Instead of “Burn a Quran Day,” how about an “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day”?

In response to the “Burn the Quran Day” Florida pastor, I’ve decided to promote a counter day:

The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day

Or coffee.

Initiate dialogues, not bonfires.

And so The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day  is hereby declared for the following date:

Friday, September 17, 2010.

Spread the word, find a Muslim, and invite him or her out for some coffee or a bite to eat and a chat (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) on September 17th. And if the 17th is a bad day for you and your invitee, then shoot for a time within a week of that date (before or behind).

Tell him or her that you’re doing it for The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day—a day designed to open up human conversations between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.

The rules: eat and drink what you want and talk about what you want.  

I’m an agnostic, and I’m going on September 17th to an early dinner with a coworker. Maybe my wife and kids will come along; and maybe his will do likewise. I’ve known him for ten years. He lit up on the invitation to join me for a meal, and the reason that I was asking him. He thought the “Have a Meal with a Muslim” idea was amusing and life-affirming; sort of like “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”

In talking further, my coworker and I now might start a monthly meet-up for dialogue, bringing in other people and advertising it to locals (we live in Los Angeles County), but for now we’ve at least got September 17th set for a meal and conversation together.

And maybe this will go viral, which is why I need you. If you’ve got a blog or a Facebook account, might you spread the word about September 17th? Or if you’re a journalist, might you contact me (my name is Santi Tafarella and my email is stafarella@avc.edu).

Also, if you have any thoughts on how to proceed, or an opinion about the idea in general, or think I haven’t thought of something, please share it in the thread below. And, of course, if you invite a Muslim for a meal or coffee on September 17th, let me know that as well.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, for every attendee at the Florida pastor’s Quran burning, there was another person in the thread below who wrote, “I invited a Muslim for coffee,” or “I’m Muslim, and I invited a non-Muslim to lunch this week.”

Why am I doing this? Because I believe that dialogue is the hope of the world. So long as people keep talking, I think they’ll find that they have more in common than they imagine, not less. And that’s the whole premise of the Anglo-French Enlightenment: we share a universal human reason and we need not be opaque or hostile toward one another.

Set in religious terms, I believe that this is the position of most Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians as well.

And the Beatles held this view too (see below).

So why not talk?

Have a meal or coffee with a Muslim on September 17th, won’t you?

Go on. I bet you can find at least one.

And let me know how it went.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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146 Responses to Instead of “Burn a Quran Day,” how about an “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day”?

  1. Santi, this is fantastic and brilliant.

    Forgive me, but I’d also like to link to my own post – What Muslim Americans Want the USA to hear – http://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/islam-interfaith-talk-there-is-hope/ Only because I think the issue is so important.

    Please delete if this is inappropriate.

    I will be doing all I can to promote this idea, I totally share your ideals about dialogue instead of damnation. (I have a post about exactly that already written.)

    My only question (for Muslims?) would be – is Friday a good day for this? Given that it’s the traditional day for going to the Mosque.

    Brilliant, well done, sharing this.

    Jonathan

  2. Twittered it, facebooked it, doing my best to promote it 🙂 Now I’ve just got to find a Muslim to have a meal with. I’m sure I know one?

  3. Pingback: International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day « Spritzophrenia

  4. LuckyLeilani says:

    KUDOS!!!

    Santi ~ This is an EXCELLENT idea! We need to do what we can to counteract the hatred and hostility in this world. Only then will we truly find peace. It all begins with ONE. Thank you for stepping forward and standing up to help make a change.

    I was sent a link to this site by Spritzophrenia. Thank you, Jonathan.

    I plan to share it with others as well as those I follow in Twitter.

    I was thinking, as I was reading your words, this would be a great ‘group’ to start on the site http://www.meetup.com ~ Make it an ‘inclusive’ group where everyone from all different cultures, religions, races, genders, social classes and lifestyles can share not only what they have in common but also their differences. Make it a regular meeting with nothing in common but a desire to learn more from one another.

