Students seek to alter stereotypes about Islam in interfaith discussions

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by Muath Freij | Feb 19, 2013 | 22:09

 AMMAN — Students from over 10 schools across the country on Tuesday reflected on their experience in exchanging views with their counterparts from around the world to promote interfaith tolerance and change stereotypes of Islam.

Some 380 Muslim and Christian students from around Jordan met at the Islamic Scientific College at an event organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as part of its “Face to Faith” global schools programme to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week.

“Face to Faith” seeks to build understanding between 12-17 year olds from across the world by inviting them to discuss their respective religions via international video-conferencing.

Ruwaida Jariri, an English teacher at the ISC whose students participated in video conferences with followers of different faiths from around the world, said the programme was especially important for challenging stereotypes about Islam.

“We wanted to change the foreign stereotype of Islam, because there is a misinterpretation that our religion is violent,” she told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of Tuesday’s event.

“It helped our students learn about what other students think about Islam, as well giving them the opportunity to learn about other religions,” she said.

This follows the programme’s ultimate aim, which is “to break down stereotypes and prejudice and avoid conflict and clashes between different religions rooted in fear and ignorance,” Carol Jadoun, Jordan’s “Face to Faith” coordinator, said.

Anas Al Chalabi, an ISC student, said the programme had succeeded in changing his outlook on other faiths.

“I am much more open minded thanks to the discussions I had with other students. When it comes to rights, I learned that there is no difference between Muslims and Christians,” the 17-year-old told The Jordan Times.

Chalabi added that he thinks the coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Jordan is much better than in other countries.

Hala Al Falih, another ISC student, noted that the programme taught her how to discuss religion in a diplomatic and culturally sensitive manner and she enjoyed giving a presentation on what she and her classmates had learnt from the initiative.

Also during Tuesday’s event, the students discussed what their faiths say about tolerance, peace and accepting people from different religions.

In addition, they examined ways to make Amman an international model for interfaith harmony.

Father Nabil Haddad, founder of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre, and Sheikh Hamdi Mura, a member of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre attended the event.

Face to Faith is currently active in 19 countries across the world: Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Philippines, Singapore, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK and the US.