“God created human kind with compassion, love and mercy.”

Rabbi Reuven Firestone
On February 29, participants of the legislative dinner in Denver – Colorado experienced an unmatched intercultural – interfaith dialogue gathering. Organized by Multicultural Mosaic Foundation (MMF) that promotes the ideal of “Harmony through Dialogue”, the host of the event was Emmy Award winning freelance journalist, talk show host and documentary filmmaker Tamara Banks. The highlights of the event included calligraphy (hat) art demonstration by famous Turkish artist Aydin Çayır and three folk songs performed by Jesse Manno and Zahara Mclellan. The songs gave messages of friendship and reconciliation, emphasizing the importance of a peaceful co-existence for a brighter feature. The first of the songs, named “Sarı Gelin” was in Armenian and Turkish languages, which commemorated the love of a Turkish man for an Armenian lady in Eastern Turkey during Ottoman era. The second song was in Greek and Turkish languages. The participants, of around 100 people, consisting of Colorado state legislators, officials and community leaders, sang along with the performers and enjoyed the warmth of the night.
The President of MMF Ismail Akbulut’s speech emphasized love, peace, modesty, cooperation and the art of living with others as well as how Turkey’s close collaboration with the United States is crucial to the democratization in the Middle East and for both countries. US-Turkish partnership strengthens as Turkey’s experience in democratization makes it a prominent actor in the region. According to Mr. Akbulut, despite all the polarization in the world, gatherings such as the Denver dinner show that we the people have the potential of peace and they are of great value to refreshing our hopes for the future.
The event featured Rabbi Reuven Firestone as the keynote speaker. Rabbi Firestone is professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College and founder and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles. He talked about the problem of misinformation about the others’ faiths, and how collected wrong conclusions can turn into prejudices and demonization. He added that God, on the other hand, created human kind with compassion, love and mercy. It can be expected that hatred out of such demonization would not be acceptable to God, and it is important for the believers to act together against such enmity. Dr. Firestone suggested that we should respect human dignity and promote tolerance for all. Accordingly, we have more commonality than differences, and we can function together by relying on our faiths’ universal divine messages that promote peace.
The closing remarks were made by Attorney General John Suthers, Colorado State Representatives John Kefalas, and Su Ryden, and West America Turkic Council President Ozkur Yildiz. John Suthers mentioned the Turkey’s being at the crossroads for centuries and thanked MMF for promoting Turkish-American relations and peace. Representative John Kefalas, being a Greek-American and Christian, honored and appreciated the work of MMF and highlighted the importance of amplifying the message of Rabbi Firestone in our lives, and do doing what we can to promote understanding in parallel with MMF’s mission. Representative Su Ryden talked about how inspiring her experience in Turkey was last summer during Ramadan, when she travelled with MMF volunteers while they were fasting. Representative Ryden mentioned that she felt so refreshed and inspired by the talk of peace and love, and the devotion and hard work of the volunteers as well as the their desire for democracy.

“…parallels with MMF’s mission of dialogue and collaboration.”

On March 23, 2012, MMF hosted FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Bradley Swim as the speaker for its Dinner with Speaker series. SSA Swim currently serves as the Domestic Terrorism Supervisor for the Denver FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and has been with the FBI for 15 years. He was part of the investigation of the Pittsburgh plane crash on 9/11.
Drawing parallels with MMF’s mission of dialogue and collaboration, SSA Swim stated that as terrorism is an issue too large and complex for one agency to handle, no single agency can unilaterally accomplish the mission against terrorism. That is why JTTF pursues critical partnerships with local agencies with the “Success through Cooperation” motto.
SSA Swim talked about the distinction between common crime and terrorism, and pointed out that terrorism is an act of violence for a political or social goal. Domestic terrorism is conducted by a group or an individual based and operating entirely within the U.S, as opposed to international terrorism that transcends national boundaries. He categorized domestic terrorism into three types, namely, left-wing, single-issue (or special interest), and right-wing terrorism. He also added that domestic terrorism is nothing new, it has been around for a long time, but it is more deadly now because of technological advances. Generally, the terrorists use their acts of terror to promote their ideology. Accordingly, animal rights extremism that takes human life to protect animal life, and environmental extremism that destroys vehicles using too much gas are two examples of single issue/special interest type of domestic terror. On the other hand, SSA Swim mentioned that the motivators of right-wing extremism are religion, politics, or race, and gave examples of individuals and armed groups.
SSA Swim emphasized the importance FBI puts on creating dialogue between businesses and the community with the law enforcement agencies by giving the “Don’t hesitate to call us” message. Using this type of outreach, FBI was able to prevent a second attack to the Fort Hood facility.
Responding to a question from the audience, SSA Swim asserted that the FBI director is appointed for a term of 10 years and it is apolitical, protecting it from the influence of any one government. Finally, SSA Swim thanked MMF and the audience for the opportunity to speak at the foundation. President Akbulut presented the guest speaker a Turkish traditional gift on behalf of MMF, and invited the audience to join MMF’s next speaker event which will host John Walsh, US Attorney General to the District of Colorado.

