A Religion Nerd’s Dream Week In NYC
For someone passionate about religion and interfaith engagement, last week was almost like a dream. In the same week, I was able to hear interfaith activist Eboo Patel, Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan speak, see Christian activist and scholar Cornel West. To top it off, on Friday I went to jumu’ah in the afternoon at the ICNYU, and in the evening went to Shabbat services (my first?) at Romemu with friends (more on that later). Wow.
In his talk, Eboo Patel recounted that when he was growing up and studying theology, he was very inspired by reading progressive Christian social activists. At that time, Islamic theology put great emphasis on interfaith growth, but not sufficiently on social action. For him, Islam was about social activism, and was manifest in the work of progressive Christian social activists. Today we see many progressive Muslim voices (along with Christians and Jews) at the forefront of social justice issues in America. Eboo’s experience deeply resonated with me. When I had my “religious renaissance” in college, I studied Hindu texts and read a lot of Christian theology, and while my mindset was shaped by Hindu values, I found himself more inspired by the lives of the great Christian prophetic figures. Can Hinduism be about social justice and activism? Today we lack the theological framework to determine what the “Hindu response” to social justice issues of the day should be, but I am hopeful. If Islamic theology in America has advanced, I am sure that Hindu theology can as well.
Tariq Ramadan’s talk was really insightful in helping me understand the Arab awakening, the role of the United States, the challenges that lie ahead, and what role Islam is going to play in region.
To end a great week, I am now on my way to Baltimore to spend time with some friends.