Baha’i is imam’s choice to speak in his stead at MLK luncheon
When business leaders in Topeka, Kansas, gathered for a Martin Luther King Jr. Week luncheon Jan. 17, it was remarkable to read in the program that a Baha’i would be speaking on behalf of a Muslim imam.
But it wasn’t surprising to Duane Herrmann, the Baha’i in question. His relationship with Imam Omar Hazim goes back 41 years to when they were elected to the board of Interfaith of Topeka.
“Since then our friendship has only grown deeper,” relates Herrmann. “He has on innumerable occasions asked me to speak at the local mosque, to the formal Qur’an class and informally at other events there.” Herrmann often represents the Baha’i communities of Topeka and Shawnee County as their public information officer.
Additionally, in 2010 the imam invited Herrmann, who has written histories of the Baha’i Faith in Kansas, to contribute an essay to his book Islam in the Heartland of America — “which I did with approval from the Universal House of Justice,” global governing council of the Baha’i Faith, notes Herrmann.
That essay, titled “Baha’i Community,” quotes central figures of the Baha’i Faith affirming the station of the Prophet Muhammad and the validity of the Qur’an.
Hazim asked Herrmann to speak at the luncheon on his behalf in the wake of a scheduling conflict.
The audience comprised 150 “high-level members of businesses and city government officials … supporting the Martin Luther King Jr. activities in Topeka,” says Herrmann.
“In my presentation, on the need for justice, I quoted both [the writings of] Baha’u’llah [prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith] and the Qur’an, clearly distinguishing between them but also demonstrating their unity.”