Letter to the Editor
Lauren Anderson, ‘12
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 22:03
In response to the current campus dialogue regarding Islam, I would first like to point out that much of what I hear is spoken from an openly unfamiliar perspective on the religion or its followers.
There is no fault in misunderstanding or not knowing, but to proudly and heartily denounce that which is misunderstood can be harmful to the credibility of the dialogue.
Thus, opening one’s ears to hear the dialogue for the sake of better understanding is an exercise in what it means to learn. Jumping to conclusions, on the other hand, about that which one does not understand may cause one’s mouth to speak so loudly as to deafen the heart and the mind.
The lectures that the Religion Department’s visiting lecturer Dr. Omid Safi gave on March 14 and 15 offered the perfect occasion to seek better understanding of a religion so often misquoted, misunderstood, and harshly decried.
The March 14th lecture, delivered in the chapel, was a Muslim engagement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Safi lauded Dr. King as a prophet and a luminary, but warned not to iconize him to the point of his being situated in a historical moment from where he cannot be retrieved.
We must hear Dr. King’s words today, for they still apply to the world (and especially to the present war, Dr. Safi pointed out).
The March 15th lecture focused on the Prophet Muhammad, and how he can be applied to the world today. What I hope people took from the lecture on the Prophet was how nothing of the accounts Safi mentioned were about violence or hatred.
It is pleasantly eye-opening to read the Qur’an as a historical document: American false consciousness about it runs rampant.
It is necessary when reading any religious text to remember that it was (probably) written in a time for which we may not have a clear frame of reference and in a language that we ourselves may not know. This alone is enough to be skeptical about translation and the politics that may have gone into it. Thus there are generally things we agree with and disagree with in both the Qur’an and the Bible (and even things within these texts that conflict with themselves). Do we then throw out the entire religion?
No—we allow it to speak to us where we are. In order to make Dr. King, or Jesus, or Muhammad mean something is to act out their words of love and justice in the world.
If we do not do this, we deny them their roles as teachers and prophets. This was the message that Dr. Safi conveyed to us, quite eloquently, last week. Islam is foundationally a religion of peace and social justice that can be applied to the world today, if only we choose to listen.