In 2003, Nelson Mandela visited Ireland when we hosted the Special Olympics.
As part of his visit, he travelled to NUI Galway to receive an honorary degree.
The Corrs played at an event after the ceremony. Nelson Mandela was, quite literally, first on the dancefloor.
He rolled out his trademark dance – known as the Madiba Jive – for those in attendance.
Nelson Mandela, the South African liberator of hearts and minds, has passed away to his Creator. What inspires me most about his life is his capacity to forgive:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Few human beings in history have embodied this Christian principle of forgiveness better than Nelson Mandela.
May he rest in peace.
News of the beautiful and awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia, or “Holy Wisdom,” turning into an active mosque is a tricky situation for political and cultural reasons, as Religion News Services reports (via Huffington Post).
Christians and other minorities may see the Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque as a challenge to Turkey’s secular-republican origin, whereas Muslims may see the emergence of a space for prayer as an affirmation of the Islamic faith of the majority of Turks.
Personally, I believe it should stay in its current state – a secular museum. However, I am not necessarily opposed to the Hagia Sophia turning into a mosque, so long as it is also turned into a church! That would be a most powerful example of interfaith coexistence – Muslims and Christians standing side-by-side, in the same building, in reverence to the Almighty.
I visited Hagia Sophia in 2011. As you can imagine, it left a lasting impression on me.
Tags: Christian, Church Conversion, Hagia Sophia, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islam and Christianity, Istanbul, Mosque, Mosque Conversion, Muslims and Christians, Opinion, Religious coexistence, Secularism, sophia, Turkey, Turkish people
A letter recently mailed to mosques throughout Ireland has raised alarm for its racist tone and incitement of violence against Irish Muslims. The letter suggested that Irish people were willing to kill Muslims in order to prevent the “Islamization” of Ireland. The letter also suggested that Irish Muslims have not – and are not interested in – integrating into Irish society.
Academic literature carried out on Islam in Ireland, however, suggests that Irish Muslims have integrated into Irish society. A brief overview of several academic studies can debunk the myth that Irish Muslims are a “threat” to Irish society.
In 2006, Kieran Flynn wrote an article which reported that the experience of Muslims in Ireland has been a largely positive one. In addition to Flynn, Oliver Scharbrodt, currently a lecturer at University College Cork, has produced several articles on Irish Muslims, one of which looked at a particular Shi’a Muslim community in Dublin of largely Pakistani descent. Scharbrodt concluded that this group practices a “moderate Islam” and have integrated themselves into their surrounding neighborhoods.
My own PhD research into the experiences of first- and second-generation Pakistani men in Dublin also supports the claim that Muslims have largely integrated into Ireland. For the last few years I have met and interviewed Pakistanis of all kinds of backgrounds to document how they are negotiating their cultural, religious, and national identities.
One of my participants, who was born and raised in Dublin, can speak the Irish language fluently and attended one of Dublin’s major universities. Several of my immigrant participants have actively taken steps to ensure that they are integrating and not isolating themselves from other communities. Some of these immigrant participants have attended mass at churches with their Catholic colleagues and visited pubs with their friends to watch football or rugby matches.
In one of my interviews, a second-generation Pakistani man, who claims to be a Sufi Muslim, told me about how he admires Irish mysticism, as it closely resembles his own spiritual beliefs as a Muslim. During our interview, he compared Saint Patrick’s spiritual power in uplifting the hearts and minds of the Irish, who were at the time without God, to the Prophet Muhammad, who also enlightened his people – the Arabs – in a similar way.
During a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in March 2013, I attended a zhikr, an Islamic devotional act and form of prayer usually conducted by Sufis. In the middle of the prayer circle was a bright light, and over that bright light was an Irish flag that lit up the room in a faint green and orange color. The combination of the light and the Irish flag was, for me, a symbol of the synthesis between Irish pride and Muslim piety.
Next week I will be traveling to Blanchardstown to meet my friend Sheikh Muhammad Umar al-Qadri, who also encourages Irish Muslims to integrate into Irish society. We are working on some ideas on ways to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Ireland.
The disturbing and threatening letter sent to Irish Muslims is full of baseless claims that have little support in academic literature. Academic studies, and not random letters based in ignorance and racism, should set the standard for the discourse surrounding Islam and Muslims in Ireland.
- Irish Muslims targeted in ‘hate mail’ campaign (muslimireland.wordpress.com)
Tags: Blanchardstown, Dublin, Integration, Ireland, Irish, Irish language, Irish Muslims, Irish people, Irish society, Islam, Islam in Ireland, Muslim, Pakistanis, Racism, Sufism, University College Cork
Here are a few messages which Pope Francis relayed to students from Rome’s universities:
“You must live, not just exist… Please don’t look at life from the sidelines, accept challenges… You must not be spectators but protagonists…
Don’t be mediocre, bored or like everyone else… You can’t live without facing challenges… Don’t stand on the sidelines; fight for dignity and against poverty…
Thoughts are fertile when they are in expression of an open mind that is able to discern, always illuminated by the truth, the good and beauty: if you do not allow yourselves to be conditioned by what everyone else thinks… you will find the courage to go against the current…
Plurality of thought and individuality reflects God’s multifaceted wisdom when it approaches the truth with honesty and intellectual rigour, so that each person can be a gift to others.”
Source: Vatican Insider
November 28, 2013 Backlash follows Catholic Online’s misleading headline on “closure” of Vatican Embassy
Catholic Online, a leading news source for Catholics in the US and abroad, recently created the headline “Obama orders closure of Vatican Embassy.” This headline is misleading, overtly political, and even dangerous as it helps reproduce the myths that President Obama is anti-Catholic and that he is also a Muslim.
Catholic Online forgot this quintessential point in their headline: President Obama has not shut down the US government’s diplomatic connection to the Vatican. The US State Department has decided to simply relocate the Embassy, which will be moved to a US government compound that also holds the US Embassy Rome and the US Mission to UN Agencies in Rome.
Catholic Online’s careless headline, however, led to a ration of outrageous comments on their Facebook page.
Catholic Online users suggest that President Obama is “satan” and thus the “anti-Christ.” Users such as Joan see his move as a “war on Catholicism.” Darla Moser thinks President Obama’s should be impeached. Of course all of these comments have been made by readers who thought that President Obama has completely shut down the US’s diplomatic presence to the Pope.
Other comments on Catholic Online’s Facebook page were equally troubling:
Cynthia Jessup insinuates that President Obama’s decision is grounds for his assassination. Reading her comment makes one wonder if she would have any sympathy if he was indeed murdered. We also see several other Facebook users calling him the “anti-Christ.”
The Facebook comments in the image above continue with the theme that President Obama is “satan like” and thus the “anti-Christ.” However, these comments differ from the comments in the previous two images as they suggest that President Obama has “closed” the US Embassy at the Vatican because he is a Muslim.
Misttina Brownfield claims that President Obama only cares about Muslims. Ray Makusiewicz believes that the President is deliberately acting against Catholics and for Muslims. The on-going myth that President Obama is a Muslim simply will not go away even though he has repeatedly told the world that he is a Christian.
Catholic Online’s careless news headline helps reproduce the myth that Obama is conducting a deliberate war on Christianity. Beyond that, one can argue that the headline is not only careless, but also deliberate and outright lie.
Catholic Online should be a much more responsible news outlet. Fanning the flames of misunderstanding and anti-Obama rhetoric only helps sow more ignorance, division and hatred. One would think that as a Catholic news source, Catholic Online would be more interested in finding ways to ferment knowledge, understanding and peace. It appears that it has a long way to go in behaving in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Tags: Barack Obama, Catholic, Catholic Online, Catholicism, Catholics, Christ, Facebook, Media, Obama, Politics, President Obama, Religion, United States, United States Department of State, US Embassy Rome, US Embassy Vatican, US State Department, Vatican, War on Christianity
Tags: Akbar the Great, Convivencia, Documentary, Europe, European Union, Far Right, Film, Human rights, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islamophobia, Medina Charter, Muslim history, Prophet Muhammad, Racism, Rumi, Tolerance, Video
Trinity College Dublin‘s (TCD) Sociology Society (SocSoc) has invited me to speak tonight at 7pm in the Graduate Students Union Room on TCD’s campus. The speech will include a discussion on three topics: 1) my research into Islam; 2) my articles for the Huffington Post; and 3) my experience with Journey into America. The key issue running through these three issues is my interest in interfaith activism. I will also include a few words on a forthcoming project for summer 2014. Hope to see you there. The Facebook link can be found here.
By Craig Considine
Today’s far-right parties in Europe, such as the National Front in France and the Party for Freedom in Holland, are surging in popularity and calling for legal bans on veils, mosques, minarets, sha’ria, and even the outright expulsion of Muslims from the continent. In short, the far-right perceives Muslims as “inassimilable” and their religion as “evil” and “backward.”
Ironically, however, Muslims have a rich history of harmony, justice, and compassion for humanity. These historical facts raise the question of whether Europe’s far-right parties should look to Muslim history for direction and guidance in their approach to handling minority communities.
Prophet Muhammad set the precedent for Muslims in regards to tolerance in the Constitution of Medina, one of history’s first legal documents to safeguard human rights. Also called the Medina Charter, Prophet Muhammad’s Constitution provided equal rights to non-Muslims living under an Islamic government around the year 622. According to the Constitution, “Strangers” in Muhammad’s Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as [Muslims].”
Six years after creating the Medina Constitution, Muhammad sent a letter to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s in the Sinai, Egypt, to show his desire to protect vulnerable religious communities. In the letter, Muhammad offered the Christians peace and called on his fellow Muslims to “defend [Christians], because Christians are my citizens.” Muhammad’s letter to the Christian monks also includes advice on how Christian judges are not to be removed from their offices, nor are the monks to be forced out of their monasteries. “No one is to destroy a house of their religion,” Muhammad stated, “or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.” He added: “Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.”
On Mount Arafat in 632 AD, Muhammad left another “charter” for human rights. In his “Final Sermon,” he claimed that “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” The Final Sermon shows how Muhammad had great care for all people, regardless of their ethnic composition, and that diversity should be celebrated instead of eradicated from society.
Other Muslims leaders, such as Caliph Umar, advised his predecessors “to treat ahl al-dhimmah (Jews and Christians) well, to defend them against their enemies and not burden them with more than they can bear.” Umar also stated: “Treat all people as equal… I advise you not to let yourself or anyone else do wrong to ahl al-dhimmah.” Umar was following in Muhammad’s footsteps in treating Jews and Christians as equal to Muslims.
Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad’s trusted advisors, is also on record stating that “the most important foundation of a truly Muslim country is justice and equality for all. In fact, a country that is bereft of justice and equality, though it may be inhabited by Muslims, is not really a Muslim country at all.”
Another Muslim leader, Akbar the Great of the Mughal Empire, would echo Muhammad, Umar, and Abu Bakr’s message of tolerance and harmony centuries later. Upon assuming power, Akbar ended the jizya, or poll tax, on non-Muslims and invited people of all religious backgrounds to his court to engage in interfaith dialogue.
Moreover, Akbar had tremendous respect for Christianity, visible in the Buland Darwaze, a large gate-structure at the city of Fatehpur Sikri, on which he had transcribed the Qur’anic inscription: “Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, said: This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.” Rumi, the famous Sufi poet of the 13th century, also revered Jesus and extended his hand in friendship to non-Muslims. Rumi’s most powerful words echo love and peace to all regardless of ethnic background:
I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim
I am not of the East, nor of the West…
I have put duality away, I have seen the two worlds as one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call
(Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, II)
Members of Europe’s far-right parties can look to these great Muslim leaders for guidance in how to treat Muslims in their societies. However, Europeans today can also look to the example on their continent – Muslim Spain, between the 8th and 15th centuries – when Muslims ruled a diverse society of Jews and Christians in a relative state of harmony, which was utterly unthinkable in other Christian European cities such as London or Paris.
Muslim Spain reached a state of tolerance which has its very own name - convívencía – which can literally be translated as “living with-ness,” or “requiring tolerance.” Perhaps its time for Europeans to adopt a 21st century style convívencía so they can come to grips with what Muslims and Islam can offer to European society.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Tags: Abu Bakr, Akbar, Akbar the Great, Caliph Umar, Christians, Constitution of Medina, Convivencia, Europe, Far Right, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islamophobia, Jesus, Jews, Medina Constitution, Mount Arafat, Muhammad, Muslim, Muslim Spain, Muslims, Muslims in Europe, National Front, Party for Freedom, Politics, Rumi, Tolerance, Umar
Scriptural literalism in any religious tradition blatantly denies cold-hard facts such as evolution and encourages naive absolutism in the face of scientific inquiry, among other issues. Interpreting the Bible literally as Gohmert encourages is a major “red flag” and a worrying sign of Christian radicalization in the U.S. Congress.
The founding fathers did not intend for the U.S. to be a Christian theocracy. The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law on establishing a certain religion as the religion of the State.
America is not and never will be a “Christian nation.” The population of the country included Jews and Muslims in the 18th century and today is increasingly diverse and home to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists, atheists, agnostics, and so on.
The Christian “God” is not written into the U.S. Constitution. Although most of the founding fathers believed in God, they deliberately left this word out of the text due to their suspicion that religious fanatics would try and turn the U.S. into a fundamentalist state.
Gohmert’s request that Americans vote on foreign policy matters through a radical Christian lens also contradicts Emerson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court case which drew on Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state.”
Gohmert wants to bring Americans back to the 17th century, a period in which radical Christians from Europe invaded and dominated North America and instilled a stifling and ruthless form of Christianity based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible.
Radical Christians of Massachusetts Bay Colony attacked everything in their path, from Native American communities to the environment. They also condoned enslaving blacks and treating women as second-rate human beings. Catholics, Jews, and Muslims were also despised. All of this was based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible.
Are these the kind of thinkers we really want making our laws on Capitol Hill?
Tags: Bible, Biblical literalism, Christian, Christian radicalism, Christian right, Christianity, Literalism, Louie Gohmert, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Radical, Science, Separation of Church and State, Texas, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Congress, U.S. Constitution, United States, United States House of Representatives
By Craig Considine
Racial harassment, discrimination, and violence against Pakistanis in Dublin has spiraled out of control. Last week, Al-Minnah Foods, a halal food store in Cookstown Industrial Estate, was ransacked at night. Images of the ransacking, which were posted on Facebook, show graffiti, including the words ‘Pakis out’ and ‘Niggrs out’, on white walls in the store. The owner of the store stated that the criminals ‘destroyed everything’, including food, fridges, and fittings. The burglars even stole the hard drive to the CCTV system so they could not be tracked.
This incident in Tallaght is the latest in an on-going string of attacks on Pakistanis in Ireland. In June 2013, for example, a Dublin teenager was spared a criminal conviction for his role in what the Irish Independent described as a ‘vicious attack’ on a Pakistani man, whose face was beaten with a metal pole and a rake (Irish Independent, 14 June 2013). The Dublin Children’s Court, which heard the teenager’s case, suspected the attack was a ‘racially motivated incident’.
In a similar incident in April 2013, a 15-year-old Dublin boy was convicted of a violent robbery of a fast-food delivery Pakistani man. Judge John O’Connor at Dublin Children’s Court described the event as a ‘racially motivated’ crime (Irish Independent, 17 April 2013). According to the Independent, the boy called the Pakistani man a ‘bastard’ and demanded that he hand over his money and phone. The Pakistani man ‘was thinking they were going to kill me if I [did] not’. In a statement to the Gardai, the boy claimed that he did not have anything against ‘foreigners’, but also added that ‘they all look the same to me’.
In January 2012, the Irish Times published an article about Dr Syed Kamra Haider Bukhari, a Pakistani psychologist working in Ireland, who claimed to be racially abused and physically assaulted by a women in a County Louth nightclub (Irish Times, 4 January 2012). Dr Bukhari claimed that security men at the door of the club laughed at him when he complained. Bukhari told the Irish Times: ‘I think and feel like I have no rights in this so-called civilized world, when I am putting my heart and soul into my work and serving this nation’. He added that the incident at the nightclub was not the first time he was racially abused in Ireland.
These are not random, isolated incidents. My own Ph.D. research in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College has uncovered many cases of racism amongst first- and second-generation Pakistani men.
Based in interviews and participant observation, I have found that many of the participants claimed to have been physically abused, harassed, and discriminated against whilst walking down the street, searching for employment, and in acquiring Irish citizenship.
The Irish are known worldwide for their warmth, generosity, and hospitality. I have witnessed this hospitality first hand not only in Dublin, but around the entire island. However, there seems to be a growing trend of racial harassment, discrimination, and violence against Pakistanis. Let us all strive to make these assumptions about the Irish a reality here in Ireland by standing up and putting a stop to racism.
November 14, 2013 Le Pen and Wilders’s “historic alliance” to liberate a Europe “too tolerant” of Islam
Far-right Eurosceptic politicians Marie Le Pen (French National Front (FNF) and Geert Wilders (Party for Freedom (PVV) – Holland) met yesterday in The Hague to launch what they have described as a “historic alliance” in Europe.
Le Pen and Wilders’s alliance encourages ethno-nationalism, anti-immigration policies, anti-Islam fervor, and rejection of European integration.
The FNF and FP are also likely to join up with other far-right European parties such as Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe), True Finns Party, Italy’s Northern League, Vlaams Beland in Belgium, the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People’s Party.
Le Pena and Wilders are notorious racists. Le Pen has turned her party’s anger toward what she calls the “Islamization” of France. Wilders has called for a halt to building mosques in the Netherlands and for a ban on the Quran.
According to investigators, intruders made their way into the Tallaght property between closing time on 2 November and opening on 3 November. An unknown quantity of items were taken, the place was ransacked and property damaged, a garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.
Director of the Al-Minnah Foods outlet, Mohammed Djellal, says food, fridges and fittings were all destroyed in the incident.
Speaking to Niall Boylan on Classic Hits 4FM last night, the young man who is originally from Algeria described the robbery as a “disaster”.
Everything was everywhere. I just can’t understand it. They destroyed everything. Food, fridges and fittings. They also stole the hard drive to the CCTV system.
He said that he dealt with racial abuse being shouted at him previously but never to the level of the words scrawled on the walls of the establishment which he runs with his uncle Abu Abdallah.
Images: Muslimsisterofeire Eire
As a postgraduate student at the University of London – Royal Holloway, I came across a book in 2007 that I would never forget. The book, authored by Samuel Huntington, the former Harvard scholar who helped develop the “clash of civilizations,” is called Who Are We: The Challenge to America’s National Identity (2004).
Huntington’s argument is controversial. American identity, in his mind, stems from Anglo-Protestant culture, with the defining features of the English language, religious commitment, English concepts of rule and law, and the rights of individuals. However, what really caught my attention about Huntington’s book was his singling out of Hispanic immigrants – Mexicans in particular – because, he argued, they have not been assimilating into American culture. Huntington blamed their “dissimilation” on their Spanish language, Catholic practices, and communal lifestyles.
I ended up critiquing Huntington’s ethnocentric argument in my Masters thesis by focusing on the socioeconomic conditions of first- and second-generation Mexicans in the Southwest U.S.
For better or worse, Who Are We? has recently reentered my mind. My Ph.D thesis – “Assisting and Resisting the Racial State – Experiences of Young Pakistani Men in Dublin and Boston” – is exploring how the Irish and American racial states impact the lives of first- and second-generation men of Pakistani descent.
Early in my thesis, I dedicate two sections to the nature of the Irish and American racial states. Ireland’s racial state, ironically, has elements which directly oppose Huntington’s synopsis of American identity. Where Irish identity is often defined by Gaelic culture, Catholicism, and communalism, American identity is often linked to its opposite: Anglo-Saxon culture, Protestantism, and individualism.
My argument is that young men of Pakistani descent are assimilating, but also resisting assimilation, thus creating new expressions of “Irishness” and “Americanness.”
Though I do not agree with Huntington’s ideas behind American identity, I do give him credit for getting me to think about issues pertaining to ethnicity and nationalism, among other subjects.
Tags: American identity, Anglo-Saxon, Ethnocentrism, Irish, Racial State, Racialization, Racism, Samuel Huntington, Samuel P. Huntington, Sociology, Who Are We? Clash of Civilizations, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity
Source: NCR Editorial Staff
Long overdue in the American church is a reasoned and deep discussion of U.S. militarism, the proper use of force, the state’s responsibility to protect and defend, and the role of people of faith in all of this. To this point, Catholic teaching has had little effect in distinguishing us from any other segment of society when it comes to participation in wars and militarism.
Shouldn’t young Catholics, instead of hearing rousing support for the military from their pulpits and parish bulletins, be told that the nonviolent Christ and his command to love enemies might pose an obstacle to a military career?
