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Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/contact:larchstar@aol.com

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

October 31, 2010

CAN ISLAM BE PEACEFUL ?

Juan Williams, an anchor at NPR, was recently fired from his job because of his remarks on Fox's Bill Reilly's program that he would feel uncomfortable boarding an aeroplane with some passengers dressed in Muslim garb. NPR, very politically correct, discharged him for remarks offensive to Muslims. Curiously, the roof fell in on NPR. Journalists and others condemned his being fired by NPR. Many others expressed the same sentiments about being with Muslim-dressed passengers. The NY Times, after packaged bombs from Yemen were found on a UPS truck in Dubai and on an aeroplane at Heathrow in England, featured a cartoon figure with Muslim passengers exclaiming, "I agree with Williams".

NPR and the initiators of the downtown mosque near Ground Zero, Imam Rauf and developer Sharif el Gamal found Williams' remarks offensive to the Muslim community. They hold that their brand of Islam breathes peace. That message and the proposed mosque near Ground Zero drew considerable support because Rauf and el Gamal succeeded in establishing the term of the controversy as one of religious tolerance rather than as the intrusion of outsiders in this New York graveyard, affronting the sensitivities of so many. The same word or words can be used and heard differently by different audiences: balogna can refer to a cured meat or to meaningless statements, as in "a lot of baloney". "Islam" and "muslim" can mean peace through discipline and sharia law to those of the umma, the world-wide Muslim community. But for contemporary Americans, those two words immediately bring to mind the terrorists of 9/11, suicide bombers, extremist jihadists, and, in yesterday's a report of an assault yesterday in Baghdad on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral. One hundred Catholics at Sunday Mass were taken hostage by an armed group, identified as The Islamic State of Iraq. Thirty-seven attendees and two priests were killed: fifty-six wounded. Legitimate Iraqi forces released the remaining hostages.

As "Islam" and "Muslim" are understood differently by different speakers, so, too, the proposed mosque will be perceived differently by different observers. Rauf and Sharif el Gamal would have observers here see it as a monument to religious freedom; but those in Muslim countries around the world will see it as a symbol of the 9/11 Muslim victory. It will be seen, in yet a third way, by many of us New Yorkers as an uninvited intrusion on the place of our communal grief.


The mosque proponents have a nomenclature problem. What is their Islam? Are they part of the "umma", Islam, the Muslim world-wide community, whose charter calls for world domination? How do they view modern Muslim nations, where there is no religious freedom, where sharia calls for amputations for thieves, honor killings, and death sentences for writings and cartoons deemed sacriligious? That is the Islam of popular understanding!

The local mosque people are of the Sufi component of Islam, peace loving, mystical. But there are questions. As Muslims, how do they relate to the larger Muslim world? Generalities about peace-loving are insufficient. New Yorkers need to be educated on the specifics that warrant that title. Do they publicly reject sharia's death sentences for conversion or perceived insults to the Koran? Do they accept the Qu'oran's permission for husbands to beat their wives, but "not beyond bloodshed"? What qualifies a person for membership in their mosque? What is its charter and mission statement? How are jihadists excluded? Some mosque members become radicalized as has occurred here and in Europe. How is such a member expelled from the mosque, as has frequently occurred here and in Europe?

Such questions are not asked gratuitously. New Yorkers are well aware of our peace-loving Muslim neighbors - professionals, livery drivers, grocers, and merchants. But the Charter of Islam is recorded in its Holy Writ and is exemplified in modern Muslim nations and in history. Muslim, Jews, and Christians effectively lived together in Moorish Spain with accomplishments in art, architecture, and the good things of life. But Jews and Christians were "dimmis" -"protected ones"- paying an annual tax and subject to many legal inhibitions, such as limited to riding donkeys, horses not permitted!

In buying a house or making an investment, full disclosure is required. With Islam, not only a religion but also a form of government, with examples in its history and in the contemporary world, full disclosure of a charter and mission statement of the proposed mosque is not an inappropriate request. The two uses and two understandings of the word, "Islam" makes it incumbent on the downtown mosque people to make clear which is their "Islam" and how it differs from the other "Islam". The same name with two meanings is, to say the least, confusing.

The necessity of full disclosure is further seen in light of statements the like of one by Abu Laban at the Ninth Congress of the Islamic Cultural Institute in 1995 in Milan: "They [westerners] accept Muslims in their midst... We, therefore, must pretend that we accept their religion and their individual freedom. But this is impossible. Islam can accept no one who does not adore Allah."

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Msr, in a recent post you said something which you do not seem willing to extend to a billion or so Muslims, esp. those held without bail or rights in the American gulags: "I was hungry, you fed me; thirsty,you gave me a cup of cold water; a stranger, you took me in; in rags, you covered me; sick, you visited me; in prison, you came to me. As long as you did these things to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me." How remarkably simple! Each of these acts is a sparkling diamond that the Christian is to wear as it reflects back something of God's light and power.

November 9, 2010 at 1:23 AM  

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