Articles by Dr. Tallal Turfe

12/10/13: Morality in America by Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe

Morality in America

Conference of Interfaith Leaders- Held at the Islamic House of Wisdom

by Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe 

December 10, 2013

Martin Luther King said, “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”  During the last half century, moral integrity in America has been on a constant decline.  Who is to blame for this moral decadence in American society?  Blame can be directed toward parents, teachers, and clerics who need to go beyond teaching morality to actually living morality.  It takes initiative, commitment, and a willingness to go against the trend to bring our children back to what is morally and religiously right.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all faced with the challenge to restore our God-given rights of moral beliefs and faith to our children and communities.  Moral values need to be taught and practiced very early in life. 

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America needs a transformation.  It needs to get back to the basic principles that made our country great.  Liberty and justice, based on the moral and ethical demands of faith, were the hallmarks of what our Founding Fathers so arduously worked for and believed in.  Religious freedom for all citizens was mandated, as they knew that morality springs from religious faith.

We have a moral and spiritual crisis in America that has been brewing for some time.  It is a crisis of character that has produced a crisis of behavior.  It is a poverty of values caused by a poverty of faith.  We remove all value judgments from society and then wonder why we have a generation that is morally confused.  Our society has continually dismissed the relevance of religion and, as a consequence, has diminished its importance.  If religion is ignored or banned, then its components, such as the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, are likewise made irrelevant.  The end result is that if there is no God, then anything is permissible. 

Today, the atmosphere in America is reeking with immorality, and we are suffering from moral decay and cultural decadence.  The trend of immorality will only get worse.  How will future generations behave in a climate of uninhibited sex, deviation from biblical scriptures, and complacency?  There is no question that America can outdo any nation when it comes to technology, architecture, agriculture, drilling for oil, and increasing the speed of travel.  But when it comes to morality, we have a hard time staying above water, as we are sinking and sinking fast.

To recapture the moral qualities that God has given us, we from the interfaith community must work together in cooperation.  We need to revive the morality in our communities.  We need to discuss ways to restore our nation back to its moral greatness.  That is going to take a great deal of time and effort, but it has to be done for the sake of our nation, our children, and the future of America.  As interfaith leaders, the power that guides us should result in restoring our moral consciousness.  As Martin Luther King said, “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” 

To work together in restoring morality, we must be united.  While we need to deal with the unavoidable conflict between our desire for unity and our commitment to truth, we need to reflect on those things that bring about unity.  Unity is not something we invent; it is God’s gift.  Let our efforts be the result of an earnest desire and willingness to succeed, as we celebrate our differences as windows of opportunities.  Let us uproot ignorance with knowledge, as we learn to cooperate with one another.  As God has already given us that passion for unity, we must move forward to fulfill His command.  Our pledge to unity must begin within ourselves, within our families, within our communities, and with each other.  With an open mind and open heart, we can have effective interfaith dialogue with each other.  As we engage in dialogue, let us seek to understand before we seek to be understood.  

As Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were established by Divine inspiration, their followers are obligated to be tolerant, empathetic, and peaceful.  Toward this end, they must acknowledge that they are partners and collaborate with each other through a coordinated effort.  

Today, there is great demand for eyes that see, ears that hear, minds that think, and hearts that feel.  As religious leaders and scholars, we can no longer be too content in our own respectability, or too complex and too difficult to please because of our own self-importance.  As we meet in interfaith dialogue, we must not surrender to social pressure.  Leaders of vision, will, and courage must stand against the multitude, follow their own lights, and withstand the ridicule visited upon them.  Leaders must not be indifferent to the moral darkness and misery that feeds on the poor and innocent in each of our faith traditions.  Leaders must take an active part in the quest for tolerance and cooperation, not just to get something out of it but, more importantly, to put something into it.  Leaders must be nurtured in the ideals of true brotherhood, must be trained to estimate rightly the trend of events, and must be animated with the noble purpose of embracing brotherhood for the sake of brotherhood.

Let us be guided by the wisdom of Martin Luther King when he said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  The challenge for us is to continue to work together – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – hand-to-hand, heart to heart, united in brotherhood and solidarity.  

To view Photo Highlights of this occasion, click HERE

11/2713: Interfaith Message of Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe delivered at the People's Community Center on the eve of Thanksgiving

Interfaith Message of Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe delivered at the People's Community Center on the eve of Thanksgiving

Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe- Delivering his Interfaith Message on the Eve of Thanksgiving

Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe- Delivering his Interfaith Message on the Eve of Thanksgiving

By: Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe 

November 27, 2013- While we give thanks to God every day, Thanksgiving Day in America will always be remembered with special consideration of the difficult times faced by America’s first immigrants who came to this country to freely practice their faith and live peacefully with others.  Likewise, we have followed their example as we from different faiths can also break bread together in brotherhood and solidarity.  Thanksgiving Day expresses gratitude, focusing on family and friendship, and sharing appreciation for a land of freedom and opportunity.  God has bestowed on us the nature to be grateful, and we should express that gratitude to God and to each other.

My book, Children of Abraham: United We Prevail, Divided We Fail, discusses the reasons for the decline of religion in America, details the similarities between the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and offers solutions to bring about a unified effort to safeguard monotheism.  This book will enlighten those who wish to collaborate with brothers and sisters of each faith to work for the common cause of safeguarding religion in America as well as working for peace, tolerance, security, and solidarity.

