I chatted with a lovely woman from Kashmir after the event. That was the answer really. Her family hated Hindis. Mine hated Arabs. "Communicate!" I said to myself later. One on one, two on two, from small to large groups, from the DC ivory tower of interfaith activities to the world, from scholarship to the earth.
Dr. Akbar Ahmed believes in scholarship as the root of the answer. That, I might have replied, behooves scholars to step down from the podium into the world, following his splendid example. He said that the word that appears in the Qu'ran most often means "knowledge." "The ink of scholars is mightier than a martyr's blood," reads a verse in the Qu'ran. We say that the pen is mightier than the sword.
But if I had to choose in the Qu'ranic context, I'd opt for the blood in a genuinely altruistic venue that opposes the metonymy "sword," which implies nude, unambiguous violence, and re-express the above thought with another metaphor.
But obviously I have a ways to go--to breach the culture gap and understand the philosophy of peace that pervades the Islam holy book. If there is violence there, take a quick refresher course in the Old Testament, which we can then follow with a realistic comparison of other aspects of both holy books, both of which, after all, aspire toward peace, love, and harmony.