Author Eboo Patel on Interfaith Activism and Pluralism

In the decade following the attacks of 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims has increased rather than subsided. In this timely new book, author, activist, and presidential advisor Eboo Patel says this prejudice is not just a problem for Muslims but also a challenge to the very idea of America. Sacred Ground shows readers that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” and it illustrates how the forces of pluralism in America have time and again defeated the forces of prejudice.

Read Patel’s message to all educators and students:

College changed me, and it made me want to change the world – especially regarding diversity. I entered as a freshman embarrassed by my brown skin, my strange name, and my mother’s food. I exited with a vision of a nation where people from diverse backgrounds live in equal dignity and mutually loyalty.

Sacred Ground is my Muslim eyes on the American project. The book highlights a dimension of America’s diversity that receives far too little attention: faith.

America is the most religiously diverse nation in human history and the most religiously devout nation in the West at a time of global religious conflict. We see far too many examples of faith as a barrier of division or a bomb of destruction. Sacred Ground tells a different story – faith as a source of inspiration and a bridge of cooperation. I weave together narratives of historical giants like George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr with stories of contemporary figures like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, highlighting how their courageous actions in times of religious crisis makes them interfaith heroes. Throughout the book are tales of college students and recent graduates – the next George Washington’s and Martin Luther King’s – who are building bridges of cooperation on their campuses and in their communities.

At a time when anti-Mormon, anti-Muslim, anti-gay and anti-atheist messages are at a fever pitch, the message of Sacred Ground could not be more clear or urgent: Interfaith cooperation is an inspiring story throughout American history. We need a new generation of interfaith leaders to write the next chapter. College campuses are ideal ecologies to nurture this interfaith leadership; college students are ideal people to be these leaders.

This is a book aimed at college students and campus communities. I visit about twenty-five campuses a year, giving keynotes on interfaith leadership, and helping campuses design high-quality interfaith programs through partnerships with my nonprofit, Interfaith Youth Core (www.ifyc.org).  I’ve spoken everywhere from Yale and Stanford to Luther College and Loyola University. I love them all because of how they change young people, and how those young people go on to change the world.

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