Considering the religious philosophy espoused by practicing Muslims how should a American Christian view this apparent move by the Muslim community. I myself see no reason to not allow the building of this community center. My concern is rather with the toleration debate between Muslims and those of differing faiths. There seems to be a double standard or a duel sided response to issues of faith as Muslims who live in America have now to encounter the US Constitution within which resides proclamations of free speech and rights for all. But for those who hold to the literal translation of the Koran on doctrines of non-toleration their final convictions on matters of faith and doctrine are tantamount. How they walk this constitutional fence of conformity must make them aware of what they must give up on matters of faith and doctrine!
According to all reports in countries where others of Christian faiths are living there is a no tolerance for those outside the Muslim faith. Yet the Muslim community in America is willing to live together as citizens with those of other faiths. Why this is so may not be so mysterious as the way in which a believer interprets his or her faith has much to say on how a person of faith lives, not primarily in word, but in deed.
Without question it is common knowledge that there is ongoing persecution of Christians and others of different faiths in those countries where Muslims are in the majority.
I think there is a general mistrust by Christian Americans that the Muslim community in America is of a puritanical character and as such is thought to contain militaristic elements of the original teachings of the Koran. Such literalist’s teachings do not allow for communities of differing faiths to exist side by side. This is what many Americans believe was part and parcel of the character of those who perpetrated the assaults of 911.
If on the other hand American Muslims are reformed in their interpretations of the Koran then there exists such toleration and reinterpretation of the Koran to fit the cultures of the day. This non-threatening posture allows them to be to more accessible to differing faiths allowing for plurality of thought of which the framers had in mind when they form the US Constitution.
How does an American Muslim want to be viewed when it comes to sharing with others of different religious beliefs? They way in which a Muslim interprets the Koran makes a big difference in determining what the Koran says of trusting those of different beliefs.
Should I take confidence that American Muslims have interpreted the Koran in such a way as to be congenial to various faiths and so are domesticated to the culture in which they reside? This is the concern of Americans who view the 911 incidents. More on this below:
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2010
Moderate Muslims and Religious Tolerance
It was reported this week, in a matter of interest only to his family, a handful of Lutherans and Catholics, and maybe a couple of Episcopalians, that Dr. Michael Root, theologian and professor at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC, has converted to Catholicism. He is a talented and well informed lecturer, and I enjoyed his course in Ecumenism very much. I'm not at all surprised that he has been received into the Catholic Church.
Four hundred years ago in Europe such a move as Dr. Root's likely would have resulted in one having to give up all worldly possessions and move to a different country. Depending on who his neighbors and rulers were, it could have resulted in his death. But Christians have come a long way since those late Middle Ages, possibly becoming more moderate but definitely more tolerant while hopefully developing a better understanding of Jesus’ teachings.
Because of issues of tolerance and moderation raised by the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan, the Wall Street Journal dedicated a full page of its 9/1/2010 Opinion Section to essays by six “leading thinkers” charged with defining “moderate Islam.” Their names and what I judged to be their most helpful points are:
Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition leader in Malaysia: (After describing and identifying with “mainstream” Muslims – no different from moderate Christians, Jews, etc.)
“The tyrants and oppressive regimes that have been the real impediment to peace and progress in the Muslim world must hear our unanimous condemnation. The ball is in our court.”
Bernard Lewis, Princeton Emeritus Professor and author: (After describing a Muslim history of tolerance for people of other faiths even exceeding Christian tolerance in many cases)
“For the moment, there does not seem to be much prospect of a moderate Islam in the Muslim world. This is partly because in the prevailing atmosphere the expression of moderate ideas can be dangerous – even life threatening.”
Ed Husain, Author and counter extremist think tank founder: (After explaining that the word “moderate” implies something less than complete. He has a point. What serious Christian wants to be described as “moderate?")
“I am fully Muslim and fully Western. Don’t call me moderate – call me a normal Muslim.”
Reuel Marc Gerecht, Former CIA operative: (After describing his excellent relationship with the family of his Muslim college roommate)
“That is the essence of moderation in any faith: the willingness to exist peacefully, if not exuberantly, alongside non-believers who hold repellant views on many sacred subjects.”
Tawfik Hamid, Former member of Islamic radical group: (After arguing that Islam includes teachings that promote hatred and eventually breed terrorism)
“Moderate Islam must not be passive. It needs to actively reinterpret the violent parts of the religious text rather than simply cherry picking the peaceful ones.”
Akbar Ahmed, American University professor and former Pakistani ambassador: (After arguing that the classification “moderate” is inappropriate and that there are three broad categories of Muslims, mystic, modernist, and literalist)
“The literalists believe that Muslim behavior must approximate that of the Prophet in seventh-century Arabia. Their belief that Islam is under attack forces many of them to adopt a defensive posture. And while not all literalists advocate violence, many do.”
These are all excellent and helpful points, and I recommend reading the essays. I have little personal experience with the Muslim faith. A business trip to Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s was an interesting but uncomfortable experience that satisfied my need for such adventures. We got the standard warnings about never making eye contact with or even looking at any women in the street. We bought bootleg cassette tapes of Western music (The Kingston Torio, for example) and stepped out of shops into the street when the call for prayer necessitated their closing. We had a wonderful stag dinner at the home of a Saudi businessman where we were served grape juice from a corked bottle as if it were a fine wine complete with steward, a white towel draped over his arm, as he poured a sip for the host to taste. Later in a non-Saudi private home, we were entertained with a full bar in mixed company with curtains drawn.
In my ignorance and lack of sensitivity I committed a major faux pas in a meeting with our potential business partner over concern about performance of our product in their climate. They kept pressing wanting to know if we had any customers in their part of the world. I finally remembered that we had a customer in Israel and, not being a real quick thinker, blurted it out. The room became very quiet as everyone turned and stared at me. That may have been my first PC speech violation since the PC movement had not flourished in the US at that time. We didn’t make any deals, which was fine with me.
It seems to me that the bottom line is that until Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., are made welcome and given rights and provided protection in Muslim countries as Muslims are here, talk of moderation and tolerance will never overcome the suspicion of many Americans that we are justified in feeling threatened by the Muslim faith. In early August, ten "Christian missionaries" in Afghanistan were executed by The Taliban who accused them of trying to make Christian converts. Earlier this week the WSJ reported that Libyan leader Col. Gadhafi was in Rome meeting with 800 Italian women in an effort to persuade them to convert to Islam. According to the story by Stacy Meichtry, the attendees were paid to attend and were given copies of the Quran, and “a handful of women converted to Islam.” Well, that got a little more attention, including Wall Street Journal coverage, than Mike Root converting to Catholicism but still inspired no threats of violence against Muslims as far as I know. That is an example of the kind of “tolerance” we would like to see provided non-Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries. It's a permanent fix the world awaits, and I hope and believe it would please God as well.