Tags: American church, Catholic, Catholic Church, Catholic teaching, Catholicism, Catholics, Christ, Christianity, Enemies, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Love, Militarism, Non-violence, Peace, Police, Pope Francis I, Protest, United States, War
By John Feffer
Pope Benedict caused a stir in 2006 when he quoted a Byzantine emperor’s unflattering description of Mohammed’s legacy as “evil and inhuman.” He subsequently apologized, but his views of Islam remained rather medieval. Pope Francis, by contrast, has immediately sought to repair ties with the world of Islam. As Akbar Ahmed and Craig Considine have written in The Washington Post, “Before an audience of ambassadors from 180 countries, he explained how he wanted to work for peace and bridge-building between peoples. Muslims and Catholics, he claimed, needed to intensify their dialogue. Positive shockwaves were sent into Muslim-Catholic circles, and Muslim scholars and religious institutions around the world welcomed Pope Francis’s election.”
Pope Francis has sent letters to major Muslim figures, such as the top imam of the University of Al-Azhar, as well as a message to all Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan. In 1076, Pope Gregory VII sent a similar message to the emir of Mauretania that emphasized the common roots of Islam and Christianity. Twenty years later, that same pope provided the ideological underpinning of the First Crusade.
- On Faith – Salam and salutation to Pope Francis (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis marks Lampedusa as center of ‘globalization of indifference’ (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
The Basilica of Gethsemane, also known as the Church of All Nations, has been restored back to its original splendor by a group of young Palestinians, five of which are Muslim.
The Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscan group responsible for the restoration, could have given the project to foreign experts but they chose Palestinians who work at the Mosaic Centre in Jericho.
Gethsemane, which rests on the Mount of Olives, is reputed to be the site where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion and where Jesus was captured by the Roman soldiers on the fateful night of his arrest.
Read more at Vatican Insider
Tags: Basilica of Gethsemane, Christianity, Church of All Nations, Custody of the Holy Land, Franciscans, Gethsemane, Holy Land, Jerusalem, Jesus, Mount of Olives, Muslim, Palestinian Muslims, Restoration
November 6, 2013 Guiding Jewish/Muslim Relations Through the Life of Maimonides, the 12th Century Jewish Scholar
Source: Huffington Post
By Craig Considine
Maimonides did not think it was healthy for the soul to have “unbounded desires” which “is never stated with pursuing passions.” Referencing Jewish Holy Scripture (Koheles 5:9) he argued in The Guide that a person who has a covetous soul “will not be sated with all the wealth of the world.” Maimonides’ thought mirrors Rumi, the Sufi poet who wrote later in the 13th century that those who know “the value of every article of merchandise… don’t know the value of [their] own soul, it’s all foolishness.” Maimonides and Rumi encouraged people to move beyond materialism. Instead they wanted people to live generous and compassionate lives.
Maimonides’ passion for knowledge and his willingness to join ideas from other cultures into his philosophy serves as an important reminder and useful tool in building bridges of intercultural understanding. Instead of focusing on cultural differences, he worked to find areas of common ground. In this light Maimonides’ life is an example of how people living in diverse societies can work together to build stronger communities.
Maimonides’ legacy reminds us of the great Jewish saying of tikkun olam, “to heal a fractured world.” In searching outside the realm of his own cultural tradition for wisdom, Maimonides showed us how we can build on our commonalities through a process of mixing. His life is proof that people of various backgrounds can break down walls which divide us upon our differences.
Tags: Andalucia, Inspiration, Interfaith, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Jew, Jewish Scripture, Judaism, Maimonides, Muslim rule, Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality, Spirituality, Sufism, The Guide for the Perplexed
Source: Electronic Intifada
By Ali Abunimah
Despite the government having fairly clear definitions of what constitutes an act of “terrorism,” the terms “terrorist” or “terrorism” are used not to describe actions but to label people.
It is clear these are racialized terms, applied in a discriminatory way to people perceived as Muslim, Arab or nonwhite. And as such they are terms that stigmatize entire groups of people and to justify the government’s increasingly unaccountable power.
As a proud Catholic American from Boston, Massachusetts, I recently participated in a debate hosted by the University College Dublin Law Society, one of the largest and most prestigious student societies in Europe. The proposition of the debate was “This House Believes That Islam is a Threat to the West.”
Arguing against this proposition, I started my speech in the crowded Gareth Fitzgerald Debating Chamber by sharing some of my own personal experiences with Muslim Americans in the United States. I did so in the hope of showing how real-life experiences can help dispel stereotypes, mainly the claim that Islamic values are antithetical to Western values.
At the core of my speech was Professor Akbar Ahmed’s “Journey into America,” an unprecedented anthropological study I took part in between 2008 and 2009. For one year, we traveled to over 100 cities and 75 mosques across the United States. Our purpose was to understand American identity through the lens of Muslims. Culminating from this study was the documentary feature film “Journey into America” (2009) and book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010).
As the last of eight speakers, I had a unique angle as a non-Muslim that had conducted extensive fieldwork in Muslim communities. I immediately brought up the audience to our research methods of Journey into America, which were face-to-face human interactions and actual anthropology. I wanted to stress to members of the audience – and to the debaters on the side of the proposition especially – the importance of meeting Muslims in their homes, places of worship, schools, and businesses before rushing to judge their religion.
After introducing Journey into America, I could tell the audience was locked into my words, particularly as I started talking about Colonel Martinez of the United States Army, who in 2009 invited Professor Ahmed and I to Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, the graveyard of Americans who have died in war. He brought us to the gravestones of several Muslim American soldiers who died during the post-9/11wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Members of the audience – most of whom were non-American Muslims – had shocked looks on their faces. I had the feeling that they had never heard of this kind of story coming from America, a nation who is believed by some Muslims worldwide as conducting a full-out war on Islam.
Emotions were heightened in the Fitzgerald chamber when I explained my own feelings while standing at the final resting place of Muslim Americans whose religion, Islam, is vilified worldwide by non-Muslims. I found, and still find, that this assertion is ironic considering that Muslim Americans have actually given their own lives for my country.
At this point in my speech I deliberately paused to let the story of the Muslim gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery sink into the hearts of the audience. I then posed the following question: How can Islam be a threat to the West if Muslims, who practice Islam, are fighting to protect non-Muslims against the enemies of Western governments?
The crowd was silent. Nobody moved.
This question caught the audience’s attention as it shattered the stereotype that Islam and the West are at odds and inherently incompatible.
Muslim Americans, I added, are not only protecting their fellow Americans abroad, they are also supporting non-Muslim Americans like myself at home.
The second story I discussed in my speech summarized our visit to Los Angeles, in which the Journey into America team attended a film event at a Pakistani American’s home. Before the event started I was speaking to the mayor of a local city. Suddenly, I became very ill. I was not breathing normally. I was nauseous. My throat closed-up and the rest of my body started breaking out in hives.
I was having a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
Luckily for me, there were numerous Muslim American doctors and physicians at the party. These Muslim men and women immediately rushed to my care. A handful of them sat by my bedside, while others called the medics to rush me to the hospital.
Fortunately, I survived this scary incident.
I explained to the Fitzgerald chamber how I cannot and will not ever forget the care that I had and the security that I felt in the hands of my fellow Muslim American citizens. I shared my feelings with the audience in an effort to humanize Muslims, a portrayal hardly seen in the media, which focuses its coverage of Islam on societal disorder and violence.
At this point in my speech I posed another thought-provoking question to the audience: Are the Muslim Americans that cared for me during this life-threatening incident a threat to the West because they too follow Islam?
Islam, I told the chamber, is not a monolith. A monolith, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, means solid, uniformed, or fixed.
In essence, by carelessly clumping all Muslims into one Islamic group, the proposition of the debate suggested that Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet who spoke of peace and love and wrote poems about Jesus, is a threat to “the West” because he follows Islam. According to the terminology of our proposition, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, is also a threat to “the West” because she follows Islam.
Think about how ridiculous that sounds.
Muslims, I suggested, might be Sufis, Shiites, Alawites, Sunnis, Salafis, Wahhabis, and so on, and so forth. There are, indeed, even differences within these groups.
If you look closely, I explained, the idea that Islam is a threat to the West forces us to deal with the term “Islam,” in the singular sense, as a monolith.
“Islam” as a monolith cannot be a threat to “the West” because Islam, as a monolithic entity, does not and cannot ever exist.
My very last words encouraged all those in attendance to go out and meet Muslims in their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship. I was privileged to participate in Journey into America and look forward to Akbar Ahmed’s forthcoming “Journey into Europe,” but others who do not have these opportunities may form prejudices.
Knowledge and education are the most important elements of understanding each other. What we need is more face-to-face contact and dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims so as to eliminate prejudice and racism.
Tags: Civilization, Clash of Civilizations, Debate, Gareth Fitzgerald Debating Chamber, Ireland, Islam, Muslim Americans, Politics, Threat, UCD Law Society, University College Dublin Law Society, West
In speaking out against Muslim immigrant women, Dion stated that “we have embraced you and opened our country for you to live in a better world, you have to adapt to our rules.”
Apparently, immigrants who come from Muslim countries are part and parcel of an inferior world, equipped with inferior people who practice and take part in backward cultural activities. “Those” people, according to Dion, cannot be part of the “we” – the normal white people – until they change their inferior ways.
In calling for Muslim immigrants to unflinchingly accept superior “rules,” Dion demands that these women participate in an ethnocentric process of assimilation into the dominant white culture which, I should add, would stifle all forms of diversity and non-white cultural expressions.
Dion’s condescending tone stinks of white supremacy, the belief that the ways, customs, norms, and behavior of white people are superior to those of “non-whites.”
By Craig Considine
In his recent article, Sam Harris, a popular critic of Islam, referred to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, as “the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in 1,000 years.” Hidden in this comment is the idea that Malala’s fellow Muslims are backward and that her religion, Islam, is not conducive to change or progress.
Conversely to the beliefs of Harris and others like him, Muslims have actually made enormous contributions to civilization, perhaps due to the heavy emphasis that Islam places on knowledge. People who forget or blatantly ignore major trends or events in world history can be said to suffer from “historical amnesia.” Though this mindset cannot be cured in one short blog post, I hope to dispel some of the stereotypes and misperceptions exacerbated by Harris and other anti-Islam activists by highlighting the contributions that Muslims have made to civilization over the years.
Source: Catholic News Service
By Carol Glatz
Money by itself isn’t a problem, but greed and an attachment to money cause evil and destroy families and relationships, Pope Francis said.
