My PhD thesis, which explores the experiences of younger Pakistani men in Dublin, Ireland and Boston, USA, has several overarching themes which travel across both countries.
One question I ask late in my interviews is “What do you think of interfaith dialogue?” In both cities, I have found that young Pakistani men are overwhelmingly proponents of interfaith activities.
One interview I recorded is particularly powerful. It comes from a college-educated Pakistani immigrant in Dublin who has studied and worked throughout Europe for the last 6 years or so:
I think [interfaith dialogue] is very healthy and it should be done because I feel like the problem comes when you stop talking. As long as you’re talking and as long as you’re sharing your thoughts, your feelings, your situations, your circumstances, as long as you’re sharing what you are, than it’s all okay.
I feel that these interfaith dialogues should happen and they must because in this way people from different religions can see where their religions stand… So one of the special things about Islam is that it’s not hard coated. It’s not like this is Islam and you have to follow it and that you cannot do anything outside of this barrier because this is not Islam.
What Islam does is that it actually tells you the fundamentals and tells you individual alphabets and then it lets you write your own sentences, but you still have to follow the alphabets and writing the sentences using the alphabet… So it’s not a locked religion. It’s a religion for ages and ages to come. It has some fundamentals which you have to do. These are very, very natural things and then it has a massive liberty inside of itself in which you can bring the pieces together to think about whether things are okay… It’s not a 1400 year old religion. It’s always forming and accommodating with the latest developments according to where the human race is heading to. So it’s not just standing there. It’s going.