Rumi Forum – Advocating Dialogue and Countering Vitriol
By C. Naseer Ahmad

Washington, DC: In these troubled times, vitriol is often spewing like an untapped gusher from places near and far. “Where is the outrage?” This is a question often asked of Muslims when few demented commit cruelty and atrocious behavior. Fortunately there is a healthy forum actively engaged in promoting dialogue in Washington.

 

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”

 

The Rumi Forum draws its inspiration from Maulana Jalal Uddin Rumi and is based on the concept of – hizmet - service to humanity. The intellectual foundation for this organization is Fethullah Gulen who is profiled in an interesting book “Advocate of Dialogue – Fethullah Gulen” by Ali Unal and Alphonse Williams.

Emre Celik, President and CEO, assisted by Dr Rasit Telbisoglu have made the Rumi Forum an effective organization that actively promotes a pleasant and progressive image of Muslims and their faith – Islam. For instance, a visitor to Rumi Forum’s website will notice the unequivocal statement.

“The Rumi Forum condemns, in the strongest terms, the heinous attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead and several others injured. This despicable crime is committed against freedom of expression, democracy, peace and humanity.

"In these hard times we stand by the people of France and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased while wishing a quick recovery to those who are injured.”

But it is not just the statements. They go beyond the headlines and have a very effective outreach program. As an example, the Rumi Forum held a breakfast “suhoor” during the Ramadan in 2014. About 70 VIPs attended this special event on a Saturday at 3am in Washington.

The Annual Rumi Peace and Dialogue Awards traditionally held at the National Press Club is a very effective vehicle for promoting interfaith dialogue and harmony. These are well attended events where exceptional leaders  - such as Dr Azizah al-Hibri, Founder, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Dr Rebecca Winthrop, Director, Center for Universal Education, the Brooking Institutions and Reverend David Beckmann, Bread for the World – are recognized for their outstanding contributions.

Last year, an Eid Reception with the Rumi Forum was held at the White House and an Education Conference was held at the Georgetown University.

In 2011, a Ramadan Iftar Tent was held at a church – in cooperation with the American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA). To give a personal touch, the Rumi Forum in cooperation with ATFA has facilitated iftars with individual families so that one gets a better understanding of the faith and the people.

To provide deeper intercultural understanding, the Rumi Forum organizes study trips to Turkey every year and actively engages the community. In these trips, while in Turkey, the participants have the opportunity to visit civic, educational, governmental and private organizations. This is in addition to visiting historical sites as well enjoying meals in the homes of Turkish families. “This hands-on immersive experience of Turkey breaks down any previously held stereotypes,” is the motivation of the Rumi Forum and its leaders.  

The Rumi Forum in Washington is a hub of activity year around with its speaker series – the Luncheon Speaker Series, the Ambassadorial Speaker Series and the Author Speaker Series. The distinguished speakers who come to these events provide valuable insight into contemporary issues surrounding faith, politics, diplomacy and environment for example. In doing so, the Rumi Forum promotes dialogue where vitriolic language does not find any space.

 

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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