Sep 11, 2010 7:17 PM by Matt Stafford

Pushing for religious tolerance

Recent anti-Muslim stories in the news have a group in Colorado Springs asking people to be more tolerant of religious differences. They say protests over a mosque in New York City and Pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn the Quran, are isolated incidents of a bigger issue -- religious intolerance.

"Hating is different, and that is an act of hate," explains Firuz Labib, talking about Pastor Jones considering burning the Quran. "This is not religion to me."

"In so many circumstances we respond to difference with fear, and when we respond with fear, that's when we raise walls," says Reverend, Dr. Nori Rost, of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.

Breaking down those walls is something the Pikes Peak Inter-Religious Clergy Alliance is working on locally; holding an open discussion on religion at the "What If" Festival in downtown Colorado Springs, Saturday.

"It's time we stopped blaming every man, woman, and child who's Muslim for the decisions that were made by radical extremists," says Reverend Ahriana Platten, of the Pike Peak Inter-Religious Clergy Alliance.

Pastor Jones has told reporters, his actions are a stance against radical Islam.

"The message is, right now, very, very necessary in America before it's too late," Jones told reporters.

Participants in the discussion, with the Inter-Religious Clergy Alliance on Saturday, said they feel that since 9/11 people have linked terrorism to Islam, instead of linking terrorism to extremist behavior - no matter the religion.

The group believes communication is the best way to come to terms with differences, and instead find ways we're alike. However, the group acknowledges right now it's tough for many Muslims to be open about their religion. They hosted today's event to help break down some of those barriers.

However hard to find, Labib says situations like protests over the Mosque in New York City and Pastor Jones' choices do have some silver-lining; they get conversations started. Conversations that Labib hopes will head to understanding and peace.

"Ultimately, I see this as a necessary step," Labib says.


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