Faizul Khan serves as the imam of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area, based in Silver Spring. Born into a Muslim home in Guyana, Khan has lived in the U.S. for about 40 years, serving the Islamic Society the entire time. The society was founded by Muslims from the Caribbean region and now serves about 300 families from about 70 nationalities.
What do you most appreciate about your faith?
I consider myself to be living the faith of Islam, and what I like about the religion is that in Islam we believe there is no God but one God, and that Muhammad is his messenger. And I believe Islam addresses very effectively some of the problems of society we live in now.
I think many people would be surprised to meet a Muslim from the Caribbean.
We are basically considered Sunni Muslims, which the majority of Muslims in the world are Sunnis. There's quite a few Muslims in the Caribbean. Jamaica, for instance, has 10 mosques, and there are many in Trinidad and Guyana. Even our next-door neighbor Brazil has almost 11 million Muslims. I just came back from Guatemala, and I visited the mosque in Guatemala City.
What is the goal of the Islamic Society?
Our goal is to foster unity among Muslims and to promote an agenda of civic engagement and interfaith dialogue and social services in the community.
Earlier this month, you taught meditation with a Baha'i leader. Why do you think these interfaith exchanges are important?
We have been doing this for some time now. We always advocate that we should engage in partnership within all the faith communities and understand and respect and promote more tolerance among faith groups. It's always been our desire to have these outreach programs between Christian, Jews and people of other faiths. I'm going to the Guru [Nanak Foundation] temple here in Silver Spring today, and next week we're going to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School to give talks about revelation and our shared Scripture.
Religious leaders around the country are trying to find words for the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. What will you be telling your congregation?
Tomorrow [for Friday prayers] will be our first time to have a large audience since it happened on Monday. We really want to express our concern for those who suffered in this horrific incident. It's unfortunate that we have those in our society who would engage in acts of terror. We have a lot of concerns about the innocent citizens who are victims of this atrocious act.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
We believe that Islam is indeed a platform for unity and understanding and promotes tolerance and understanding among people of different faiths. And we believe that as Muslims we have a duty and responsibility to adhere to the Quran, and we have a duty and responsibility to act as Muslims and behave as Muslims and show by example our behavior as Muslims.
- Liz Essley