While religious, political, and cultural relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world are often tense, the universal language of music has a way of cutting through all that.

Friendship Fest 2005 proved as much.

Held May 6-8 in Marrakech, in North African nation of Morocco, the lineup featured some of Christian music's biggest names—Jeremy Camp, Newsboys, Delirious, Phil Keaggy, Rock 'n' Roll Worship Circus, Out of Eden, and Joy Williams. Friendship Fest—which drew an impressive 85,000 attendees during its three-night stint—could've easily been mistaken for a typical Christian music festival, even though it was held in a predominantly Muslim country.

Festival organizers had said they wanted to "use the universal language of music to bridge cultures and make friends, to show that people of different cultures and faith traditions can be friends and live in harmony with one another."

The event's website described it as "a celebration of friendship in the midst of diversity in cultures and faith traditions." That diversity was reflected in the equal stage time given to the Christian acts and to Moroccan musicians.

Some opposition

A few Moroccan news outlets reported the event as "controversial," noting "fierce opposition from Islamists" and implying that the musicians were there to convert Muslims to Christianity.

American Harry Thomas, one of the festival planners, said some Moroccans initially showed resistance. "There was pressure being placed on the people of Marrakech saying, 'Maybe you shouldn't do this event. You shouldn't trust these Americans.'" But Thomas alleviated their concerns, assuring them that proselytizing wasn't ...

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