September 18, 2010

WHO WANTS TO OPEN THEIR EYES IF IT MEANS SEEING THEY'RE BEING UNJUST?:

My Take: Imam Rauf is Not a Moderate (Stephen Prothero, 9/09/11, CNN)

In terms of news, the bottom line is that Imam Feisal seems to be searching for a compromise that will turn down the temperature of the controversy while not giving the upper hand to bigots at home and radicals in the Muslim world. [...]

The most revealing moment in this revealing interview came during a discussion about whether the neighborhood in question is sacred ground. This topic has of course been well covered: it is sacred because the ashes of the dead that drifted over its streets have and never will be recovered; yet it is not so sacred because there are strip clubs and sex shops there.

As O’Brien pressed him to admit the sacredness of the site, Imam Rauf spoke up forcefully, more forcefully than he did in the rest of the interview. And this time he spoke not of peace but of justice. And while he addressed O'Brien personally, he also challenged his viewers:

We've got to be fair. You can't say a place that has strip joints is sacred ground. We've got to be just. We've got to speak the truth. We've got to have justice for everybody. We're a country of justice for all, not justice for non-Muslims only or some groups and not for others. This is what America's all about, Soledad.

If you are looking for the face of moderate Islam, this is it. And if you cannot see moderate Islam in his face, you are not looking.

That said, I would not describe Imam Feisal as a moderate.

In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, Muslims are divided into three camps: a large group of moderates and much smaller groups of fundamentalists and progressives. Moderates and progressives distinguish themselves from fundamentalists by favoring the separation of mosque and state, and by enthusiastically affirming democracy. Progressives distinguish themselves from moderates by speaking out more forcefully for religious pluralism and by drawing more generously on the thinking of intellectuals from Europe and the United States.

On this score, at least, Imam Feisal is a progressive. Repeatedly he spoke of building bridges across religious divides, and he closed the interview not by quoting the Quran or invoking Shariah but by invoking the Sermon on the Mount: “Jesus Christ said blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2010 12:08 AM
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