Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sauce for the Goose, Sauce for the Gander

Yesterday I found this amazing article in the Washington Post: Abundant Faith, Shrinking Space: Mosques in Virginia Turn to Synagogues, Ballrooms to Accommodate Growing Membership. Yes, you read this correctly - in order to accommodate the needs of growing numbers of worshipers, local Muslim imams are renting space for their services from local synagogues, among other locations.

Think about this for a moment.

Can you imagine, in your most fevered imagination, that a mosque in Saudi Arabia would rent space to a Jewish or Christian congregation in need of additional room? Saudi Arabia, where it is a crime to openly profess any faith other than Islam? Where non-Muslims are actually forbidden from setting foot in the holy city of Mecca?

It's clear that not all Muslims are as blindly bigoted as those who belong to the Wahhabi and Deobandi schools of the faith. Nevertheless, they all profess a faith which demonizes other religions and honors those who commit suicide in the act of murdering others. The shameful display in Libya this past week when a freed mass murderer was greeted by a cheering crowd only underscores the dichotomy of a religion which professes mercy and compassion while encouraging subjugation and death to those who worship in other faiths.

The Rabbi at one of the synagogues which had provided space to the Muslim congregations was quoted as saying, "The prophet Isaiah said our houses would be houses of prayer for all people ... Now, I don't know if Isaiah could have imagined us hosting Ramadan in the synagogue, but the basic idea is there." This, to me, reflects concepts of inclusivity, mercy, and compassion utterly lacking in much of the Islamic world.

The Post article goes on to note that "The arrangement has led to the unexpected benefit of cultural exchange. There have been pulpit swaps, with the imam and rabbi preaching to each other's congregation and interfaith visits as well." This is a wonderful thing if it truly leads to more open minds on the part of the Muslim congregations; nevertheless, I have my doubts.

When I see Muslims reaching out to accommodate Christians and Jews as these local Jewish congregations have done to the Muslims, there will be room for real rejoicing.

Sadly, as in most issues dealing with relations between Islam and the rest of the world, I'm not holding my breath.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Gilahi said...

At the risk of tempering your Muslim-bashing for just a moment, I have to say that I was raised in a Christian denomination (southern Baptist) that was every bit as intolerant as any Muslims out there. While they would not go out and actively try to kill "non-believers", there was also no way in heaven or hell that they would rent their facilities to another denomination or religion, much less allow an imam, a rabbi, or even a Catholic priest into their pulpit to preach to the congregation. That church is still very active and every bit as intolerant as it ever was.

I really do believe that you should probably add southern Baptists, Pentecostals, certain old-fashioned Methodists, and many other religions and denominations to any future tirades you make about Muslim intolerance.

And I have no doubt that there will be more.

Bandit said...

Interesting post.

Gilahi, I was also raised S.B. I don't know that I would use intolerant to describe my personal experiences in growing up in this church. Each religion has their own doctrines. S. Baptist doctrine is based on their belief of what the Bible teaches as hopefully all protestants and Catholics do also.

I was taught that the actual building is not the church. It is the church buiding. The congregation of worshippers constitutes the church.

In the St. Louis area, we have church services held in homes, school cafeterias, lodges, banquet rooms, etc. Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame held and I think still does services in a drive in movie theatre.

Bilbo, your post again is interesting as these folk have been at odds since Ishmael was sent into the wilderness and Isaac stayed with Abraham. I'm presuming but I would think that these folks consider their houses of worship to be holy ground.

John, you need to chime in.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It was indeed a disgrace that the Scottish government freed this murderer. PM Brown is to blame as well

Bilbo said...

Glad to see I've started a good discussional ball rolling. Gilahi makes a very good point in that no religion has a monopoly on intolerance, although I would argue (as he admits) that most don't actively urge their followers to kill non-believers. Bandit's point is well-taken also: that the "church" is not the building in which worship takes place, but the congregation of worshipers...thus, the use of a single location for services of many different faiths is not of itself unusual (there is a beautiful nondenominational chapel in the Pentagon, for instance). I agree that every religion probably has less-savory eras in its history (as Christianity certainly does - and admits). The issue here is whether a particular religion - be it Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or any other - has risen beyond the need for violence and hatred in the spread of its creed.