    I have always believed that we must communicate to educate ~ So, let’s communicate more! I, for one, can never learn enough from someone else. Just by reading this post, I have learned that there are others who share my views and we can all DO SOMETHING.

    Thank you again (both of you)!

    ~ Leilani (in Seattle, USA)

    • santitafarella says:

      Leilani:

      It sounds like you know about meetup.com.

      Would you consider starting the group page there and linking it to here (or letting us know how it is going)?

      —Santi

      • LuckyLeilani says:

        I’d love to! I’m not a pro at meetup.com ~ A friend of mine in Seattle just told me about it because I wanted to find others who shared my interests (hard to find). She told me she’s had a very positive experience with all of the groups she’s participated in and I just thought it would help to create a place for others to gather and share themselves on a local level. It could be a great way to keep this idea of yours going, long after Sept. 17, 2010.

        I will be happy to report back ~ I just want the group to focus on more than just what it means to be Muslim or Christian. There are so many of “us” who are neither and need to be heard/shared/understood/loved/respected… I think we should work on trying to CoExist rather than focus on the negative. We need to be more human.

        I believe we all have within us the capacity to love ~ Some of us just have to dig deeper and work at it harder than others. Breaking down walls and stereotypes is just the beginning to true peace and happiness. I’m hopeful.

        ~ Leilani

      • santitafarella says:

        Leilani:

        Wonderful!

        As for the Christian-Muslim dichotomy, I’m an agnostic myself. Taking a gay or atheist or Jewish or fundamentalist Baptist person to lunch day may be a spin off from this some day. There’s lots of human barriers that need bringing down.

        But the trick is this: how do we get non-moderates and non-liberals to participate; how do we avoid just working the choir?

        How do you make it compelling, as it were, “for them to come that the house may be full” (to echo Jesus)?

        Any thoughts?

        —Santi

    • Erica says:

      This is such a great idea! The only problem is that I do not know of any Muslim people who live close to me. I will have to try to find a Muslim who would not mind having a meal and a chat with a random person.

      • santitafarella says:

        Erica:

        I’ve got an idea: how about getting out a regional phone book, or contacting directory assistance, and calling your state’s nearest mosque? Once you get someone on the phone, you might ask for the imam or simply speak to the person who answers. Tell him or her what you had heard about (International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day), how you wished you could participate in person, but how you wanted to at least spread the word. You might also ask to talk with the imam by phone and ask some questions and have some dialogue. My bet is that this would be extremely moving to the Muslims at the mosque and he might encourage the congregants to seek out a person to have lunch with.

        I’ve already been made aware of at least one imam who has spoken of International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day from the pulpit.

        —Santi

  5. Pleased to see this suggestion and I’ll encourage you to shift to anytime in the week, so that those who are joining the Yom Kippur fast with the Jewish community won’t seem to be avoiding honoring our Muslim neighbors. (Erev Yom Kippur is the evening of the 17th & lunchtime Fridays is when Muslims observe Jumu’ah). You may also want to wish your Muslim neighbors Eid Mubarak Friday this week. Thanks for suggesting something so positive!

    • santitafarella says:

      Rev. Naomi:

      Great idea. If people participate any time during the next week on any day, that’s terrific!

      And after the weekend of the 17th, we can evaluate what happened and how it might be adjusted. It may be the start of something that happens with more frequency.

      —Santi

  6. Krisztian says:

    Santi, congrat to the idea. I agree with Jonathan re meetup.com. And i also recommend to start a Facebook page. If you dont have time to do it, I can make one for you. Certainly all credits go to you. What do u think?

  7. mary says:

    There’s a page on facebook entitled,
    “Rather than burning sacred texts how about sharing a meal with a Muslim?”
    It links to this article!!!

    Good work!

  8. Krisztian says:

    Thanks, Mary. Nice page.

