Muslim scholars, clerics to begin exchange program with US Catholics

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PHILADELPHIA: A group of Muslim clerics and scholars from the Middle East began a four-day visit to the Philadelphia area on Monday with a stop at a downtown homeless shelter.

The group, which includes two Egyptians, two Jordanians and one Syrian, met the staff at Saint John s Hospice, operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and served lunch to homeless people.

The American society deserves much better than what is the perception, Wael Mohammad Abdallah Arabiyat, a professor of Islamic law at the University of Jordan, said through an interpreter.

We also have to differentiate between the nation of America and its politics.

The group also spent time last week in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and will spend a week in Boston after leaving the Philadelphia area, according to Thomas Johnston, an official with the US Department of State s educational and cultural affairs unit. The program will include a reciprocal exchange for American clerics to Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Mahmoud Abdalla Mohamed Abdalla, an imam in Cairo, said his country has hospices for children with no parents and homes for the elderly, but nothing like the shelters he saw in the United States.

This is a compassionate approach to solving the problem, he said through an interpreter, shortly before handing out bottled drinks Monday morning.

In many Arab countries, mosques and Islamic groups and parties run extensive social programs that, in numerous cases, eclipse welfare services offered through the governments.

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