Opinion: "Interfaith, Not Infidel"

January 12, 2006

Source: San Mateo County Times


On January 12, 2006 the San Mateo County Times ran an opinion piece by Iftekhar Hai, president of the United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance. "In my 15 years as an interfaith peace activist, I have been asked one question over and over again: Who are the 'kafirs' — 'infidels' — condemned in the Qur'an? Are they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists?... I embarked on a decade-long research trip, asking Islamic scholars all over the world how one defines a kafir, in hopes of building bridges of understanding among religions. We have concluded that the word 'kafir' is derived from the Arabic root words kaf, fay and ray — 'kufr' which means to cover, conceal or hide with the intention of misleading or misinforming... The intentional deceit must be proven beyond doubt in order for someone to be classified as an infidel. Therefore, people who never had the opportunity to learn about God, and therefore remain ignorant, cannot rightfully be called kafirs. Furthermore, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and other religious followers say, 'I believe in God.' So, it is not for any Muslim, scholar, imam or mullah to say that anyone who does not also take Prophet Mohammed as Messenger of God is a kafir. That decision rests only with God, the ultimate judge."