“Jesus Christ once said, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the world
and lose his soul?’ I believe this statement is true not only for
people but also for nations,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Tuesday at
the 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture.
“The question that lies before us this week is: What would it gain America to win the world but lose its soul?”
During the afternoon lecture period, Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan,
addressed Week Two’s theme, “2012: What’s at Stake for the Common Good.”
In the first half of the lecture, Rauf delivered a speech titled
“Moving the Mountain: A Bolder Vision for Peace in Plurality.” Following
Rauf, Khan focused on the topic “Facing a New World: America’s
Responsibility as a World Power.”
“The question that has been discussed this week and has been raised
this week is this very question: Where lies America’s soul? Where can we
find it?” Rauf said.
Ethics stem from faith, and the common good must come from a common God, he said.
There are two commandments strongly held by each Abrahamic faith, and
it is from those two commandments that the common good is defined, Rauf
said. The first is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and
strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
“In fact, it is from these two commandments that Islamic law, what is
called Sharia, is built upon. Laws pertaining to love of God and laws
pertaining to love of neighbor, which extends beyond just human beings
to the animal kingdom, and to nature, and to our responsibility as
stewards of God to take care of this Earth and develop it,” Rauf said.
The United States was built on the foundations of a social contract,
which outlined that all men are equal and that all have certain
inalienable rights, including life, liberty, property and the pursuit of
happiness, Rauf said. Those rights, defined by the founding fathers,
were not entirely original. Seven hundred years predating the
Declaration of Independence, Muslim jurists defined a similar set of
principles in Muslim law, or Sharia law. Sharia law can be reduced to
the six principles that need protection: life, dignity, intellect,
religion, family and property, Rauf said.
“We see here a great commonness between the foundational structures
and worldview of Islam, of Christianity, of Judaism and of the American
social contract. Which is why I say America, or the American social
contract, is a very Sharia-compliant document,” Rauf said.
The two integral commandments also provide us with understanding of
faith and work. Faith without action is not enough, Rauf said. Faith is
the love of God, and action is the development of the common good. Rauf
said one without the other would be like trying to build a cross with
only one dimension.
“Faith without action is like having a vertical line without a
horizontal line, you can’t build a cross that way. And actions without
faith are like a horizontal line with no vertical line,” Rauf said.
Those commandments teach us to love God and humanity, which has been
created in God’s image, Rauf said. But in life, there is often a gap
between our ideal and reality. In our own country, that gap has been
evident for generations. Even in the text of Abraham Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address, the distance between ideal and reality was clear.
Lincoln said in his address that the U.S. was a country “dedicated to
the proposition that all men are equal.”
“Look at the nuance of the words: ‘dedicated to the proposition that
all men are created equal,’ because the reality was otherwise,” Rauf
At the time of the Civil War, the U.S. was tested to see if a country
built on the premise that all people are created equal could endure.
Today, the U.S. is dealing with a similar test, Rauf said. Our country
and its politics are so divided; it is fundamentally important that we
remember what makes the heart of our nation.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the Four Freedoms
Speech. In it, he outlined that everywhere in the world there should be
freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom
“I think we have a lot of fear in this country. Fear of having lost
our position, fear of having lost our jobs, fear of maybe the supremacy
of a particular demographic in our community; we need to address this
fear,” Rauf said.
It is faith that will have to work to eliminate the atmosphere of
fear in our country, Rauf said. At Chautauqua, he said, his soul feels
at home, because the grounds define a community that does not have a
sense of fear. Chautauqua is a community that loves God, and
Chautauquans love one another, Rauf said.
“We Chautauquans have a call to action upon us, and this is the only
way I can describe it succinctly. We have to ‘Chautauquize’ America,”
Rauf said. “I see Chautauqua as the culture that can positively
transform America, because here is the soul that makes America great.”
In Tuesday’s lecture, Khan focused her talk on the military retreat
from Afghanistan and what that means for Afghan women. The promotion of
democracy, human rights and women’s rights were all aspects of U.S.
stated foreign policy goals before the invasion of Afghanistan. The end
to women’s suffering and oppression at the hands of the Taliban was one
of the most critical objectives of the U.S. in 2001, Khan said.
“Has this politicization of Muslim women hampered American foreign policy goals? I will tell you an emphatic yes,” Khan said.
Khan said there are three main issues that have allowed for that
consequence. In Afghanistan, American foreign policy has worked in spite
of Islam, Khan said.
