“[When people ask me about the message of Islam], I tell them that the global principles of diversity, pluralism, justice, and humanity make up the number one message of the Quran. This is what we need to teach and preach in the Muslim world.” - Iftekhar Hai
Iftekhar Hai is an interfaith bridge-building pioneer. Before most people saw the need for bridge-building among people of different religious faiths, Iftekhar was already showing the way.
During preparations for the first URI Summit at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco in 1996, Iftekhar introduced the volunteers (who were uneducated about Islam) to the Islamic practice of prayer. When it was time for the afternoon prayer, Iftekhar was busy moving conference supplies. Without a prayer rug or place to pray nearby, he handily took a poster board he was carrying, placed it on the floor of the hotel’s basement corridor, bowed and prayed. He taught by his actions.
During the closing ceremony of URI’s Global Summit in 1997, over 200 people gathered in a big circle to give farewell messages. Iftekhar went to his knees and asked the assembled interfaith group for forgiveness for all transgressions done in the name of Islam – it was an ultimate and unforgettable act of peacebuilding.
Through the years, Iftekhar invited URI staff to accompany him to Friday (jumma) prayer, treated newcomers to Pakistani food, and, with his wife Atiya, gave generously to URI and opened their home to URI’s international visitors.
Iftekhar served on URI’s Global Council, the Interfaith Council of San Francisco, and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. For many years, he served the greater San Francisco community as President of the United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance. Iftekhar has written extensively about Islam.
As URI celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is an honor to recognize Iftekhar as an interfaith pioneer and his steadfast advocacy for peace, justice, and healing.
Read more posts in the Every Voice series, which presents thought-provoking quotes showing how people all over the world give voice to URI.