Reflections on 9/11 after a decade: A night of remembrance and reconciliation.

Reflections on 9/11 after a decade: A night of remembrance and reconciliation at Mosaic

It has been 10 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While much time has passed, images of the tragic events from that fateful day are still in our thoughts. Multicultural Mosaic Foundation hosted a panel discussion in memory of 9/11 and the innocent lives lost, with hopes of continuing the healing process.
The event took place on Saturday, September 10th, 2011 at the MMF headquarters in Aurora, Colorado with the participation of more than 50 Coloradoans. After a reception full of warm welcome, networking and socializing, the participants enjoyed delicious Turkish food. The event was co-sponsored by the Fountain Magazine that contributed with its special issue on 9/11.
As the host, Diane Otsuka welcomed the audience on behalf of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation (MMF) and introduced the panel “Reflections on 9/11 after a decade” as an important dialogue event and as a night of remembrance and reconciliation. Ms. Otsuka added that 9/11 brought fear to the U.S, but through dialogue we can replace fear with better understanding as we share our hearts and minds. She added that dialogue is a must today. Before the speeches the participants took a minute of silence commemorate victims of 9/11 and Norway.
The four panelists and the highlights of the panel section were as follows:

    Professor Dr. Karen Feste, Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver
    During her speech, Dr. Feste approached the events of 9/11 from an international conflict resolution perspective. She talked about her scholarly contributions to the subject, and finally contrasted the U.S. reactions to terrorism to the Norwegian reactions during recent attacks on civilians in Norway.
    Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav, rabbi of Congregation Har Mishpacha in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and the Project Manager for “9/11 Ten Years After: A Multifaith Response.”
    Rabbi Booth-Nadav reflected on 9/11 with quotes from Torah, and discussed the importance and meaning of choosing life in both blessing and hardship conditions. He asserted that people all over the world stood by the U.S, sharing the feeling of sorrow after 9/11 regardless of their races and religions, and condemning the attacks. The world came together with compassion and unity. While emphasizing the importance of building bridges to make the world a safer place, and he raised the questions of “Is the world safer after 9/11?” and “In the face of 9/11, what does it mean to choose life?”
    Dr. Nader Hashemi, is an Assistant Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
    Dr. Hashemi talked about how the post 9/11 situation has become crisis-driven and worse particularly in terms of Islam versus West relations while quoting a PEW report on how Muslims and the West see each other. Accordingly, the terrorist threat to the U.S. continues and the anti-Islamic sentiment and the hateful rhetoric of right-wing groups continues. On the other hand, he highlighted the contributions of Muslims to protecting the security in the U.S making a distinction between terrorists and Muslims in general, and the interfaith dialogue efforts that are getting more widespread. Quoting “What does not break you will make you stronger” by Nietzsche, he expressed his hopefulness of the positive spirit of such constructive efforts.
    Ismail Akbulut, MMF president.
    Mr Akbulut made the following points:
    Any terrorist activity is a blow to human dignity, peace and freedom. Such acts cannot be justified in any way. Each life is sacred in the eyes of God. War can only be declared by state, and even in times of war killing civilians are forbidden in Islam. Terrorists who conduct violent acts completely ignore and violate 1400 year of Islamic scholarship. Such violent ideologies are not supported by the larger Muslim populations. Many major religious scholars, such as Fethullah Gülen, condemn such acts who said “A true Muslim cannot be a terrorist, and a terrorist cannot be a Muslim.”
    Only through mutual understanding and respect can we prevent such events as 9/11. US is an experiment of co-existence. This country is an opportunity and proof that mutual co-existence can be successful. Failure of this experiment would be disastrous for a peaceful future for the rest of the world.
    Mr. Akbulut ended his speech by expressing his feelings sorrow and condolences to the victims of 9/11.