  9. Taimoor says:

    It’s a great idea 🙂 its nice to see people like you still exist BTW i’m a Muslim and 80% of the staff in my school was christians and i still have christian friends and Bible is a Holy Book for me like Quran and i respect Jesus.

    • santitafarella says:

      Taimoor:

      Wonderful! I hope this next week, culminating in September 17, helps to initiate dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.

      Something that I think is interesting about the Quran is that every chapter begins with a reference to God’s compassion (mercy). If we learn to imaginatively walk in the shoes of others, and talk with them, and listen, we are practicing compassion and mercy, don’t you think?

      Where are you located, by the way?

      —Santi

  10. santitafarella says:

    Spritzo, Mary, and Krisztian:

    Wow! My daughters, my wife and I are in a local production of the musical “Annie” and so I’ve been at rehearsal for a couple of hours, but I see that you all have done some wonderful internet canvassing for September 17! (In Annie, I’m playing Roosevelt, by the way. I only have three lines. I’ll be in a wheelchair.)

    Anyway, I think that Sept. 17 is something that will grow beyond that day: that we’re laying the seeds over the next nine days for local groups to sprout up for meals and dialogue. Muslims and non-Muslims in communities need to talk, and need an excuse like this to initiate that process. And thinking ahead, a year from now this might morph into “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Week” to provide more flexibility.

    —Santi

    • Maybe you could edit it to say if another day suits you, then have it on that day instead?

      There’s been lots of ReTweets on Twitter, lets hope we can get it going viral. If not, no problem, gives more time to work towards next year 🙂

      • santitafarella says:

        Good idea. I’ll think about how to say that and edit it a bit in the body of the text. I also think for this first year the initial hook in the headline should be “day” (as a contrast to Quran burning day), and then next year broaden it out to “week.” Within the body of the text, however, I think that we can note that anytime next week or next weekend would be a great time to “have a meal with a Muslim.”

        —Santi

    • PS: If it DOES go viral, be prepared for a very busy time over the next week :/

      • PPS: Have emailed you 🙂

      • santitafarella says:

        Wouldn’t that be something? It would show that there is a real hunger for people to push back against the current drift of Muslim and non-Muslim relations on a personal level, and do something positive and life affirming. This is a venue for concrete action. And the results will be felt instantly: greater understanding, compassion, and communication. Maybe a changed heart in the very gesture of invitation. And it’s rewarding: who doesn’t like food, coffee, and talk? The world’s a lonely place with a lot of paranoia. Why not make it less lonely and paranoic?

        —Santi

  11. Santi, I’d be inclined to leave it as a “day”, and let people know they can have it on another day. Still, that’s for NEXT year 😀

    PS: Have you got your blog set to only support 2 levels of comment threading? Am considering that with mine.

  12. Taimoor says:

    @Santi: You Are Right. I’m from Pakistan.

    P.S. If someone can make a nice video about “have a meal with a Muslim” Day it can go viral for sure and i will be tweeting this Blog Post although i’m not in US but i will try my best to make it go viral!

    Regards

    • santitafarella says:

      Taimoor:

      Great idea!

      Actually, video is very much in the works, and I’m glad you brought it up. The Muslim that I’m going to lunch with on the 17th is a multimedia expert at our college, and so we are planning to do short video clips of Muslims and non-Muslims asking one another questions over coffee at a restaurant and engaging in dialogue. He’ll put those on YouTube. I think that you are right: they stand a chance of going viral. We’ll see.

      I hope others with media skills will do the same thing. If you put up such a video, let me know. This idea, by its very nature, is capable of dispersal via anyone who wants to run with it. It seems to me a perfect match for the internet age: people taking the initiative to talk and break down barriers of suspicion and documenting their efforts for all to see.

      I don’t know if you are familiar with the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, but I think that his poem, “The Second Coming,” is an important compass for “have a meal with a Muslim” day. In that poem, he laments the fanaticisms in the world, and expresses despair over the silence of otherwise reasonable people (he wrote the poem in the 1920s). I think that the Internet can reverse this helplessness: we can choose to hear and speak to one another.