“We have this church-state separation issue, which prevents us from
acknowledging religion as a solution to the world problems,” Khan said.
“Secular human rights efforts usually fall deaf on Muslim ears and
consistently hinder social change.”
The second issue is that in the U.S., we blame Muslim women’s suffering on Islamic theology, Khan said.
The last issue is that many Afghans think we are intent on spreading and imposing Western values on them, she said.
“Often you see how some Islamic political parties, when they decide
to impose their distorted version of Islamic state, the first thing that
they will do is show you how they are upholding justice and what do you
see: stoning of women, egregious violations of women, in fact,
egregious violations against Islam,” Khan said.
She said that as an American Muslim woman, she can see how extremists
use politics to constrain women. She said her identity as a Muslim
living in country that promotes equality and freedom puts her in the
position to show that gender equality is an important part of Islam.
“I wasn’t born here — I came here, and I took my oath, and I love
this country, and I want to share the success of this country that has
made me who I am with my fellow sisters,” Khan said.
There are four reasons why we must combat injustices against Muslim
women, Khan said. There are 750 million Muslim women in the world, and
five of the lowest-ranking countries in the gender index are Muslim
“It’s simply unacceptable. Why should Muslim women have the biggest burden of all?” Khan said.
“And thirdly, the world is witnessing a religious revival, and Muslim
women increasingly want to define themselves through their religion,”
The most important reason is that America is a superpower with
military bases and engagements in many Muslim countries, Khan said.
With those thoughts in mind, Khan said she founded WISE, Women’s
Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, in 2005. Soon after the
organization’s inception, it began a grassroots imam training program
in Afghanistan, Khan said. WISE began working with a woman and her
husband, on the ground in Afghanistan, teaching imams about the textual
basis of women’s rights in the Quran.
“The program was so successful that the imams actually agreed not
only to be trained, but they were so moved by what they were seeing, the
textual basis for women’s rights gave them real evidence that they went
and started giving these sermons,” Khan said.
The imams working in the training program told the director in
Afghanistan that the program provided them with a group support system,
which gave them courage to preach the facts about women’s rights and
equality written in the Quran, Khan said.
The initiative has been ongoing in Afghanistan since, but the U.S.
retreat from Afghanistan has prompted a resurgence of the Taliban and
stymied the program’s progress. In the face of the growing Taliban
presence, Khan said, she asked the Muslim women in Afghanistan what
advice they would give President Barack Obama and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton for foreign policy in Afghanistan.
“They said: Understand the role religion plays in Afghan communities;
civil and religious authorities are codependent. Where civil
authorities remains weak, the religious authority fills the void,” Khan
If the religious authorities have been trained about women’s equality
in the Quran, in programs such as WISE, they can be powerful and
positive agents of education, protection and change.
“Furthermore, they said, Americans must unlearn any aversion to the
Quran and Sharia as a valid source of governing law,” Khan said. “And
appreciate A, that Sharia is founded on principles very consistent with
Western principles; and B, that these are the sources of law Afghans
want and view as legitimate.”
Americans must realize how fundamental imams are in Afghan
communities. They act as community leaders, educators and facilitators
of cooperation among people and lawmakers, Khan said.
“And then they told us that our imams are the only shield against
Taliban. When you’re gone and Taliban is back, the only people who can
defend us are our imams,” Khan said.
As U.S. forces exit Afghanistan, they leave a country with no institutions or infrastructure in place.
“I want you to understand the urgency of what’s going on: We’re
leaving and Taliban is coming back, and nothing is in place,” Khan said.
Institutions that promote women’s rights and social justice must be
developed before the U.S. leaves. Otherwise, the steps already gained
and the developments in women’s equality will be quashed by the
returning Taliban force.
The U.S. should use its force of Muslim women to fight for the
equality of women and the end to women’s oppression in Muslim countries,
“We have roots in those countries, we love the people, we love our
motherlands. And we can make an enormous difference in helping achieve
our foreign policy objectives.” Khan said. “Afghans, in turn, have told
us they appreciate what we’re doing for them, they trust us and they
genuinely believe we have no other agenda other than to help them.”
Daisy Khan is Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing an American Muslim identity and to building bridges between the Muslim community and general public through dialogues in faith, identity, culture, and the arts. Ms. Khan mentors young Muslims on challenges of assimilation, gender, religion and modernity, and intergenerational differences. In the aftermath of 9/11, she created interfaith programs to emphasize commonalities among the Abrahamic faith traditions, such as a groundbreaking theater presentation, Same Difference, and the interfaith Cordoba Bread Fest.
