At Mosque Opening, Tensions Permeate Interfaith Gathering

June 28, 2009

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe

The controversy over the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury Crossing has posed one of the biggest challenges to interfaith relations in Boston in years, and the tension was readily on display during the Friday morning opening ceremonies for the new mosque.

Inside the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College, mosque backers hosted an interfaith breakfast whose honorary cochairmen included an Episcopal bishop, a Catholic priest, and the heads of the Black Ministerial Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.

Critics have accused the mosque’s backers of being extremists and radicals, but much of the mainstream Christian leadership, as well as the political leadership, in Boston appears to have rejected the allegations. On the way in to the breakfast, I encountered Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts and asked him why he was there. He noted that about 400 Muslims who work downtown regularly worship in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and said he wanted “to honor them,’’ he also called the new mosque “much needed for interfaith dialogue.’’

Harvard Divinity School dean William A. Graham, a scholar of Islam, gave the keynote speech and sharply rebuked the mosque’s critics, saying, “the mindless attacks in recent years from so-called religious people will soon be forgotten as the center proves itself a center for good people.’’