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Originally published Friday, March 16, 2012 at 4:26 PM

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Tolerance, mutual respect are great ways to show faith

For Muslims, our faith can never be separated from everyday activities like work and community. Knowing God is pleased when we are ethical, moral and thoughtful to those around us can be inspiring.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Faith can mean different things to different people, but when a person's religious teachings guide him or her to act ethically and perform good deeds for no other agenda than to please the creator, I call that faith in action.

For many folks, having faith is a belief in God; involvement in their mosque, church or synagogue; something deeply internal that wants to connect and please God; or all of these things.

Lately, the modern path to faith and spirituality has included such practices as yoga and meditation. While these can make you feel good inside individually, they don't directly impact society.

In Islam, everything we do in life has to do with our faith because we are accountable to God for all our actions. So how we interact in society says much about us, our faith and its teachings.

Islam attaches tremendous importance to the love of God and humanity; this is why the Holy Quran speaks about true believers very often as "those who believe and do good deeds." (Quran 2:25).

For Muslims, our faith can never be separated from everyday activities like work and community. Knowing God is pleased when we are ethical, moral and thoughtful to those around us can be inspiring.

This kind of behavior can contribute to society in a positive way and today; America offers us many opportunities to practice our faiths within a multicultural environment.

In the 10th century, Indonesia was a similar place for the first Muslim visitors to the Archipelago. They were sailors and traders navigating the spice trade-routes of the Indian Ocean in search of commerce.

Every ship from the Middle East headed to East Asia passed major cities like Jakarta and Palembang, deemed melting-pot cities because they were filled with a variety of people from across the world.

When Muslim merchants from Arabia, Persia and even China began to settle there, they were welcomed by the locals for their ethical business practices, respect of diversity and tolerance: the true face of Islam.

The age-old proverb, "actions speak louder than words," well-embodied those early-day Muslims who traveled long ago to Indonesia, today the largest Islamic country in the world.

When we reveal our religions, traditions and philosophies, we discover universal truths we share. This can improve the quality of life for everyone around us so we can peacefully coexist.

In my interfaith work, I have learned that a shared value among many faiths is to love for others what you love for yourself. When we offer others what we enjoy ourselves, it always feels good inside.

Simply holding a door open for someone, smiling in public, giving compliments and saying thank-you can all become contagious, providing pleasure to the giver and receiver.

America offers all of us an equal opportunity to embody the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect. By expressing our faith through actions, we give a new purpose to life while conveying peace to those around us.

Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to faithcolumns@seattletimes.com

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