To prioritize the improvement of Muslim-West relations and the advancement of Muslim women globally, Ms. Khan has launched two cutting edge intra-faith programs to start movements of change agents among the two disempowered majorities of the Muslim world: youth and women. The MLT: Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow and WISE: Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality programs were launched on an international scale in Doha (MLT) and in Malaysia (WISE). Both programs seek to convene, empower, and build networks in their target groups, and to facilitate the emergence of a leadership that speaks with a credible, humane, and equitable voice in the global Muslim community.
Ms. Khan frequently lectures and debates in the United States and internationally, having debated Christopher Hitchens on National Public Radio. After the Danish cartoon crisis, she moderated a discussion in Denmark between young Muslims and Flemming Rose, the original publisher of the controversial cartoons. In May 2007 she became the first Muslim woman to speak at Thanksgiving Square in Dallas, Texas on the National Day of Prayer. Ms. Khan frequently comments on important issues in the media, and has appeared on ABC, PBS, BBC World, CNN, Fox News, National Geographic, Al Jazeerah, and the Hallmark Channel. She has also been quoted in numerous print publications, such as Time Magazine, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Saudi Gazette, The National and Khaleej Times. In July 2007 Ms. Khan appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine along with 40 members of ASMA. In the same issue of the magazine, she also co-wrote an article on the symmetry between core Islamic values and the constitution of the United States.
Daisy Khan is the recipient of many awards, including the Interfaith Center's Award for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Understanding, the Auburn Seminary's Lives of Commitment Award, Hunt Alternatives Prime Movers Award, and Women's E-News 21st Century Leaders for the 21st century. Born in Kashmir, India, she spent the first 25 years of her career as an interior architect at various Fortune 500 companies. In 2005 she decided to dedicate herself fully to elevating the discourse on Islam, and to improving the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims globally through ASMA and its sister organization, the Cordoba Initiative.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the Founder of Cordoba Initiative, an
independent, multi-faith, and multi-national project that works with
state and non-state actors to improve Muslim-West relations. In this
capacity, he provides innovative solutions to those areas where conflict
between Islamic and Western communities undermines local and global
Under Imam Feisalâ€™s leadership, the Cordoba Initiativeâ€™s programs
craft strategic avenues for approaching divisive Muslim-West tensions.
The programs include the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT), which
cultivates the next generation of Muslim leaders from all over the
world, and the Womenâ€™s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), which empowers Muslim women globally.
Imam Feisal often receives requests for his expertise and advice
because of his skillful approach to the complex intersection of Islamic
and Western viewpoints. A number of these requests have resulted in
working relationships with offices in the U.S. Department of State,
members of the U.S. Congress, and representatives of foreign
Imam Feisal balances his international responsibilities with his
dedication to local and national concerns. In 1997, he founded the
American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) the first Muslim
organization committed to building bridges between Muslims and the
American public by elevating the discourse on Islam through educational
outreach, interfaith collaboration, culture, and arts. Imam Feisal is a
Trustee of the Islamic Center of New York and is a Vice Chair on the
board of the Interfaith Center of New York.
Recognizing his interreligious bridge-building work Imam Feisal has
been a recipient of numerous awards such as the AICPR Annual Alliance
Peace Builder Award and the Annual James Parks Morton Interfaith Center
of New York Award. In 2010, he received the Open Center of New York
Interfaith Award, Arianna Huffingtonâ€™s â€œ2010 Game Changerâ€ Award, and
was listed as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010 by the Foreign
Policy magazine. Most recently, he received the UUSC Eleanor Roosevelt
Human Rights Award, was ranked among the Top 50 Arabs by The Middle East
magazine, and Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential
people of the world.
A charismatic public speaker, Imam Feisal is frequently asked to
comment on issues pertaining to Islam and the Muslim world. He has
appeared regularly at the Council on Foreign Relations, in national and
international media such as CNN and BBC, and has been widely quoted in
The New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Jerusalem Post. Imam Feisal
has written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer
and Huffington Post to name a few.
Imam Feisal comes from a family steeped in religious and spiritual
activity. Born of Egyptian parentage and educated in England, Egypt, and
Malaysia, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Columbia
University in New York and a Master of Science in Plasma Physics from
Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He speaks English,
Arabic, and Malay.