“Money is needed to bring about many good things,” he said in his morning Mass homily Oct. 21, “but when your heart is attached (to money), it destroys you.”
“How many destroyed families have we seen because of money problems, sibling against sibling, father against child,” he said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, according to Vatican Radio.
“When a person is attached to money, he destroys himself, destroys the family” and destroys relationships, he said.
October 20, 2013 Top sociologist Zygmunt Bauman believes Pope Francis gives “entire humanity a chance”
Source: Vatican Insider
“I am in awe at everything Francis is doing: I believe his pontificate gives not just the Catholic Church but the entire humanity a chance.” This is according to Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who coined the phrase “liquid modernity”.
In an interview with Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Bauman said “Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s rejection of legalism and the ability he has to touch people’s hearts are reminiscent of John XXIII.” “The current Pope has shown a fearless attitude: I’m thinking of what he did in Lampedusa and what he said about the outcasts of our globalised world,” Bauman said.
“Francis speaks to the spirituality of our times: followers of the “personal God” are not particularly interested in the moral prescriptions given by representatives of religious institutions but want to find a meaning to their fragmented individual existences. They are still awaiting for the Evangel, the original term for “good news””.
Parents of students were recently interviewed to reflect upon a new Arabic language program at Daphne High School.
This response from one parent is particularly troubling:
“When you teach Arabic, you have to teach the culture along with it… The culture is intertwined with Islam… This is America, and English is our language, and while I understand the alleged premise of offering Arabic at our high school, I don’t agree with it… It is not just another language; it is a language of a religion of hate… It just concerns me that we’re headed down a path of further eroding our society to a Muslim-based society, or Sharia law, and I’m not willing to let that happen without …something to say about it… They’re trying to indoctrinate our children with this culture that has failed… Why should we want to teach our kids a failed culture when we have a culture that has been successful? All we have to do is follow our Christian culture, which has brought this nation to the pinnacle of success.… I don’t see why they would want to teach this.”
The most obvious problem here is that Islam is a “religion of hate.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus and his mother, Mary, have a special place in the Quran, the Islamic text which, in many instances, promotes love and peace. Muhammad sought to protect vulnerable religious communities, especially Christians, on the land he ruled. His “last sermon” emphasized equality among people of different skin colors. One of my favorite Muslim figures in history, Rumi, the Sufi poet, also revered Jesus and spoke about the oneness of humanity.
A second problem is that the Arabic language is equated with Islam. Arabic is spoken by millions of people, many of whom are not Muslim. Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, etc, all speak Arabic. One friend of mine who I studied with in London is an Orthodox Greek Christian, not a Muslim, and he speaks Arabic fluently.
I can also speak Arabic. I took it for three years at American University in Washington, DC. I am a Catholic. I never converted to Islam and I never wanted to. I do not partake regularly in Arab cultural events.
A third problem is the suggestion that English is the official language of Americans. There is nothing in the Constitution or any of the other founding US documents which explicitly states that English is the official language of the nation-state. Millions of Americans speak other languages, particularly Spanish.
Furthermore, linking the Arabic language with sharia is absurd. Sharia, or Islamic law, is not designed to safeguard or promote the use of Arabic. Arabic is not the official language of sharia, nor is Arabic the official language of Islam.
There are millions of Muslims around the world who do not even speak Arabic. Muslims in the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, Malaysia, India, and China may have no reason to speak or learn Arabic.
Suggesting that Arab culture is a “failed culture” is historically inaccurate. At the height of the European Dark Ages, Arabs produced the world’s most advanced civilization which made massive contributions to the sciences.
Moreover, Arab culture is not a monolith. There are Christian communities in Arab countries that have an “Arab culture” but do not practice Islam. By harshly criticizing Arab culture, the parents of students at Daphne High are also offending their fellow Christians.
Another parent of a Daphne student worried that teaching Arabic is “silencing the voice of Christianity.” She added: “We are not a Muslim nation, and yet they’re trying to bring this kind of nonsense into (schools). I’m absolutely against it… Arabic leads right into the Muslim teaching, and that is where the danger is and that is what I am absolutely against… Let them teach that in their mosques – but keep it out of our schools.”
America is not a Muslim nation, and it is also not a Christian nation with a Christian culture. It is common knowledge that many of the leading thinkers of the American Revolution were deists. One of the hallmarks of the American Constitution is the separation between church and state. It is also a fact that America has many sub-cultures within a larger American culture. There is also no such thing as a Christian culture. Which country in the world today has one?
Moreover, Arabic is not taught per se in all mosques. In fact, the mosques I frequent in Boston do not even have programs to teach the language. Most of the khutbas, or Friday sermons, that I attend in mosques are spoken in English, not Arabic.
The sentiments of these parents are part of a larger problem of misinformation and lack of education among many American citizens. Their ignorance of basic facts surrounding Arab culture and Islam only hurts the security of the US. To promote the “clash of civilizations” will only further isolate America from a world it knows little about.
Source: Washington Post
By Akbar Ahmed
To understand the pope’s approach, method and message, take a look at his visit to the island of Lampedusa. The small island in the Mediterranean has become a battleground of the larger ideas that are in conflict in Europe. It has been visited by rightwing leaders who denounce immigrants in crudely racist and xenophobic terms.
The pope’s visit therefore became symbolic of a counter-balancing approach, one that was more welcoming, all-embracing, caring and compassionate. The pope spoke of the “immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death.” He shared his distress at the “tragedy” which has become like “a painful thorn in my heart.” He felt “shame” at the plight of those who were suffering and the indifference of the world. “The Church” he assured the immigrants, ”is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families.”
The pope used the plight of the mainly African immigrants to raise larger issues that afflict all humanity in the age of globalization. He condemned what he called “the globalization of indifference.” He berated “the culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others.”
Source: Washington Post – On Faith
By Akbar Ahmed and Craig Considine
But Pope Francis was not taking a path outside his faith tradition. On the contrary he was reverting to its foundational principles. He is inspired by two figures above all – Jesus and Saint Francis; indeed taking the name of the latter after being elected pope. He has learned from them that Christianity in its essence means compassion, humility and caring for others – especially the vulnerable in society. Immediately upon being elected pope he had expressed this philosophy by reaching out to ordinary people, living simply and rejecting the pomp and extravagance of the papal court. His washing of the feet of those in prison, including Muslims, was the ultimate act of humility. It was directly inspired by Jesus and Saint Francis, the very essence of their message.
The pope also embarked, again almost immediately, on reaching out to the Muslim world. Relations between Muslims and Christians had not really recovered since the time when his predecessor Pope Benedict XV1 gave a lecture in September 2006 in which he quoted a passage that described Islam as “evil and inhuman.” Even at the time the present pope, then Archbishop in Buenos Aires, registered his disagreement stating, “Pope Benedict’s statement[s] don’t reflect my opinions.”
From his first foreign policy address in March 2013, Pope Francis made improving Muslim-Catholic relations one of his top priorities.
Before an audience of ambassadors from 180 countries, he explained how he wanted to work for peace and bridge-building between peoples. Muslims and Catholics, he claimed, needed to intensify their dialogue. Positive shockwaves were sent into Muslim-Catholic circles, and Muslim scholars and religious institutions around the world welcomed Pope Francis’s election.
Tags: Akbar Ahmed, Catholicism, Catholicism and Islam, Craig Considine, Interfaith, Islam, Islam relations, Muslim world, Muslim-Catholic relations, Outreach, Pope Francis, Saint Francis of Assisi, Sultan Malik
I am very happy to see an interesting new book written by Denise Spellberg, associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Spellberg’s book, titled Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders and touched upon in this Daily Beast article, seeks to understand the role of Islam in the early American struggle to protect religious liberty by asking how Muslims and Islam fit into eighteenth-century Americans’ models of religious freedom.
She looks specifically to Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an as a symbol of the founding fathers’ respect for religious freedom and liberty.
According to the Daily Beast, Spellberg’s thesis is that, “contrary to those today who would dismiss Islam and Muslims as essentially and irretrievably alien to the American experiment and its religious mix, key figures in the era of the nation’s founding argued that that American church-state calculus both could and should make room for Islam and for believing Muslims.”
As a footnote, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship to Islam is a topic at the heart of Professor Akbar Ahmed’s thesis in Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, a book published by the Brookings Institution in 2009 that explores American identity through the lens of Muslims.
I travelled with Professor Ahmed and his team to collect data for “Journey into America,” a project which also culminated in a full-length documentary feature film called Journey into America (watch it on YouTube and read reviews here).
One of the scenes of the documentary, which I directed, takes us to the University of Virginia, where we found a statue of Jefferson advocating “Religious Freedom, 1786″ with the words God, Jehovah, Brahma and Allah carved on the tablet he embraces.
Here are two videos that document our trip to the University of Virginia, as well as Jefferson’s home at Monticello.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of my final year as a teaching assistant in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College, Dublin. The experience of teaching some of the best and brightest students in Ireland and Europe (and actually the world) has been invaluable to my development as a student, thinker and teacher.
It is with disgust that I am writing this note on the Muslims who recently attacked two churches in Peshawar, where over 70 Christians were murdered. I want to bring to attention several fundamental points in Islam that completely and utterly denounce hatred or acts of violence on Christians.
I have written about this very subject in the aftermath of the attacks on the Coptic Christians in Egypt. In that article I focused primarily on the message of the Prophet Muhammad for Muslims on how they should treat their Christian neighbors. In this piece I turn to broader spectrums found within Islamic scripture, albeit to prove the same point – that Muslim attacks on Christians are incompatible with Islamic teachings.
First and foremost, the Qur’an tells us: “And you will surely find that of all people, they who say: ‘We are Christians’ are closets to felling affection for those who believe. This is because there are priests and monks among them, and because they are not arrogant.” The Qur’an teaches Muslims to be respectful and to even admire Christians for their belief in the Abrahamic God. This is clear.
The Prophet Muhammad warned Muslims against acts of bigotry towards Christians and Jews, or People of the Book. Muhammad himself said, “Whoever hurts a person from the People of the Book, it will be as though he hurt me personally.” In essence, by attacking the Christians of Peshawar, radical Muslims are in fact denouncing the message of Muhammad. Nothing is more un-Islamic than this abhorrent act.
In following the Abrahamic tradition, the Qur’an (2:136) states: “We [Muslims] believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and the revelation given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) the prophets from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another of them, and to Him we are submitters.” This Qur’anic passage suggests that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all indeed brothers and sisters and that an attack on one is an attack on all.