I really appreciate the thoughtful commentary. John, any thoughts?

Mike said...

Well here I am to make my funny comment. But THAT'S not going to happen today. I'll send Claudia to chime in.

Wv: shess - I couldn't have said it better myself.

SusieQ said...

My daughter has Muslim neighbors who live next door to her. They happen to be an elderly Pakistani couple. The Muslim woman and my daughter talk to each other often about their separate beliefs for the purpose of building bridges and coming to a fuller understanding of each of their religious practices and beliefs. My daughter is a Christian and heavily involved in her church.

The Muslim couple are worried that in this day and age my daughter's children (they number 7) will come to fear the Muslim couple next door. They do not want this to happen and they do many things to discourage it from happening including dropping off food now and then on my daughter's porch for her family. They show love and concern for my daughter and her family.

I tell you this so that you will know that not all Muslims are alike. Not all Muslims want to kill off the rest of us.

Claudia said...

In my first year of seminary, I had a visiting professor who was a pastor from Lockerbie. He had maybe 200 members in his congregation but he was pretty much considered the main clergyperson for the entire area of about 14,000 persons. He told me stories that would bring tears to a glass eye in regard to the plane crash and the many, many heartbreaking hours, days and weeks for his community in its aftermath. We can not know what they went through, trying to help the survivors of the victims and to allow for justice in the courts to happen for those held responsible. We simply can not know; we were not there! But what impressed me more was what he told me about his ordinary life in that area. Even though he only had 200 people in his church, his heart and the hearts of his parishioners were big enough to host hundreds of weddings, baptisms and funerals a year for people who had long since turned their backs on being active church members, not just of his church, but any church. He had only a secretary with a manual typewriter and a telephone for a staff and office equipment. But he, the secretary and their little congregation were so compassionate and giving. They had not given up on people, no matter how little most of those other 13,800 did for their little church, whose members along with him and the secretary became "instant" friends to the others, steadfastly, in their times of need. He was not unlike the rabbi Bilbo wrote about, welcoming the Muslims to share his place of worship. My visiting professor from Scotland and the rabbi embraced welcoming the stranger. They see it is the right, risky, and unpopular thing to do--because the Bible and Torah tell us so to do, if we are Christians or Jews. Forgiveness is also the right thing to do. In fact, the failure to forgive is the biggest sin of all. That's what "blaspheming the holy spirit" means--failing to forgive.

Bilbo said...

Susie Q: your point is well-taken. The problem remains, though, that the vast majority of Muslims who are not homicidal fundamentalists do not take any effective action against those who are; by remaining silent in the face of these actions, they essentially condone them.

Claudia: I agree that forgiveness is "the right thing to do." But I would argue that forgiveness is wasted on those who refuse to acknowledge the wrongness of their actions and, at worst, encourages them to continue. As the old joke says, "I turned the other cheek, and he hit me with his other fist." This may a very complex moral issue from a philosophical perspective, but I see it as pretty clear-cut: forgiveness benefits those who benefit from it. In this case, no one has benefited.

John said...

Sorry to take so long to weigh in on this one--I was out of the e-circuit for the weekend.

It is an interesting situation that the Muslim community finds itself in with the lack of space. You would certainly expect them to find whatever available space to meet, as Bandit mentioned, it's just a building (the synagogue).

Here, there are many churches that rent space out to use the buildings for more than a few hours per week. Many share the space with other denominations, although I haven't seen buildings shared with other belief systems. Here, in the buckle of the Bible belt, I would be greatly surprised if a church of a Christian denomination would rent space to Muslims--for anything.

It is a situation that is much more complex than making the space productive when not being used for your worship time. I find the thought of Jews (that have so many laws on what is clean vs. unclean) sharing space with Muslims to be a total contradiction of all that is kosher.


Twinkie said...

wow. This is a very interesting discussion. Since everybody has probably moved on to the next discussion I think I'll leave it be and maybe open it up on my blog. As a sidenote, Bilbo, I hope you know that I benefit GREATLY from the links you leave and the discussions you start. I am not the smartest person in the world and sometimes it's hard for me to understand certain global (and local) issues then I come in here and read your thoughts and the thoughts of your readers and it puts everything in perspective for me most of the time.