During a sensitive time of global scrutiny surrounding Islam and Muslims, one unexpected image relating to the religion drew a more positive light.
Ali Kadri, a Muslim man living in Brisbane, Australia, posted a picture to his Facebook page last weekend that got the attention of tens of thousands of people. The picture showed Kadri with an imam, taking part in evening prayers at a Mormon church after having been invited to the Christmas program by his Mormon friend Michael Bennallack.
Kadri and Bennallack spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin about how they crossed cultural paths and what the meeting means to each of them in this divisive moment.
On how Kadri decided to go to Bennallack's place of faith
Bennallack: I'm actually Ali's personal trainer, and after a couple of weeks of us doing weights at the gym together we realized, "Wow, we have a lot in common," and we actually started meeting up outside of the gym and just having chats over lunch and he invited me to attend his mosque which I did, and then I extended the invitation in return and yeah, that's kind of how it all happened.
On what they got out of the experience
Kadri: I was first of all in awe of the place — it's an amazing church; it's an amazing building. And the sincerity of people who visit this place, the dedication, would be similar to somebody who would be a Muslim and have the sincerity to their own worship or place of worship. At the end of the day, what matters is the sincerity towards your faith and other human beings. And it's common ... across all faiths.
On the viral attention it attracted, particularly in the U.S.
Bennallack: I think it's good. I mean I think Ali and I can probably both relate to each other because we're not odd necessarily because of our faith, but just because we espouse any faith. And I think, you know, that traction that it's gained is just a demonstration about how we've got two different religions and two different cultures coming together, which may have surprised people, but for us it was really natural because we were able to draw so many parallels between our lives.
On whether the timing is intentional
Kadri: I think, look, not just because of the Paris attacks, because of whatever is happening across the world after the war in Syria and so on. I actually got into the community because of that purpose, because there's been a lot of fear about Islam and there is a lot of misunderstanding about Islam because unfortunately Islam is being represented by a few bunch of lunatics who are doing ridiculous stuff against other human beings. And I think a majority of the Muslims who are like everybody else and peace-loving and law-abiding didn't get a platform or didn't come out and get as much media attention or publicity as the lunatics get. So that's why I decided to join the public life. And this is part of it, you know, to go and meet people and show them what Islam is all about or Muslims are all about.