It is clear that Islam emphasizes the oneness of humanity. For example, the Qur’an (4:1) states: “O mankind, fear your Guardian Lord, who created you from a single self and created – out of it – its mate, and made from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women.” In Islam, therefore, all people have the same basic human rights, including the right to choose a religion without physical or mental coercion.
Islam, moreover, is not an exclusive religion. According to the Qur’an (6:164), God is the ultimate judge of our behaviour: “Your return in the end is toward Allah [God] [...] He will tell you the truth of the things wherein you disputed.” In fact, Islam is an inclusive religion. It is an obligation of every single Muslim who honestly professes Islam to believe in Moses and Jesus and the rest of the Abrahamic prophets.
It is required by every Muslim to not only respect but also to embrace their Christian neighbors. Islam teaches Muslims to do the polar opposite of what the terrorists did yesterday to the two churches in Peshawar. It is a bit awkward for me to have to write this note considering that I am a Christian. Sometimes I feel that I understand Islam more than some so-called ‘Muslims’. What do you think?
Tags: Abrahamic tradition, Allah, Churches, Egypt, Humanity, Islam, Minorities, Muhammad, Muslim, Pakistan, Pakistani Christians, People of the Book, Peshawar, Prophet Muhammad, Qur'an, Terrorism, Tolerance
Here is a collection of quotes from Pope Francis directed towards Muslims. This post will be updated as Pope Francis continues to speak about dialogue, common ground, and mutual respect between Christians and Muslims worldwide.
“Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!” – International Business Times
“Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.” - New York Times
“[I]t is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world.” – CS News
On common ground
“I am aware that family and social dimensions enjoy a particular prominence for Muslims during this period [Ramadan], and it is worth noting that there are certain parallels in each of these areas with Christian faith and practice.” – International Business Times
“It is true that the Muslim world is not totally mistaken when it reproaches the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life.” – NC Register
Pope Francis has reached out in a very friendly way to Muslims calling them “brothers”. He has done so on a number of occasions, including at Aparecida on July 24, when he met a representative of Brazilian Muslims, and on August 11 when, from the Vatican, he extended his greeting to “the Muslims of the entire world” – some one billion of them, who had just celebrated the end of the month of Ramadan. – Real Clear Religion
On mutual respect
“Christians and Muslims will work together to promote mutual respect.” – Catholic Herald (UK)
“We are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values.” – New York Times
Tags: Bridge building, Christian tradition, Christianity, Christianity and Islam, Dialogue, Education, Interfaith, Islam, Islamic tradition, Morality, Muslim, Muslim world, Mutual respect, Mutual understanding, New York Times, Pope, Pope Francis, Quotes, Quotes on Islam, Ramadan, Respect
This morning I woke up to an e-mail from my father which noted how an Indian American had just won Miss America 2013.
In addition, on my Facebook feed I clicked on a story that read “Miss American crowns 1st winner of Indian descent; racist tweets follow.” Clearly many Americans were disturbed and even angry over the idea of a non-white and potentially non-Christian winning a Miss America pageant.
However, Nina Davuluri is indeed an American. She was born and raised in New York and is an American through-and-through.
Ironically, those Americans who bash the Miss American 2013 winner for her Indian descent are fundamentally opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America as a pluralist society built on liberty and religious freedom.
In a document on religious freedom that was written for the Virginian colonial legislature in 1777, Thomas Jefferson stated that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are welcome. Today, a statue of Jefferson stands at the University of Virginia. He is holding a tablet that reads, “Religious Freedom, 1786,” below which is inscribed Allah, alongside God, Jehovah and Brahma.
As I noted in an article for Voice of America in 2012, “some Americans have lost sight of fundamental components of American identity such as tolerance, compassion and openness.”
I have a question for those who oppose Nina Davuluri on the grounds of her ethnic and cultural background: Are you really an American?
Excerpt from Mustafa Akyol’s article The Vatican, Christianity and Islam in Hurriyet Daily News (14/9/2013)
In today’s super-dynamic and super-creative world, behind which we are already lagging, there is a risk for us, Muslims, if we go toward the other direction: The strict boundaries that supposedly protect our faith could turn into an obstacle to sharing it. If non-Muslims are unwelcome in the Islamic space, and if Muslims feel too alien outside of their boundaries, how can Islam (which, unlike Judaism, is a universalistic religion) reach out to world?
Perhaps there is a hint in our own history: It is not an accident that the most successful evangelists of Islam have been the Sufis – the mystics who cared less about the law and more about the heart. Since they did not obsess about the purity of practice, they allowed syncretic movements that appealed to diverse communities. Since they found God in every place, in other words, they did not keep Islam in a closed space. Like Rumi, they rather said, “come, come, come, whoever you are.”
”Modern life is hurried and multifarious…there is neither time nor opportunity for intimate acquaintance. Instead we notice a trait which marks a well known type, and fill in the rest of the picture by means of the stereotypes we carry about in our heads…the subtlest and most pervasive of all influences are those which create and maintain the repertory of stereotypes. We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those preconceptions…govern deeply the whole process of perception. They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasising the difference, so that the slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and somewhat strange as sharply alien…they are aroused by small signs…aroused, they flood fresh vision with older images and project into the world what has resurrected in memory.” [Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion (1922)]
In all likelihood, President Barack Obama will soon bomb Syria in the hope of dealing a blow to Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. This dangerous act of war is a betrayal of the foreign policy vision of America’s founding fathers and will only serve to further weaken the US’s floundering moral credibility around the world.
For months now, President Obama has supplied military aid to factions of the Syrian rebellion, an act that, according to George Washington’s “Farewell Address,” is antithetical to American values. Speaking in 1796, Washington, who served as the first president of the US, advised future generations of Americans to stand clear of “foreign entangling alliances.” For Washington “our [Americans’] true policy [is] to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” President Obama’s commitment to the Syrian rebellion and the alliances that the US has etched with Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of Syria’s top rivals, means that the US government is now bogged down in foreign wars that Washington would not have approved of.
Moreover, in his “Farewell Address,” Washington added that Americans must take care “always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture.” Washington suggested that American foreign policy should only be of a defensive and not an aggressive or pre-emptive nature. Arguably, by intervening in Syria’s civil war, President Obama is ignoring Washington’s advice and repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration in aggressively invading foreign countries that pose little threat to the direct security of American citizens.
Similarly, on US Independence Day in 1821, John Adams, the second president of the US, gave an address on foreign policy that called for Americans to stay out of the business of other countries. In his speech, Adams congratulated the American people because up until that point in US history, Americans had “abstained from interference in the concerns of others.” Adams proudly added that America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy,” a passage which is highly relevant in light of the US’s recent attacks against Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Osama bin Laden of al Qaeda, Muammar Ghadafi of Libya, and now, seemingly, against Bashar al Assad of Syria.
In concluding his speech, Adams called for a non-violent and peaceful foreign policy in stating that “[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.” Therefore, Adams did not advise future American leaders to seek control or sovereignty over foreign countries. He would have liked for Americans to use diplomacy and dialogue instead of war-like rhetoric and bombs to solve political dilemmas.
Additionally, Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the US, echoed Washington in that he called for Americans to not entangle themselves in the affairs of other countries. In a letter to a Mr. Lomax in 1799, Jefferson wrote that “… alliance with none, should be our motto.” Similarly, in a letter to Mr. Gerry in 1799, Jefferson wrote that Americans should never enter “the field of slaughter” to preserve balance in Europe.
Although he was speaking in an 18th century European context, one can imagine Jefferson also encouraging Americans to avoid entering the “field of slaughter” in Syria. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, Jefferson encouraged Americans to seek out non-violent means to solving conflicts and disputes, as he once stated that there are “other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer.”
The American founding fathers advised future generations of Americans to steer clear of becoming involved in the domestic affairs of other countries. Beyond this, they recommended that Americans engage in dialogue and not warfare with foreigners if political problems arose. Ultimately, President Obama would be wise to heed the moral clarity offered by the men that founded the US. If he does not, he will dangerously lead the US down the road to its own inflicted destruction.
Tags: American security, American values, Barack Obama, Bashar al-Assad, Diplomacy, Entangling Alliances, Farewell Address, George Washington, John Adams, Non-violence, Peace, Politics, Syria, Syrian Civil War, Thomas Jefferson, Understanding, US foreign policy
I have read the news over the last few days with frustration and a bit of angst. The situation in Syria is spiraling out of control and threatens to become a wider war, perhaps even a world war. Over the course of these events, I have contemplated writing an article about my thoughts, but I worried that the article would be too big of a rant. I decided to make a video this morning as my best contribution to the discussion:
“Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it compromises and develops the germ of every other. As the parent of armies, war encourages debts and taxes, the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended … and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.” - James Madison
“I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war and no one will win the next.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
“General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man; as a result, intelligent, objective and humane thinking has hardly any effect and is even suspected and persecuted as unpatriotic.” - Albert Einstein
“… [W]ar is utter damn nonsense, a vast cancer fed by lies and self seeking malignity on the part of those who don’t do the fighting.” - John Dos Passos
“Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.” – Mark Twain
“As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar it will cease to be popular.” - Oscar Wilde
“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded… I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed…. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil is hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” - Mahatma Gandhi
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tags: Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Gandhi, James Madison, John Dos Passos, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, Oscar Wilde, Quotation, Quotes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stupid, War, War quotes
By this time you have likely heard of the atrocity that recently took place in which over 1,000 Syrian civilians reportedly died at the hands of a chemical weapon attack. Seeing the video and images of dead or helpless Syrian civilians struggling for life reminds me of another terrible weapon of war – depleted uranium.
It is no secret that the U.S., with the assistance of other governments, used depleted uranium in the Gulf and Iraq War. A simple Google search of this topic can produce dozens and dozens of credible reports or stories to confirm these war crimes. For example, an important report on Harvard University’s website discusses the fallout of depleted uranium contamination in Iraq. Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, who authored the report after the Gulf War, wrote that:
“Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry has been used against Iraq for the first time in the history of recent wars. The magnitude of the complications and damage related to the use of such radioactive and toxic weapons on the environment and the human population mostly results from the intended concealment, denial and misleading information released by the Pentagon about the quantities, characteristics and the area’s in Iraq, in which these weapons have been used.”
Similarly, as Democracy Now! reported in an interview with Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail, ”the U.S. invasion of Iraq has left behind a legacy of cancer and birth defects suspected of being caused by the U.S. military’s extensive use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus.” Democracy Now! wrote:
“Noting the birth defects in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, Jamail says: ‘They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to … What this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II.’”