In our democratic American society, we have the freedom to celebrate our beliefs while vigorously engaging others who believe differently.  Interfaith dialogue alone will not end conflict, create universal justice, or resolve all of our societal problems.  However, interfaith dialogue can be a powerful tool for advocacy, relationship building, and nurturing cultural diversity and pluralism.  Although the perception is that the faith traditions are significantly different, they are in fact deeply connected.  The prevailing belief and practice of each is faith in God, which transcends all of their predominant differences. 

  The challenge we face is to unify and mobilize our resources with the understanding that a sense of open-mindedness and love for one another must prevail.  To this end, discussions should center on the similarities among the faith traditions.  While Scriptures of the faith traditions disclose many verses relating to ethics and morals, we have witnessed a continuous degradation of morality, which threatens the very fabric of American society.

Can we turn on the television, watch a movie, surf the Internet, or open a magazine without being bombarded with an array of sexual messages?  Shouldn’t our educational institutions teach about the immorality of having premarital sex rather than about methods of having safe sex?  Can society stop sexualizing our youth?  Can we rewind and instill in our minds the moral and ethical standards that allow us to differentiate between right and wrong?  If we cannot agree on what is right and wrong or moral and immoral, how do we stay together in one national family?  Can we be cleansed from the unrestrained immorality around us?

            Who is to blame for this moral decadence in American society?  A lack of morality is the absence of principles.  Parents need to go beyond teaching morality to actually living morality.  We are all faced with the challenge to restore our God-given rights of moral beliefs to our communities.  Many Americans do not even ask whether an action is right or wrong.  Some argue that we are no longer a moral society.  America has reached a point where almost anything is tolerated and nothing is deemed intolerable.

The media have a major influence on our cultural values, and we know it.  For example, television is becoming the main vehicle by which viewers find viewpoints that reflect their own lifestyles.  Television is no longer just competing for our attention and dollars but for our very souls.  Television is becoming a kind of religion, shaping the faith and values of many people.  These values are in many ways opposed and in conflict with the principles and ideals of each of our faiths.

We have a moral and spiritual crisis in America that has been brewing for some time.  It is a crisis of character that has produced a crisis of behavior.  It is a poverty of values caused by a poverty of faith.  We remove all value judgments from society and then wonder why we have a generation that is morally confused.  Our society continues to dismiss the relevance of religion and, as a consequence, has diminished its importance.

            So what is the common denominator of why religion is disintegrating in American society?  That common denominator is a disease called complacency, which has as its philosophy to live for the here and now, ignore the past, and be unconcerned about the future.  How can American society be motivated to move away from the drowning depths of complacency, when it is what most seem to desire?

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            Our country was founded on Christian religious values but now has drifted to an ideology of spiritual values, i.e., each person can search for the truth of the Universe in their own mind while still maintaining that God exists, without the need for revelations or Scriptures.  What this means is that Scriptures are being abrogated or terminated to satisfy the whims of those who wish to downplay revelations altogether.  All of a sudden, sinful acts denounced in religious Scriptures are now condoned and espoused by many Americans and also by politicians for the purpose of getting elected into office.  Since Christians are the predominant population in America, they have borne the brunt of immoral issues.  Those of other faith traditions, while much smaller in population, are vulnerable to the same immoral issues that Christians are experiencing.

While interfaith dialogue is a roadmap to understanding, tolerance, and peace, the question is, are we up to the task?  Are we clear about where we want to go and how to get there?  Do we understand our responsibilities?  Interfaith dialogue instills and nurtures the elements of knowledge, empathy, tolerance, and collaboration.  It paves the way for reaching a consensus on norms and values.  It bridges the gap between religions and cultures by encouraging dialogue and respecting diversity.  

The children of today can be the future leaders and advocates of a vision of peace.  If we hope to raise peaceful children, we must develop a better understanding of how children grow and learn.  Children will become moral individuals if we cultivate their minds and hearts, and give them opportunities to see family values being practiced.  Children need social and emotional competence as well as resilience to face the problems in society.  Children need to be taught intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to ensure they develop positive relationships, to be encouraged to achieve and aspire, to feel cared for, valued, and supported.  

            Can we live peacefully and in harmony with each other?  We need to understand whom we are, where we come from, and where we are going as well as the repressed pain we carry that is handed down from previous generations.  We need to be able to cultivate peace in the home where children grow intellectually, spiritually, and socially.  We need to channel our children’s energy into peacemaking activities, as they learn to understand and deal with emotions and conflicts.  We must teach our children to maintain moral and ethical standards.

            Children solidify their personality long before they become adults.  The problem is that we have not been great models for our children.  Much of our sophisticated adult social behavior is incomprehensible to them.  We may not be in control or even the determinant of our children’s character, but we have influence.  As we spend time with children and truly open our hearts, we will find that they have something to give and to teach us – their innocence, their trust.  Children come into the world carrying the light of peace with them.  As we open ourselves to their teaching, they can show us how to be peaceful, how to be absorbed in the present.  While children can help us rediscover peace, they also need to see us working for peace.

            Together we can shape the world our children will inherit so they in turn can shape the future of peace.  Spiritual leaders of the past were grounded on firm moral standing, as they preached ethics, coexistence, forgiveness, and the importance of peace.  There must be security for all or no one will be secure.  Let us give thanks to God for His Blessings as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day! 

To view photo highlights of the occasion: click HERE