      Here’s the first stanza of the poem:

      Turning and turning in the widening gyre

      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

      Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

      The best lack all conviction, while the worst

      Are full of passionate intensity.

      What I think is interesting about the second line is the loss of hearing: the need to listen to reason and to one another, and to keep talking, helps the world to not, as it were, fly apart.

      —Santi

  13. andrewclunn says:

    Can I celebrate both burn a Quran day and have a meal with a Muslim day?

    • andrewclunn says:

      Also, Santi, you’ll enjoy this:

      But seriously, I like the idea. A very grass roots, voluntary, peace-making mission. The only kind that ever really work IMO.

    • santitafarella says:

      How very Richard Dawkins/PZ Myers of you! : )

      And the burning Kindle cartoon is brilliant.

      And thanks for the encouragement on the “Meal with a Muslim Day.” I thought you might pan the idea.

      As for the free and voluntary grassroots nature of the idea, Gandhi titled one of his books, “My Experiments with Truth.”

      Whatever comes of this, something will be learned.

      —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        Hate the sin religion not the sinner religious.

      • andrewclunn says:

        errr. I messed up those tags… I meant:

        Hate the sin religion not the sinner religious.

      • santitafarella says:

        Andrew:

        I understand your observation, but do you think that there is no value in finding beauty in religion—or at least finding a sympathetic space for understanding why people believe certain things?

        It would be interesting to hear your conversation with a Muslim over coffee. I think it would be frank and valuable. Might you try it?

        —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        I wouldn’t pan this idea. When Republicans say that people SHOULDN’T burn flags or when Democrats say that people SHOULDN’T burn Qurans, that’s when I get my undies in a bunch. But when people disagree with flag burning by raising their own flag proudly or Quran burning by engaging in dialogue with a Muslim, then that’s not them trying to control others actions, but making a principled stance through their own actions (Something I can totally get behind).

        As to the whole discussion on the value of beauty in religion, I’ve got some thoughts, but I’d rather put them down than express them stream of consciousness like here in the comments. I’ll shoot you an e-mail regarding that later.

      • andrewclunn says:

        Oh, and yes, I intend to participate in this idea of yours (now I just have to find a VERY tolerant Muslim to talk with).

      • santitafarella says:

        Andrew:

        Great! But I think that finding a tolerant Muslim will be easy: most Muslims, I am persuaded, are.

        —Santi

      • santitafarella says:

        Andrew:

        One other thing: I agree with you that the Florida pastor has the right to do it, and I would oppose any coercive gestures to stop him. He has First Amendment rights to engage in symbolic speech gestures. But my argument is this: if you’re burning somebody’s book, and not dialoguing, it’s a bad, bad sign for humanity. You knew (or ought to have known) that the Jews were headed for trouble in the 1930s when the Germans started bonfires of Jewish authors’ books. The Germans were not engaging in dialogue about those authors, or attempting to speak to Jews as human beings. And all they had was top-down media (which, in the 1930s, was controlled by Hitler). In the 21st century, with YouTube and the Internet generally, we don’t have the excuse that it is hard to try to talk to others. We can; we have the democratic technology.

        And, unfortunately, just as there are Herderite Christians in the United States, there are Herderite Muslims in other countries who will meet a collectivist guilt gesture with a collectivist guilt gesture. There are authoritarian personalities across civilizational boundaries, and you can expect American flags burning in streets in Iran (or worse) because of this pastor’s gesture. That doesn’t prove that Islam is evil any more than that the pastor’s gesture proves Christianity is evil. What it does prove is that everywhere there are authoritarian personalities filled with Yeatsian passionate intensity. And they are looking for excuses to raise the global temperature of violence and scapegoating. That’s why Obama, as we speak, is urging (by persuasion alone) that the pastor not indulge this kind of escalation and incivility.