Moreover, Robert Koehler at the Huffington Post has written extensively about the U.S. government’s use of depleted uranium in Iraq. The following passage from Koehler’s article “The Suffering of Fallujah” gives us an idea of the immense impact that depleted uranium has had on Iraqi civilians:
“Thus last November, a group of British and Iraqi doctors petitioned the U.N. to investigate the alarming rise in birth defects at Fallujah’s hospitals. ‘Young women in Fallujah,’ they wrote, ‘. . . are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah are now experiencing hideous cancers and leukemias.’”
“The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has just published an epidemiological study, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” which has found, among much else, that Fallujah is experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.”
Although Iraqi civilians have born the brunt of this awful weapon, American soldiers that served in the Gulf and Iraq War are also suffering from the fallout of depleted uranium. This issue is discussed in-depth by the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, which campaigns to “ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapons and weapon systems and for monitoring, health care, compensation and environmental remediation for communities affected by their use.”
Countries around the world have called for the ban of depleted uranium, but unfortunately this demand has fallen on deaf ears. When asked in 2003 about Iraq’s complaints about depleted uranium shells, Colonel James Naughton of U.S. Army Material Command stated in a Pentagon briefing that “They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of the them.”
Last week, U.K. foreign secretary William Hague, said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is “not something that a humane or civilized world can ignore.” Ironically, Western countries such as the U.K. and their allies have appeared to ignore the use of weapons that are equally vicious.
When “non-Westerners” make use of weapons of mass destruction, there is outrage and calls for military intervention from “the West,” but when “Westerners” themselves use them, it is totally permissible and the world can hardly react.
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Tags: 2003 invasion of Iraq, Chemical Weapons, Colonel James Naughton, Dahr Jamail, Depleted Uranium, Fallujah, Gulf War, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Iraq, Iraq War, News, Pentagon, Robert Koehler, Souad Al-Azzawi, Syria, Syrian Civilians, United States, US Army, US Government, War Crimes, William Hague
Things are spiraling out of control in Egypt, especially for its Coptic community, which has recently been attacked for allegedly helping oust the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood from power.
The Copts are Egypt’s largest Christian group who make up roughly 10% of the Egyptian population. Over the last several weeks they have witnessed a horrendous string of events that have ranged from murders to the destruction of churches and communities.
The hardest hit area has been Al Nazla, where Christian homes and shops have been covered in harsh graffiti that display anti-Christian sentiments. Sami Awad, a member of the Al Nazla church, stated that “First [Muslims] stole the valuable things, and then they torched the place. Whatever they couldn’t carry, they burned.” Some Muslims in the Al Nazla area have vowed to support the Muslim Brotherhood even if they have to spill blood.
Unfortunately, some Muslims in Egypt and around the world actually condone the racist and violent actions of some members of their faith. These kind of Muslim extremists would argue that it is okay for a Muslim to attack a Christian church. Other Muslims have cried out against such violence and have claimed that an attack on a Christian is an affront to God’s will. Other members of the Islamic faith have even physically protected churches in Egypt to show their solidarity with the Copts.
Ultimately, we have to figure out who is right: the extremists or moderates? To shed light on this matter, we should turn to the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad. How would Muhammad treat Christians around him? If he were alive today, what would he say about Muslims’ violence towards Christians in Egypt and elsewhere around the world?
A useful example to consider is the letter which Muhammad sent to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s in the Sinai, Egypt, in the year 628 AD. At the time, Christians sought refuge from persecution and violence, and Muhammad wrote a letter to the community to tell them that he would do everything in his power to secure their safety.
In a nutshell, Muhammad offered the Christians toleration and peace. He called on his fellow Muslims to ‘defend [Christians], because Christians are my citizens.” This command for his Muslim followers suggests that Muhammad envisioned an Islamic society as one that would be safe for Christians and people of other faiths to live in.
Muhammad’s letter also includes notes on how Christian judges are not to be removed from their offices, nor are monks to be forced out of their monasteries. “No one is to destroy a house of their religion,” Muhammad said, “or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.” He added: “Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.”
The depth of Muhammad’s humanity can also be found in the Constitution of Medina, a document he created to make sure that the more vulnerable members of society felt safe and protected under the majority Muslim rule. Also called the Medina Charter, Muhammad’s Constitution gave equal rights to non-Muslims living under an Islamic government. “Strangers” in Muhammad’s Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as their protectors.” Acting as a social charter for all Muslims to live by, the Medina Constitution helped to actualize the idea of a single community made up of a diverse people living under one government and under one creator.
In his final sermon at Mount Arafat in 632 AD, Muhammad left a code of equality for Muslims to follow. “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab,” he stated, “nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” The Quran and Muhammad’s final sermon show his apathy for judging people based on their beliefs or skin color and his indifference to a homogenous society based on exclusive requisites for belonging.
This last Sunday, a monastery in Degla, just south of Minya, did not hold Sunday prayers for the first time in 1,600 years. The time is ripe for Muslims to follow Muhammad’s example by defending Christians. It is now the onus of Muslim Egyptians to take up his banner of tolerance and human rights and protect the Copts no matter the cost.
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- Egyptian Muslims forget Muhammad’s letter to Christian monks at Mt. Sinai (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- So what if a Christian writes about Muhammad (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Tags: Al Nazla, Anti-Christian sentiment, Churches, Constitution of Medina, Copt, Coptic community, Defending Christians, Degla monastery, Egypt, God, Human rights, Islam, Islam vs. Christianity, Medina Constitution, Middle East, Mount Arafat, Muhammad, Muhammad final sermon, Muhammad letter to Christian monks, Muhammad on Christianity, Muhammad's opinion, Muslim, Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim society, Persecution, Prophet Muhammad, Religion, Religious minorities, St. Catherine's, Tolerance, Violence
Some critics find it odd that I am a Christian who writes about Muhammad. Haters see my articles as odd and even worse – sacrilegious – because I give praise to the founder of Islam, a religion often portrayed as “evil” around the world.
However, as you will see in these articles, there is nothing wrong with writing about Muhammad, a man who cared deeply for human rights and had immense respect for Christians and Christianity.
- My recent article examining a letter Muhammad sent to Egyptian Christians in 628 AD showed how the prophet of Islam cared deeply for religious freedom and protecting vulnerable communities.
- “A new perspective of ‘jihad’ in Christianity and Islam” caused a stir in the blogosphere. The article looked at how Islamic and Christian holy scripture have similar perspectives on the importance of ‘jihad’, or struggling with one’s faith.
- An article from May 2013 compared the founding documents of both Islam and the U.S. to show how Islamic and American principles are not as dissimilar as many people imagine.
- Earlier in 2013, another of my articles looked at how Muhammad and George Washington, the American founding father, shared nearly identical views on certain behavioral rules and particular social values.
- A shorter article from 2013 examined how these two great men had similar perspectives on curtailing hate speech. I have also compared the views of Muhammad and Washington on treating prisoners of war.
- A final article from 2012 shared the story of the “Muhammad statue” inside the U.S. Supreme Court, a building which serves as a potent symbol for tolerance, American pluralism, and the respect that Americans have for Muhammad and Islam.
Is there anything wrong with that?
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Tags: Bridge building, Christian, Christianity, Christianity and Islam, Christians, Christians on Muhammad, Comparison, George Washington, Interfaith, Islam, Islam and the U.S., Muhammad, Similarities, United States, Writing on Muhammad
One issue often discussed on news sites and blogs over the last several days is the many attacks on Egypt’s Christian communities. Several outlets have reported that violence by Mohammad Morsi supporters has left dozens of Christian churches, Coptic-owned businesses and properties burnt. Fears of widespread sectarian strife seem to be growing among Egypt’s Christian minority.
The violence against Egypt’s Christians reminds me of the important symbolism of Muhammad’s letter to Christian monks at St. Catherines, Mount Sinai (Egypt) in 628 AD.
In his letter, Muhammad championed universal peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims. Not only did he outline how Christians are to be treated by Muslims, but Muhammad also touched upon human rights, including freedom of conscious, freedom of worship, and the right to protection in war.
Here is an English translation of Muhammad’s letter:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
The attacks by some Egyptian Muslims on their fellow Egyptian Christian citizens is deplorable for the simple fact that the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, would have condemned any violence towards Christians and people of non-Muslim faiths.
One has to wonder if the Egyptian Muslims involved in these attacks can even call themselves “Muslims” with any sense of integrity or legitimacy.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Tags: Christian Church, Christian Churches, Christian monks, Christianity, Copt, Copts, Egypt, Egypt's Christians, Fear, Islam, Mohamed Morsi, Mohammad Morsi, Mount Sinai, Muhammad, Muhammad and Christianity, Muslim, Muslim Brotherhood, St. Catherine's
The Huffington Post – Religion made this sweet little picture after the publication of my Rumi-Emerson comparison, which is based on the themes of religious tolerance, love, and “oneness.” Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim also republished the piece. You can read that here.
- Rumi and Emerson: A bridge between the West and the Muslim world (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Tags: Comparison, Huffington Post, Huffington Post Religion, Love, Oneness, Picture, Quote, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Religious tolerance, Rumi, Rumi and Emerson, Rumi quote, Sheila Musaji, The American Muslim, Toleration
A dream which is not interpreted
is like a letter which is not read.
Family members that have passed on from this world made an appearance in my dream last night. It was a vivid scene and all of the characters were so alive!
My grandfather, Joseph, was on the couch watching golf. He kept handing me the remote control to see if I wanted to change the channel. My grandmother, Angie, was in the kitchen making a Sunday afternoon lunch. She was swearing and acting tough with me, just as I remember her.
The dream shows me that people may move on from this world, but they are never in fact “dead.”
“Dead” means that people are no longer able to come to life. My dream proves otherwise.
While my nana and papa came back to “life” only in my sleep, the dream made me once again feel their presence.
Obviously, as human beings, our bodies end up inevitably failing our spirit and soul. The spirit and soul, however, are eternal elements. They cannot and will not perish. I say this because I felt the spirit and soul of my grandparents during the dream and upon waking from it. It was as if they had never left this world.
In fact, I do not think they have.
Do we only judge the “existence” of something if our open eyes can see it physically, or if our hands can touch it? Or, is there something more profound with “life”? Can someone or something be alive even if their heart has stopped?
My family members who are no longer with me on a day-to-day basis were alive and they were very well in my dream last night. They are not dead and they will never die. My mind keeps them afloat.
