Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eat the Qur'an, Too

In a post earlier this month, I outed myself as a supporter of all types of scriptural literacy--not just Biblical literacy. Basically, I'm excited if you're going to read the Bible more, but I'm also excited if you're going to read the Torah, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Tao te Ching, or the Analects of Confucius, or hell, Dianetics!

Okay, maybe not Dianetics ... I guess my own willful ignorance begins with Scientology. Sorry, John Travolta.

But in this day and age, it is perhaps most crucial that we know the Qur'an better. And Islam, too. There is so much hatred, so much vitriol, so much mean-spirited bluster surrounding the ongoing discussion of that religion's place in America that we can't afford to be ignorant any longer. We need to know more, and we need to know better ...

Especially those of us who consider ourselves tolerant of Islam, who support Feisal Abdul Rauf and his vision of inter-religious dialogue, who condemn the Qur'an burners of the world, and who hope to rebuild an America devoted to the seminal--and Constitutional--religious freedoms guaranteed by our founding documents.

We need to learn more, start dialogue, and engage.

If you want to do so, you might start by reading two brief pieces that have inspired me in recent days. The first is an op-ed in USA Today written by a dear friend, Ismat Sarah Mangla. In it, Mangla argues:

"We need more dialogue, more reading of the Quran, both inside the Muslim community and out. After all, more than a billion Muslims in the world and 2.5 million in the United States are living quietly unsensational lives. These stories — of the silent majority of peaceful Muslims — are not headline-worthy. But they are nonetheless real."

She also points to passages in Muslim scripture that affirm those values that Americans hold most dear: truthfulness, justice, and freedom of worship.

The second is Valerie Kaur's "Shadow Generation," which appeared recently on the Huffington Post. Kaur issues a call to action to those youth who consider themselves tolerant and understanding, but who still seem to dwell in the shadows, ceding the stage to pundits and conservative blowhards. She writes:

"It is time for young people everywhere to emerge from the shadows. We know how to form common ground with people different from us, whether Muslims or Evangelicals, conservatives or progressives. We can draw upon these experiences to help overcome the fear driving hateful expression on both sides of the debate. We can invite opponents of Park51 to dialogue with Muslim Americans, so as not to conflate Islam with the acts of those who have committed violence in its name. And we can ask Muslim allies not to denigrate opponents of Park51 as ignorant or racist, and instead engage directly with the anxiety and misinformation driving Islamophobia. But only if we commit to action."

Kaur is a driving force behind the Common Ground Campaign, a "coalition of young people standing against hate speech and violence against Muslim Americans in the wake of the 'Ground Zero Mosque' controversy"--this from the campaign web site. How can you not sign her charter?

So read Mangla. Then read Kaur. Then crack open the Qur'an. Stop tolerating, and start getting involved. I'll do the same, even while I keep Bible-thumping here.

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