        I’m hoping that “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” can, over time, function as a counter to these types of inane bonfire gestures: I want to see a culture of human dialogue and respect flourish, and we can use YouTube to model it. I want to see “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” become a space for people to do something concrete that sends a message that most of us are still talking to one another (via YouTube, etc.), and want to understand one another and find a way to—if not agreement—at least a peaceful coexistence based in respect. I want a concrete demonstration that a lot of people are not buying in to the FOX News Manichean narrative that “the other side” must remain forever opaque and incapable of dialogue. I don’t believe this. And “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” is a way to show that the Manichean narrative applied to real individuals in real, direct, and honest dialogue proves to be a false narrative.

        —Santi

  14. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    To avoid being a party pooper, I tried to stay away from this discussion, but here’s my question. what would you talk about with your Muslim friend? All will be fine if you stick to sports, weather, and even the economy. But if you asked an honest question like why some Muslims are convinced that they are on a mission to convert the non-Muslims or kill them. The meal will turn into a food fight. You will end up with a situation similar to what will happen if you invited Sarah Palin to a meal to discuss your political differences!
    BTW in Egypt, the Church leaders invite Muslims to very expensive banquets in Ramadan, which turned into a hypocrisy feast. So after a year where some Christians were killed, many underage Christian girls were kidnapped and raped, and some Churches were burned and new church buildings were violently stopped, Muslim and Christian leaders have a nice meal and talk about the great national unity and the fact that Muslims and Christians are brothers!

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      Why don’t you find a Muslim to have lunch with and ask these very questions?

      What you are asking are exactly the kinds of questions I would hope that people would not avoid: the hard questions.

      I genuinely believe that people—at least, if they are mature adults—can be asked hard questions without being offended or storming out of a room. And they can think about the difficulty and complexity of the issues involved, and can take a stab at a preliminary answer, and stay open to discussion and doubt.

      You and I do it all the time—a Christian and an agnostic—so why can’t the same model be used for a Muslim and a non-Muslim? When I spoke to my coworker I made this very clear to him: this wasn’t to be kumbaya. This was to be honest, direct dialogue. I brought up Matt Parker and Trey Stone as an example of a subject that is difficult but that must be on the table. And any other Muslims who came along must be prepared for this. He understood that. He wants that.

      And if we YouTube it, it can function for a model of how adults can dialogue with each other about hard questions. I think that a Greek philosopher like Socrates would approve, as would a Muslim philosopher like Averroes.

      I think that having a meal with a Muslim means coming with your questions and fears to the table, and not knowing what the other person is going to say. I have my own questions about a lot of issues in relation to Islam. They’re not comfortable for me. I expect to learn things. I expect to keep talking and listening and trying to understand.

      So even if I find a question hard to ask, I’m going to ask it anyway, and absorb the response, and see how (not if) the dialogue can continue.

      My Enlightenment faith is that human beings have far more in common than what divides them. I think this universalism is shared by the religious traditions at their best. As such, I predict that, far from concluding that a Muslim sitting across from a non-Muslim cannot communicate productively, I think that, to the contrary, with patience and a process of reason, people will actually find that they’ve increased their understanding and made friends.

      I think of you in that way, as a friend. And that’s because we never broke dialogue out of outrage at the other’s views. I don’t think that the model is transferable to every group except Muslims. Muslims are not sui generis. They are part of the human family and we are part of theirs. It’s time that individuals from both sides took the initiative to collar their neighbors and say, “Can we get to know one another? Can we talk?” My bet is that the average Muslim and the average non-Muslim are far, far more moderate than the vocal extremists on both sides, and it’s informative to come to absorb that about your neighbors. The average Muslim and non-Muslim, talking with one another, might find a new us-them dynamic: the talkers v. the bonfire lighters. In other words, the “us” is the average Muslim and non-Muslim together, and the “them” are those trying to keep us from talking.