So do my dreams.
By Craig Considine for Huffington Post Religion
The writings of Jalalud’din Rumi, the 13th century Sufi Muslim philosopher from modern-day Afghanistan, and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century Christian transcendentalist from Boston, Massachusetts, are filled with lessons that enrich every human soul. Rumi’s and Emerson’s similar thoughts on religious tolerance, love, and care for the soul can help bridge the ever-growing chasm between the West and the Muslim world.
Both Rumi and Emerson viewed all religious groups as equal before God. If they were still alive today, neither would have a problem praying in a house of worship outside of their own religious tradition. As we will see in their poetry, essays, and lectures, Rumi and Emerson encouraged people to search for their own personal connection with God through existential and wondrous ways. Their love for everyone and everything, regardless of who or what they were, shows that non-Muslims and Muslims are not as different as many people imagine.
As a young man, Rumi was trained as a theologian and Muslim cleric, but he later became a mystical poet after meeting his mentor Shams in 1244. Rumi conveyed his thoughts mainly through poems, many of which speak to infinite tolerance and compassion for people outside of Muslim circles. Despite his Muslim background, Rumi did not discriminate against Jews, Christians, Hindus or even Atheists. In one piece of writing called “He Was in No Other Place,” Rumi wrote about his relationship with Jesus:
Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined. He was not on the Cross. I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda. In none of them was there any sign. To the uplands of Herat I went, and to Kandahar I looked. He was not on the heights or in the lowlands. Resolutely, I went to the summit of the [fabulous] mountain of kaf. There only was the dwelling of the [legendary] Anqa bird. I went to the Kaaba of Mecca. He was not there. I asked about him from Avicenna, the philosopher. He was beyond the range of Avicenna… I looked into my heart. In that place, his place, I saw him. He was in no other place.
Rumi not only respected Christian teachings, but he also greatly admired the life and values shared by Jesus. In essence, for Rumi, all religions were more or less equally beautiful because they all sought the divine truth:
I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim
I am not of the East, nor of the West…
I have put duality away, I have seen the two worlds as one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call
(Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, II)
Rumi did not judge people through a narrow interpretation of God. Instead he emphasized what we would today call pluralism, or the belief that there is not one consistent set of religious truths about the world and that all religions can work in harmony in a single society. Similarly, Rumi emphasized that there are many ways through which people can come into contact with God and that Islam is not the sole path to the hereafter.
Rumi’s fondness for interfaith dialogue between people of different faiths is visible in one of his “Quatrains,” in which he notes that
There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon.
This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.
In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks.
Inside the needles eye, a turning night of stars.
Rumi’s appreciation and devotion to interfaith dialogue and to people of non-Muslim backgrounds was also on displayed at his funeral in Konya, Turkey in 1273. Attended by people from all walks of life, it is said that a weeping Muslim man asked a Christian man, “Why are you crying at the funeral of a Muslim poet?” The Christian answered: “We esteemed him as the Moses, the David, the Jesus of the age. We are all his followers and his disciples.” It is the Christian man’s affinity for Rumi’s life work that has made the Sufi poet so revered in most, if not all, religious circles.
Ralph Waldo Emerson devoted his young adulthood to studying Christian theology. During his time training to be a Unitarian Minister at the Harvard Divinity School, Emerson was considered by his peers to be “radical” for his post-Christian philosophy. In his posthumously published Journal, Emerson argued that while “[the] heart of Christianity is the heart of all philosophy… It is the sentiment of piety which stoic and Chinese, [Muslim] and [Hindu] labor to awaken.” Emerson, as you can see, shared a similar belief with Rumi in that all religions have great value and are thus more similar to one another than they are dissimilar.
Throughout his life Emerson had a particular interest for Hindu spirituality. In fact, it is said that much of his philosophy on “oneness” – a theme which I will return to later – is borrowed from Hindu scripture. For Emerson, the concept of “oneness” could be found in all nations, in which “there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of the fundamental Unity.” “This tendency,” he stated in his Journal, “finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly in the Indian scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Gita, and the Vishnu Purana…” On several different occasions, Emerson singled out the Bhagavat Gita, which to him was “an empire of thought” and “the voice of an old intelligence.” This affection for Eastern philosophy no doubt proves that Emerson would be a major proponent of pluralism and interfaith dialogue if he were alive today.
Emerson, however, did not limit his non-Christian exploration to Hindu scripture. He also translated roughly 700 lines of Persian poetry, most of which was written by the Sufi poet Hafiz, whom he described as a hero and “a name of anecdote and courage… [a sally] of freedom.” Islam appears again in Emerson’s essay “History,” in which he mentioned Hafiz as “one of the great writers, in whom a reader may find.” Moreover, in his Journal Emerson wrote that Hafiz was “characterized by a perfect intellectual emancipation which also he provokes in the reader… He is not to be scared by a name, or a religion. He fears nothing. He sees too far,… such is the only man I wish to see and to be.” Emerson was not afraid of turning to Muslims in the hope of gaining knowledge. His inquest into Islamic writings makes Emerson one of the leading American philosophers who encouraged his fellow citizens to understand others through reading and research.
Emerson’s essays “Love” and “Herosim” also carry Islamic epigraphs. “Love” begins with the Quranic inscription: “I was as a gem concealed; Me my burning ray revealed.” “Heroism” begins with an epigraph from Muhammad: “Paradise is under the shadow of swords.” Emerson, however, did not perceive Muhammad as a violent prophet as many contemporary critics of Islam believe. He instead portrayed the prophet of Islam as a man of self-control: “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm. The victories of the Arabs after [Muhammad], who in a few years, from a small and mean beginning, established a larger empire than that of Rome, is an example.” Here Emerson advocates that the ascendency of Islam was not due to “the sword” and violent expeditions of expansion, but rather faith in God and the universal appeal that so many people find in Islam.
In his essay “Essential Principles of Religion,” Emerson shows his appreciation for other religious traditions by stating that there have been noble saints among “the Buddhist, the [Muslim], the highest stoic of Athens, the purest and wisest Christian…” He added that if these saints “could meet somewhere and converse, they would all find themselves of one religion,” which reminds us of Emerson’s belief in the oneness of humanity.
Both Rumi’s and Emerson’s embrace of religious tolerance is a useful example in a world today which is increasingly fractured along religious lines. Instead of fearing one another, we can embrace, as Rumi and Emerson had done, our different religious interpretations as simply God’s hospitality for His own creation.
In addition to being open to ideas in other religions, Rumi and Emerson were also strong proponents of the power of love. Rumi’s poetry, for example, was only possible after his deeply felt personal experiences of God’s love. James Cowan, an internationally renowned author, stated that Rumi was “[p]ossessed by such an overwhelming vision of love, [that] he was unable to confine himself to any one spiritual discipline for his inspiration.” Rumi’s poem “Love is the Master,” supports Cowan’s thesis:
Love is the One who masters all things;
I am mastered totally by Love.
By my passion of love for Love…
In addition, “I am a child of love” shows Rumi’s true “religious” beliefs:
I profess the religion of love,
Love is my religion and my faith.
My mother is love
My father is love
My prophet is love
My God is love
I am a child of love
I have come only to speak of love.
The great Sufi poet did not limit his love to family members or fellow Muslims. He shared his love with people from different practices and beliefs, which is depicted on an inscription on Rumi’s shrine in Konya, Turkey, which reads:
Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover or leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.
For Rumi, those who follow the message of seeking and spreading love are able to escape “the chain of birth and death,” as “the heart that is not in love will fail the test” of God’s judgement. For Rumi, God is the source of all love and it is this love which permeates the entire universe.
Love is an infinite ocean whose skies are a bubble of foam.
Know that it is the waves of Love which make the wheel of the
Heavens turn; without Love the world would be inanimate.
How is an inorganic thing transformed into a plant?
How are the plants sacrificed to become gifted with spirit?
How is the spirit sacrificed for the Breath, of which only a
Whiff was enough to impregnate Mary?
Each atom is intoxicated with this Perfection and hastens
Toward it … Their haste says implicitly: “Glory be to God.”
(Masnawi, V 3843 quoted in de Vitray-Meyerovitch, 1987, p. 102)
Like Rumi, Emerson was also passionate about the overwhelming feeling of love. His thoughts and feelings, which were brilliantly expressed in his essays and poems, make one feel as if he or she is empowered and uplifted. For Emerson, all living beings experience love in one form or another. Emerson’s famous poem “Give All to Love” echoes Rumi:
Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit and the muse;
In this poem, Emerson encouraged his readers to extend love to all things and to never refuse love. Later in the poem, he stated that those who focus on love and loving are “wise and [are] becoming wiser.” To him, one cannot be loved unless he or she give love to others.
Emerson’s monumental essay “Love” reminds us of the benefits of being affectionate towards others. In “Love” Emerson states that he became “a new man with new perceptions, new and keener purposes and a religious solemnity of character and aims.” Although he was someone who greatly admired the beauty of nature, Emerson wrote in “Love” that a beauty more “secret, sweet, and overpowering” than that of physical beauty is “the sentiment of virtue.” Only if man pursues virtue, a component of which is indeed love, does Emerson believe that man can be in harmony with all of God’s creation.
Looking closer at the writings of Rumi and Emerson, we find the common theme of “oneness.” In his poem “One Song,” Rumi shares a desire for mankind to unite to end conflict and war, which he calls “an unnecessary foolishness, because just beyond the arguing there is a long table of companionship set and waiting for us to sit down.” Rumi encourages us to put aside our differences and to listen to each others’ grievances in an honest and calm way. He continued in “One Song” by writing,
What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All Religions, all this singing, one song.
Rumi’s emphasis on the oneness of humanity is again found in another of his poems, conveniently titled “All Religions are but one:”
Since the object of praise is one,
from this point of view,
all religions are but one religion.
Know that all praise belongs to the Light of God
and is only lent to created forms and beings.
Should people praise anyone but the One
who alone deserves to be praised?
But they go astray in useless fantasy.
The Light of God in relation to phenomena
is like light shining upon a wall -
the wall is but a focus for these splendors.
Rumi cared not so much for religious differences and divisions but rather the “oneness” in everything. In theory, he believed that God existed before the creation of all religions and it is this universal idea of “oneness” in God that the human family should celebrate.
One of the key components of Emerson’s transcendental philosophy is non-duality, which essentially means “not two.” The time Emerson spent in the natural wonders of 19th century Massachusetts offered him many experiences of deep mystical union with the universe, of which its ultimate reality is “oneness.” If he were alive today, Emerson would likely speak about the world population as a single domain. He would not focus on religious or cultural divisions as a way of speaking about humanity.
