Taking place at the Ismaili Jamatkhana Glenview, Dr. Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, gave a riveting and inspirational talk about pluralism and interfaith work. He spoke about the presence of pluralism in the Islamic tradition and American history, and its importance in the modern world.
According to Dr. Patel, through his organization and his speeches he wants to encourage people to “lift up the inspiring tradition of pluralism in both Islam and in American history, and encourage people to think of themselves as interfaith leaders, or the kind of people who go out and build pluralism,” Patel said.
Dr. Patel presented examples of interfaith cooperation and pluralism in the history of Islam, in addition to examples in the history of the United States, so as to communicate and connect with several audiences. The talk made an impression on Kathy McBane, leader of Moms Building Bridges, a group of mothers in Naperville that promote unity and diversity between all religions, ethnicities, and races, and an attendee of Patel’s talk.
“Patel is a tremendously gifted public speaker, the way he can weave stories, and his ability to quote from so many different sources,” McBane said. “The way he was able to look at the combination of American roots towards pluralism, and Islamic roots towards it, he was able to speak to everybody in the room, and gave a very solid basis for this kind of work.”
Molly Hart, a student leader of the Interfaith Youth Core Club at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, attended the event and voiced her frustrations in not making visible progress in her interfaith work, to which Dr. Patel responded with the fact that interfaith work is the work of decades and generations, but is ultimately worth the effort.
Hart said that the presentation depicted new ideas concerning the difference between diversity and pluralism. “As somebody who is trying to be an interfaith leader in my community, within my Jewish high school, with my friends, I thought it was really amazing to hear from the founder of a movement and somebody who I really look up to,” Hart said. “It was really interesting and engaging, especially hearing about the distinction between having diversity, and how that can be harmful, versus actually having pluralism and coming together, and it really provided a new perspective.”
Noman Nooruddin, President of Anjuman-e-Saifee, the Dawoodi Bohra Community of Chicago, attended the presentation and said that interfaith work is important for the community. “The presentation was very enlightening and I learned a few things myself. I strongly believe in interfaith work,” he said.
Ismaili youth Amira Shaikh also believes that interfaith work is important and necessary for the community, and feels that Interfaith Youth Core will succeed. “I think Eboo Patel is a really smart man and he knows what he’s doing, and I think his organization, Interfaith Youth Core, is going to make a change in the world,” Shaikh said. “And I think since he started the organization all the way in 2001, now that 17 years have passed, it’s growing and more people will begin to realize that interfaith work is something that people look forward to and that we can bring peace in the world.”
“I have been inspired by the critical need for pluralism by my identity as an American and as an Ismaili Muslim,” Patel said. “The Imam’s highlighting of the importance of pluralism over the decades of his Imamat is something that has been very moving for me, and so Interfaith Youth Core is my way of contributing to that goal … Being an Ismaili is an important part of my identity, and speaking about pluralism in front of Jamati audiences that Jamatkhanas bring together is one of the ways I’m most proud to contribute.”