and all the Islamic apologists
Last night Xavier hosted the World Affairs Council in a Town Meeting featuring Karen Armstrong the author of the international bestseller, The History of God: The 4000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Dr. Baher Foad, director of adult religious education at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., and Jerry Leach, president of the World Affairs Council.
Karen's new book, The Great Transformation, was in prominent display and she will be speaking about it and Islam in more detail on Tuesday night by herself. I'll be there.
Last night, though, gave me cause to pause.
I admit it. I am not enamored with Islam no matter how much I read about it, no matter how many professors and scholars show me the error of my judgments. It's not that I don't believe them. I read many, many articles by Riffat Hassan, Pakistani woman now professor at University of Louisville. She is known as a prominent voice for the injustices against women perpetrated by Muslims and she spends a great deal of energy reclaiming her tradition through showing the misuse of the Qu'ran and then reinterprets difficult passages through a historical social context to relieve them of their dangerous implications for women.
More power to her.
But what is it about this topic of Islam that makes otherwise smart people dump the burden for the problems in the middle east on the western caricature and stereotype? It's not that I mind being berated. Guilt me, shame me, show me my racism, my heterocentrism, my selfish middle class waste. Make me beat my chest and repent of my sins. Force me to admit, California snob that I am, that Kentucky, for instance, is a beautiful state with hospitable people!
But don't try to convince me that the American media, the United States government and its European allies are actually responsible for Islam being the debacle of a faith that it is! There are a billion Muslims in the world, and somehow the vast majority of them have the wrong impression of their own religion. The problems may be exacerbated by our prejudices and blindnesses, but no way are we responsible for misinterpreting the faith to Muslims themselves. Whose fault is that?
When Karen repeatedly makes jabs at the media, at American culture, at Fox News, at President Bush, at westerners for thinking Islam is not a religion of peace and social justice, as though we are ignoring some vast body of evidence that shows Islam to the contrary, I want to laugh. We do not see Islam living up to its principles in the countries where it is practiced.
And what of these very countries where freedom of speech doesn't exist and Muslim stereotypes of westerners contribute to their deeply held misperceptions of who we are? Who berates them? (Fortunately last night Farooq Kathwari made this very point. Hats off to him.)
I would love to give you lots of reasons why I'm right and Karen is wrong. And I'll do that tonight.