personally love about Thanksgiving is its underlying idea: that existence in itself is a gift, and as a naturalized citizen, I consider myself part of the American Dream. I did not abandon my identity, rather than merge it with my present character. For most immigrants, our past and our present are welded in hyphenated phrases: Syrian-American, Indian-American, Bengali-American, Pakistani-American, Egyptian-American or Palestinian-American. Although we may not share the same origin, we quickly become acquainted in playgrounds, classrooms, college dorms and ofces. We share the same home. We rely on faith to bring us together in a society governed by partisanship.

We are thankful for the freedom of religion, for the freedom of speech and for the freedom to publish our thoughts and have our voices heard.

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