Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Mosque at Ground Zero

Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”
Genesis 21:9-13

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all trace their origins back to Abraham. Judaism and Christianity claim Isaac as their ancestor, and Islam was founded though Abraham’s first son, Ishmael.

This common ancestry has found expression more often in rivalry than in brotherhood, and some would claim that the animosity goes back to the time when Sarah was jealous of Ishmael and demanded that he and his mother be cast out.

The plan to build a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center towers has given us a new chapter in this conflict. Although in this case (and many others) the conflict is more about politics than theology.

The theological issues, however, are worth at least a glance.

One of the reasons that people object to the mosque is that they see all of Islam as connected to terrorism. But that is no more accurate than blaming all Christians for the atrocities of the Serbs or the terrorism of the Irish Republican Army, or blaming all atheists for the atrocities of Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot, or Mao. The terrorists are Fundamentalist extremists, they are not mainstream Muslims.

Many writers have characterized Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the Cordoba Initiative to build the Islamic Cultural Center as a “moderate.” The impression is that the terrorists are extremists and he is a moderate. But the difference is greater than that.

The Imam is a Sufi.

Sufism is a spiritualism that emphasizes the mystical connection between the individual and God. Sufism promotes egalitarianism, charity and friendliness. Those who have studied the Imam say he has more in common with New Age spiritualism than with Osama Bin Laden or Ayatollah Khomeini. In recent decades the Sufis have lost ground to more militant Fundamentalist branches of Islam, as the extremists have promoted themselves as best equipped to provide political resistance against Western Cultural dominance.

But the Sufis are the good guys. If we hope to forge an alliance with Islam to eventually beat our swords into plowshares, we need the Sufis.

Our opposition to the Sufis fits the narrative of the terrorists. They believe that the United States is opposed to all of Islam. This confirms their world-view.

No comments:

Post a Comment