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Others say the presence of the first U.S. president whose father was a Muslim is what’s spurred interest.

Others point to Sept. 11, 2001, a bolt out of the blue that was a wake-up call to Islamic leaders around the world.

“There has been a huge outpouring of interfaith effort since Sept. 11,” said Padraic O’Hare, director of the Center for Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. “This is not a luxury. It’s a necessity, whether there is a God or not.”

His center added the word “Muslim” to its title in October 2008, a sign that the nation is evolving from a Judeo-Christian society to a society based on the three major Abrahamic religions.

Many say natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in January, have thrown together disparate religious charities like never before.

Many point out that it’s not American Christians but minority religious groups — Muslims, Mormons and Jews — who are providing the energy and creativity for this movement.

Whatever the reason or cause, people are talking to other people like never before.

Jews, Muslims in Potomac

One of the newest interfaith initiatives is the annual “twinning” of synagogues and mosques, an effort sponsored by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding to build bonds between Jews and Muslims. About 100 mosques and synagogues in North America and Europe “twinned” in November, double the amount that participated in the first Weekend of Twinning in 2008.

Two local participants were Congregation Shirat HaNefesh in Chevy Chase and the Medina Center in Potomac, which brought together a group of immigrant Muslims and suburban Jews. They agreed to meet on a Sunday afternoon for a combined worship service at a private home that serves as an informal mosque.

As a black velvet banner with Koranic sayings hung over the fireplace mantel, several dozen men sporting yarmulkes and kufis (the round cap that male Muslims wear) sat on the floor. Rabbi Gerald Serotta of Shirat HaNefesh had his arm flung around one of the Islamic worship leaders.

About 75 people turned out for the gathering, which had all the women clustered in the back. The Jewish women grouped themselves awkwardly against a wall and pulled on head scarves while the Muslim women gave them sympathetic smiles.

A speech by Rabbi Serotta suggested that Islamic and Jewish conceptions of God were basically equal.

“We don’t understand why God has chosen more than one path for humanity,” he told the group. “God created different paths so you’d compete in goodness.”

After Saif Qargha, a teacher from Afghanistan, gave a short instruction on the five pillars (basic tenets) of Islam, everyone lined up to pray. At the chant of the muezzin, Muslim and Jew alike dropped to their knees, then touched their heads to the floor in a form of prayer in mosques.

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