      —Santi

      • concerned christian says:

        Santi:
        I appreciate your good intentions and your willingness to connect with people with various opinions and backgrounds. And I wish that you will succeed in that new endeavor, and establish an honest dialog with Muslims over some of the most pressing issues of today. Personally, I started to avoid political and/or religious discussions with most of my friends of all beliefs Christians/Muslims/Atheists because why spoil a good friendship over subjects that I cannot control. Instead I use your blog and some other Arabic blogs to express my opinions anonymously. Any way I am waiting to hear about the outcome of your dinner and good luck.

    • Josh says:

      That’s a very sad situation in Egypt, but thank you for posting that. It’s important that you share this with us Westerners. Because the media here doesn’t report on this too often.

      The way I see it, what’s happening here is that many Westerners who have a politically correct mentality, want all of us to live the same lie that you guys are living in Egypt. They want us to pretend that Islam is a nice religion, that we have the same values, that we are all one united and progressive society. In that respect, it’s almost like living in a totalitarian society where you have to pretend that everything is ok and everyone has to think almost the same. When in reality, we have different perspectives on the world, on many levels.

      Instead of being honest about this, we lie to ourselves hoping that this will stop the violence and fanaticism. If this strategy didn’t stop it in other countries, it won’t stop it anywhere.

      • concerned christian says:

        Josh:
        I appreciate that you care about what’s going on in Egypt. I noticed that you posted a link about Naglaa Al-Imam, an Egyptian Muslim who converted to Christianity and is persecuted by the Government and the Muslim fanatics. She is not the only case, and while many Christian from the Middle East have tried to tell the West about the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim dominated countries, their message was totally ignored by the West. Today it’s no longer just a question of asking the West to defend the rights of minorities in Muslim countries, it’s also warning the West about what will happen if they ignore the spread of Islam in their own countries. Once Muslims reach a certain percentage in any Western Country they will be imposing their own rules on their hosts. It has already started to happen in many European Countries.

    • Josh says:

      You’re not even addressing the things he’s saying. He’s telling you about the way Christians are persecuted in Egypt even with all their efforts to have dialogue, and you don’t even take that into account, you talk about something else.

      • Scott says:

        It’s good to see that some people are going against the flow.

        concerned Christian, I know that the West is in trouble. You are realistic. The persecution of Christians in Islamic countries is a sad reality. There are many in the media and politics here who in spite of all the facts, continue to defend this evil religion.

        They lecture us about dialogue and tolerance instead of learning some history and having some common sense. That’s why we need to continue to speak up and tell the truth. People like you who are from those parts of the world and Americans like us who care about freedom, including religious freedom.

        God bless you! Always remember 9/11! God bless America!

      • santitafarella says:

        Scott,

        First, Concerned’s position is “the flow.” I’m trying to disrupt it.

        Second, could you share how you square being a professed follower of Jesus and, at the same time, being contemptuous of the idea of striking up dialogues with local Muslims?

        Doesn’t Jesus say, in the Sermon on the Mount, blessed are the peacemakers?

        Or am I misunderstanding the passage (it’s in Matthew 5).

        —Santi

  15. MuslimRevert says:

    Forced-in-the-closet progressive Muslim revert available in Chicago. 😉

    • santitafarella says:

      MuslimRevert:

      What, exactly, is that? Do you mean that you were a lapsed Muslim who rediscovered your faith, but feel awkward being “out” about it with your progressive friends?

      Or do you mean that you are progressive or gay and that doesn’t sit well with your Muslim family?

      As for your announcement, I hope somebody in Chicago sees your brief comment and takes you up on coffee.

      —Santi

  16. Deeba Jafri says:

    God bless you, santi. Thank you for doing this. It’s a simple and brilliant idea.

  17. Paradigm says:

    Why instead of? Let’s do both. But asking the hard questions will end dinner pretty fast. Just tell your friend you are ok with burning the Quran in the name of free speech and see what happens. If this indeed goes viral it could be a good eye opener for naive liberals ; )

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm:

      Why would a discussion of Quran burning and free speech stop a dinner? Why would dialogue ever just stop among mature adults? To conclude that, you have very little faith in most people.

