The horrifying presence of ‘Islamic’ terrorist groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab who commit heinous crimes against humanity in the name of Islam has given rise to Islamophobia and the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists in the west. Also, since the onset of Islam, numerous battles have occurred between Islam and Christianity despite their overwhelming similarities. This letter written by a Catholic woman named Avellina Balestri is proof of the likenesses of the two religions and the possibility of a universal peaceful existence of these two major religions.
“I want to thank you for all that your predecessors have given, that you give, and that your descendants will give to humanity. For all the stories of your soul that have been moulded by a harsh landscape and a strong faith, as strong and supple as a spider web stretched across the entrance of a cave.
I want to thank you for your understanding of excellence, seeing the quality of the arts and sciences as flowing back to the glory of God in this world and a flowering of our relationship with Him, and for remembering that physical realities mirror and are integrally bound up with spiritual ones.
I want to thank you for your historical achievements in the areas of mathematics, astronomy, architecture, medicine, literature, cuisine, and beyond, for your brilliance in the world of learning and letters, for the shining example of your golden age which added the spices of preservation and flavor on so many levels to our society.
I want to thank you for the game of chess and the drink of coffee, the cinematic quality of The Message and the musical quality of Loreena McKennitt’s Islam-inspired compositions, for your influence on Flamenco and your creation of the telescope, for your timeless art of tale-telling, for our Arabic number system and algebraic equations, and those things that are uniquely your own, such as the wearing of the hijab.
I want to thank you for the mystical beauty of your geometric design, finding the workings of the divine represented through the art of balance and interconnected words of life, flowing forth in a tongue of grace and poignancy. Your voice graces the eye, and brings forth tears that express of the soul’s thirst.
I want to thank you for your dedication to the power of prayer and fasting, community and celebration, and your recognition of prayer as a song, and that song as a call to the presence of Allah, tied to the senses of the soul and the soul of ancient lands, in ancient forms that remain as fresh as water in the desert.
I want to thank you for Rumi, searching for the divine oneness found in the mirror of love, so similar to St. John of the Cross and other poets of my own Catholic tradition, and for the inspiration lent to Khalil Gibran, a Christian who nevertheless shaped his prophetic exploration of the divine life and human fragility in your Quranic tradition.
I want to thank you for the dignified empowerment displayed by modern Muslim women, from the exuberant journalism style of Noor Tagouri, to the fandom fashion flare of Sugarnoor, to the sportsmanship and fencing expertise of Ibtihaj Muhammad, to the poetic mysticism and interreligious outreach of Mona Haydar, to the advanced studies and activism of Dr. Ingrid Mattson, and many more. Breaking new boundaries and expanding horizons, you inspire all young women such as myself to reach for our brightest stars.
I want to thank you for the acts of solidarity and charity you have shown, from the blindfolded Muslim man offering embraces of consolation in Paris to the Muslims and Christians worshipping alongside one another after the killing of a French Catholic priest. Your acts bear testament to those acts of benevolence and mercy shown by your predecessors, such as when Saladin sent fruit to ease the fever of Richard the Lionheart and spared the Christian civilians of Jerusalem, washing the city with rosewater instead of blood, even in the midst of a blood-drenched conflict.
I want to thank all those Muslim-Americans who serve my country and risk their lives to preserve our laws and liberties, and those who extend the hand of help to all those in need, feeling moved to do so out of love of Allah and the teaching of their faith. I wish them blessedness in their feasts and fasting, in their prayer and charity, and in the words of Pope Francis, let nothing come between us standing before the same God.
I want to thank you for all that is true, good, and beautiful in the Islamic tradition, and for sharing your talents, your zeal, and your excellence in the West. You will always have a place of welcome here among us, and a chance to fulfill your true potential as individuals and a collective community.
We stand with you, and out of many, we form one. I see this often at Nearby Mount St. Mary’s, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where Christians and Muslims alike are frequently found in prayer together, paying homage to Mary, Mother of Jesus. We are honored by your presence and this common bond.
Whether Muslim, Christian, or Jew, we are all one in our very natures, having been handcrafted in the image of Allah. We are all children of Abraham, the prophet who served as a bridge between God and man, and between the nations of the earth. We all come forth from the desert wind and bring with us the endurance of spirit and power of words that marks us out as the People of the Book.
Together we acclaim Allah as “the gracious, the merciful…the Lord of the Universe, the Master of the Day of Judgment”, and bear testimony to His “oneness, magnificence omnipotence, might, glory” and his role as “Creator and Sustainer of All Things, the Giver of Life, the Guider of Hearts”. Before Him do we submit ourselves, and through that act of submission, find peace in our souls.
Let us never be divided by extremism or terror, racism or xenophobia, misunderstanding or malice. We are better together, making the world a better place through our contributions as a whole, united in our diversity, empowered by our determination held by all people of good will, no matter their race or creed, to bring peace and justice, equality and brotherhood to the earth, and stand against all who would sow the seeds of hatred and violence.
May we always remember this overarching reality, and may Allah bring our hearts into closer union with Him and with each other, so that our song may emanate from the same voice, that can never be silenced.”