UK ‘Progressive Christian’ Festival to Include Muslim Group Teaching Sufi Worship Chants

LONDON — A “progressive Christian” festival in the UK has added a Muslim platform to its upcoming event in an effort to eradicate negative stereotypes against those of the Islamic faith. The event will include a group that will teach attendees universal Sufi chants, as well as others who seek to combat “Islamophobia” in the world.

“It is because we are Christian that we do this,” Paul Northup, the creative director of the Greenbelt Festival, asserted in a recent blog post. “Not because we want to dilute or deny our faith. It’s because we want to be true to our faith and to continue to live and express it dynamically, creatively and generously. In a world which seems ever-more divided, then we want to build bridges not barriers.”

He said that since the September 11 attacks, the leaders of the festival have desired to introduce attendees to those of the Muslim faith so that they can see what the two groups have in common and perhaps unite for shared causes.

“Since 9/11, the Greenbelt trustees have wanted the festival to engage with Islam more deeply,” Northrup explained. “We wanted to play our part in dismantling, as far as we could, the extremist stereotyping and narrative the Muslim faith and community laboured under and to introduce Greenbelters to Muslim thinkers, artists, activists and spirituality. Muslims who shared many of our values, if not our faith, and with whom we can make common cause.”

The festival, scheduled for Aug. 25-28, is partnering with the group Amal, which uses culture and the arts to “forge common ground” between various communities and faith groups. It has therefore dubbed its Muslim program at the festival “Amal at Greenbelt,” and its slogan this year is “The Common Good.”

“Amal at Greenbelt is just another step in our long journey to model inclusivity and engagement—to listen to and to learn from different religions, cultures and philosophies,” Northrup said. “For me, it’s this open-mindedness that characterizes Greenbelt at its best. It is also what is most distinctively Christian about the festival.”

The event will include an appearance on Aug. 28 by the Ansari Qadri-Rifai Sufi Order, whose mission is to “guide seekers of Allah.”

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At 9:45 a.m., “[p]articipants can learn basic universal Sufi chants (also called dhikr) that are rhythmic, healing and a unique form of worship,” the Greenbelt site outlines. And at 3:00 p.m., attendees can participate in an introduction to some of the various songs and chants of Muslim mystical Sufis.

“Come, enter in, learn and participate. Here is healing,” the professing Christian festival writes.

Other speakers and features will include comedian Bilal Zafar, who uses humor “to respond to the prejudice and abuse increasingly faced by British Muslims today;” Fakhara Rehman, a Muslim leader who founded the More in Common group; Salma Yaqoob, a psychotherapist who will discuss “the mainstreaming of Islamophobia;” and the musical duo Pearls of Islam.

The festival, founded in 1974, is expected to draw thousands to the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 reads, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'”

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