Monday, July 23, 2007

Washington Post Outlook "One Islam, Many Circles"


The Outlook Section B (“Commentary”) of The Washington Post, Sunday July 22, 2007, had a big issue “One Islam, Many Circles” with a color picture of the hajj circular procession around the ka’aba.

One of the most interesting perspectives is “Muslims on Main St.” As American as You Are,” link. The author puts assimilation in perspective. He maintains that Islamic theology, while socially conservative, recognizes the rights of women (even full equality in certain contexts) and a modern idea of personal responsibility, owned by the self (man or woman). Later he mentions that Islam also accepts meritocracy, and that competition and hard work can be more important than family name. Many of the extreme practices reported in the media (as part of ‘radical Islam”) come from tribal culture that existed in Arabia before Mohammed appeared.

There is another article by Mohsin Hamid, “Roots of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us”, link here.
Followed on Monday July 23 by “Lumbering Foreign Policy Wounded Relationship With Muslim World; Focus on Ideals Could Heal It” here:

Hamid gives an example American intervention in Pakistan after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Lahore was once a liberal, pluralistic city, and things changed after Americans, under the Carter Administration at first, encouraged more conservative Muslims to oppose the Soviets. While Americans may be “envied” the tendency for the United States to intervene in small countries has enormous unintended consequences on the lives of ordinary people there. Some of al Qeada’s videos suggest that Americans must learn to accept personal responsibility and even targeting for the “wrongs” committed by their government (the “tainted fruits” theory). Americans, this writer believe, have little concept of the effect of their government’s policies. Until recent times, their concept of Islam was more like that expressed in composer Daniel Auber’s opera “The Caliph of Baghdad.”

Then Mansour Al-Nogaidan has a piece: A Cry for Change: Losing My Jihaddism” here
Mansour took what amounts to a “vow of poverty” to live a faithful lifestyle in the Salafi sect. Over time, he had several cycles of personal epiphany, written criticism of extremist religious rhetoric, being fired and then marked for fatwa. His story makes us wonder about a religious social structure predicated on absolute acceptance of the hierarchal authority of others to discover and speak the truth for the individual – in a religion that, unlike the Vatican, is not supposed to have a formal centralized authority struggle. He also mentions 14th Century write Ibn Taymiyya, the “Muslim Martin Luther” whose writings never quite took hold in a Muslim world that would fall from its previous heights. The book by Irshad Manji "The Trouble with Islam Today", reviewed here, seems relevant. The film by Gregory Davis "What the West Needs to Know" (review) unfortunately, represents what many Americans were hearing.

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