The Field Trip

The lesson here is to engage in dialogue with Muslims

September 21, 2010

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THE FUROR over Wellesley sixth-graders’ visit to a mosque is just one more volley fired at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center by Americans for Peace and Tolerance. In a climate in which Muslims have been constantly misrepresented by other voices than their own, the opportunity to hear Muslims speak about themselves is a priceless part of learning. Bravo to the Wellesley schools for incorporating such experience into their curriculum.

Of course, the line between observing and participating needs to be more carefully explained in an educational setting, but Wellesley students and parents voiced significant appreciation for the mosque visit.

On Friday, I was at the mosque with my class from Harvard. We arrived just as Bilal Kaleem, the programming head of the Islamic Center, was responding to the allegations of the video that was secretly filmed by a parent but produced with manipulated cuts and narration by Americans for Peace and Tolerance. For most of my students, as for the Wellesley middle-schoolers, it was the first experience of Friday prayers and of dialogue with our Muslim hosts.

I think it is way past time for Americans for Peace and Tolerance to take advantage of the hospitality of the mosque and actually engage with the community the group has so insistently defamed. It is the American way, and the only way to peace and tolerance.

Diana L. Eck
The writer is a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University and director of the Pluralism Project.

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