Emerson’s theory of “oneness” is most clear in his essay “Over-soul,” which he argued that mankind should be united like “the water of the globe, [being] all one, and, truly seen, its tide is one.” The topic of the soul is in fact one of the the main sources of truth and the catalyst of spiritual growth for Emerson: “… within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal One.”
A disdain for materialism and worldly pleasures is another common theme in the writings of Rumi and Emerson. In his poem “Heart,” Rumi scolded those who know “the value of every article of merchandise,” adding that, “if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness.” Rumi believed that a person who was preoccupied by worldly possessions is a person that prevents themselves from living freely. Acquiring material objects is a way to please the spirit, but only for a short moment.
Emerson, too, spoke out against materialism. In an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1867, he stated that “the spiritual is stronger than any material force” and “that thoughts rule the world.” In addition, in his remarkable lecture “Religion” in 1836, Emerson even portrayed Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, as among a class of heroes who pursued virtue rather than “worldly riches.”
The world today is rife with suffering, mistrust, and wars, but by turning to the writings of Rumi and Emerson, we can find inspiration to build a stronger bridge between East and West, between Muslims and non-Muslims. The writings of these two mystical figures should remind us of the absurdity which is the “clash of civilizations” between “Western culture” and Islam. In Rumi and Emerson we have a confluence of civilizations, not a clash of them. As Rumi said in his poem “Look at Love:”
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Tags: Boston, Christians and Muslims, God, Harvard Divinity School, Hindu, Humanity, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islam and Christianity, Love, Muhammad, Mysticism, Oneness, Philosophy, Poems, Poet, Poetry, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Religious tolerance, Rumi, Spirituality, Sufism
Before I fall asleep each night I watch a documentary from You Tube or elsewhere. Generally I put on something related to history, but I do not limit myself to any particular area, theme, or time period.
Last night I watched “Secret Lives of Jesus Christ: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” The documentary centers around “lost documents,” which painted a very different picture of Jesus as we know him in the New Testament.
What if we do not know the whole story about Jesus? What if some of his stories have been literally buried for centuries? What if some crucial issues have been left out of the New Testament? These are the essential three questions raised in “Secret Lives of Jesus Christ.”
A long, long time ago, Christians monks stashed away some documents near a cave in Egypt. 1,600 years after their stashing, an Egyptian farmer found these documents, which were written in the Coptic language. Radio carbon dating places these documents between the 3rd and 4th centuries. Scholars do not dispute their authenticity.
In these documents – known as the “Lost Gospels” – Jesus is more of a philosopher and revealer of knowledge and not a traditional rabbi as he is sometimes depicted in the New Testament.
One of the “Lost Gospels” is the Infancy Gospel of James, which rewrites the story of the birth of Jesus. According to James, Jesus was born in a cave, not a barn. Jesus’ father, Joseph, was also a frail old man who had several children from another wife. The Infancy Gospel of James, moreover, suggests that Jesus literally walks to Mary immediately after his birth. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. This particular Infancy Gospel tried to portray Jesus’ immense power even at the time of his birth.
Another Gospel unearthed in Egypt in 1896 claims the Jesus’ closest disciple was a woman, Mary Magdalene. The Gospel of Mary claims that Jesus had an intimate relationship with her. The Lost Gospel of Judas, on the other hand, portrays Judas, the disciple who has been blamed for the death of Jesus, not as a villain, but as a hero for handing over Jesus to the authorities.
Every text of the “Lost Gospels” is packed with new information about the life of Jesus. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas shows Jesus as an immature child wielding immense powers. One story has Jesus playing on the sabbath. On a river bank, Jesus starts forming sparrows out of the mud. An angry Jewish man interrupts him because he was doing something which is forbidden – playing on the sabbath day. The man runs off and grabs Jesus’ father, Joseph, who also shows anger. Jesus responds to them both by clapping his hands, at which point his clay sparrows came to life and flew away. This story shows that Jesus is able to create life. Moreover, the mud story foreshadows Jesus’ disruption of the sabbath later in his life.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas also depicts the child Jesus as an angry and even violent boy. In one story, Jesus cripples a boy who criticizes him for violating the sabbath. Another story explains how a child accidentally bumps into Jesus’ shoulder one day. The boy is then struck by Jesus and dies upon falling to the ground. Scholars claims that this darker portrayal of Jesus might have been an attempt to show his infinite powers.
At least three times in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas does Jesus raise the dead. One story has Jesus’ friend falling from the roof of a home, at which point the parents and friends of the boy accuse Jesus – “the trouble maker” – of throwing his friend down to his death. Angry at the accusation, Jesus calls out the name of the boy, who then rises up from the ground to say “No Lord, you have raised me up.” In theory, Jesus raises the dead boy so he could tell everyone the truth.
Another story of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas explains an event between Jesus and a grieving mother who holds her dead infant baby. When Jesus sees her weeping, he goes to the child and touches its stomach and says “Live and be with your mother.” The child comes back to life and Jesus tells the mother to “remember him.” At this point, Jesus is slowly learning that he could also do good with his powers.
Perhaps the most magnificent story of the “Lost Gospels” deals with Jesus’ journey away from Judea. In 1887 in northern India, the life of Jesus took an extraordinary turn. A Russian writer traveling in northern India fell of his horse and broke his foot, at which point Buddhist monks recovered him and brought him back to safety. The monks told the writer of ancient texts about a philosopher named Issa, which is another way of saying Jesus in several Eastern languages.
The guide of the Russian writer translated the text and found that the saint was actually Jesus and that the texts are actually an account of Jesus’ “missing years.” According to the Russian writer, Jesus spends 6 years living in the Himalaya.
According to some scholars, Jesus might have learned about mysticism among the Buddhist monks. However, according to the Buddhist text, Jesus eventually disobeyed his mentors by preaching to the poor, which was forbidden in that society. The monks tried to capture Jesus, at which point he fled. The Russian writer’s thoughts about this Lost Gospel is published in the book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ.
The historical record of Jesus is still incomplete and may always be incomplete. Clearly, there was a lot of confusion in the Middle East and beyond after his death, as many people tried to figure out who he was exactly. Was he simply a man? Was he from this Universe or another? Perhaps the Lost Gospels simply reflect the chaos of the early Christian Church. We may never know what is true or false, but we can certainly imagine what could have been if these “Lost Gospels” were included in the New Testament.
There are more stories in this documentary which I did not cover. I do not want to spoil the entire video, so please have a look for yourself.
Tags: Christianity, Early Christianity, Egypt, Gospel, Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Mary, Infancy Gospel of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus in India, Life of Jesus, Lost Gospels, Mary Magdalene, New Testament, Religion, Spirituality, Stories
My recent Huffington Post article “A New Perspective of “Jihad” in Christianity and Islam” sparked a good amount of controversy in the interfaith and anti-Muslim blogosphere. In a follow up post, I focus solely on what I call the “Jesus Jihad,” or the Christian struggles which are noted in the New Testament. The following excerpts have been taken directly from the Huffington Post article.
Although the term “jihad” is not literally used in Christian scripture, the idea of struggling is at the very heart of Christianity. There are a number of instances in the New Testament which provide guidance for Christians who are struggling with different problems of dilemmas in their lives.
Perhaps the most important part of the Christian “jihad” is the practice of non-violence. When the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus and brought him to Pontius Pilate, the man who contributed to Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my [disciples] would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18: 35-36). Violence, therefore, is antithetical to Jesus’ teachings. He did not require his followers to take up arms to show commitment to his teachings. Indeed, it was quite the opposite. In Matthew (26:53), Jesus told his followers that “… for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus encouraged his disciples to struggle against the desire to use force when frustrated or antagonized.
Another element of the Christian “jihad” is to show love for those around you. Jesus wants Christians to “love your neighbor” and even beyond that, “love your enemies,” a point which arises in Luke (6:27). In Matthew (5:9), it is written that peacemakers are blessed, “for they will be called sons of God.” The New Testament demands that Christians struggle in the fight for peace, even if it means embracing your sworn enemies and those who wish to harm you.
The Christian “jihad” also requires that Christians do not retaliate “evil for evil.” Romans (12:17) demands that Christians “live at peace with everyone.” People who call themselves Christians, yet call for the demise of Islam and anything related to Muslims, should heed to the demand of this verse and search for ways to build bridges for peace instead of fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry.
The Christian “jihad” can be explored further in the examples left by Jesus’ disciples. Peter, for example, is considered “the rock” of Jesus’ church because he spoke about the struggle to maintain the Christian faith at all costs. In 2 Peter (3:14), he stated “… make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with [Jesus].” In this verse, Peter is highlighting one of the ultimate aims of Christianity – avoid wrongdoing and sins. A true Christian such as Peter cared more for fixing his own transgressions rather than attacking others for their sins. He encouraged Christians to struggle with overcoming their personal dilemmas first before bickering and complaining over the errors of others. In essence, he believed progress is rooted in the individuals’ ability to change their attitude and behavior in struggling to adhere to the teachings of Jesus.
In addition to Peter, Paul of Tarsus, another disciple of Jesus, also embraced the Christian “jihad.” In Timothy 6:12, Paul encouraged Christians to “Fight the good fight of the faith,” which can be interpreted as spreading peace and love in the spirit of Jesus. In addition, in 2 Timothy (4:7), Paul stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” There is an inherent non-violent tone in Paul’s statements. Never did he ask Christians to take up the sword or use violence as a means of showing faith in Jesus. Paul made “every effort to do what leads to peace” (Romans 14:19).
Moreover, in 2 Peter 1:5-7, Peter stated that a Christian must “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control’ and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance; godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Jesus, like Muhammad, taught his disciples and future believers that struggling is a fundamental element of the Christian faith. He told his disciples to “strive to enter in at the narrow gate…,” which mirrors the popular Muslim notion of staying on the “straight path” and maintaining dedication to practicing Islam to the best of ones ability. Ultimately, Christians and Muslims are guided by their scripture to persevere in the face of their struggles. They are encouraged to struggle in this life, to maintain belief in God, in exchange for a higher reward when this life inevitably ends.
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Tags: Christian, Christian News, Christianity, Christianity vs. Islam, Jesus, Jesus Jihad, Jihad, Morality, Muslim, New Testament, Paul, Peter, Pontius Pilate, Religion, Scripture, Spirituality, Struggle