      And it’s a bit patronizing. Have you got the maturity and rationality for this, but others do not?

      If anything, I’d think that people trying to hear difficult things over coffee or a meal and talk through them together might find themselves inhabiting a restaurant booth for hours. What might cut the dinner short is uncomfortable small talk that doesn’t really cut to the chase and bring up the honest concerns that brought diverse people together in the first place.

      People, in their hearts, know that this is a vitally important issue—Muslim and non-Muslim relations—and that it needs airing, dialogue, civility, and reason brought to bear upon it.

      I may be Don Quixote, but I doubt it. I don’t think that the Enlightenment analysis of what humans are (rational beings with universal characteristics that make them more alike than different) is naive. And I don’t think that human beings need to ever be opaque to one another. What is naive, in my view, is exactly the opposite: that humans cannot rise to an important existential occasion.

      “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” is a siren call to our better selves. When that call has been put before people in the past, it has been answered. I’m thinking, for example, of when white Americans stepped into the voting booth and voted for a black man in 2008. A lot of naive cynics, poorly judging what’s most true about human nature, said that, in the privacy of the voting booth, whites wouldn’t pull the voting lever for a black man. But they did.

      And so I ask you: why is an Internet call for dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims something that the average person cannot really rise to? I think it cracks open the heart and reason of every individual who stumbles upon this invitation, and it makes a space for something important to happen.

      Everybody knows that these human connections need to be fostered if our planet is to have a hopeful and peaceful future. We can’t just leave this to clergy and politicians.

      So get on the freedom bus, Paradigm! Let’s do a democratic end run around the hostile imams, FOX Noisers, and any others who have a stake in keeping Muslims and non-Muslims from talking. Who says the violent imams own Islam or that the FOX people own the American flag? Maybe the simple act of cutting out these middle men will lead us to conclude that Islam is something different than advertised.

      So, Paradigm, I’m asking you to collar a Muslim this week and ask that person to lunch and see what happens. How’s that old Huckleberry Finn-like saying go?: “You never know how far a frog will jump unless you poke it.”

      Maybe human beings are ready for initiating their own cross-cultural dialogues, and will “jump” much further in the direction of reason, compassion, understanding, and mercy than we dare to imagine right now. As of this moment, however, your running assumption is this: if you “poke” a Muslim with an uncomfortable question, they’ll most likely jump toward irrationality and agression, and stop the dialogue.

      So run the experiment and see.

      People are sick to death of the boxes that they’ve been put in. “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” is one way to open those boxes and let some air and sunlight in. And maybe we can all jump out together and surprise one another at how wonderful and rational that we all actually are.

      “Who told you that you were a frog? It turns out you’re a prince—and beautiful. Wow!”

      —Santi

      • Josh says:

        You should read “Why we left Islam: former muslims speak out”. It’s a book that has the testimonies of former Muslims, and they emphasize the nightmare of living under sharia law. And sharia does not have anything to do with extremists, it’s just basic Islamic doctrine. Islam is not Islam anymore without sharia law. So living in an Islamic society is something that we as Westerners can’t imagine.

        So give this book to a Muslim to read it.

        A Christian can read “The DaVinci code” and just laugh at it, he’s not going to take seriously. You can’t say the same about Muslims who read some book that would say something similar about their prophet, even if it’s fiction.

        That’s why I think all the propaganda against “those who promote fear of Islam” is dangerous and stupid, because it encourages ignorance. It’s a normal fear, we don’t want to lose our freedom and live under Islamic totalitarianism. That’s what it’s all about, it’s not about hating people.

      • Paradigm says:

        “Why would a discussion of Quran burning and free speech stop a dinner? Why would dialogue ever just stop among mature adults? To conclude that, you have very little faith in most people.”

        “And so I ask you: why is an Internet call for dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims something that the average person cannot really rise to?”

        According to PEW around 40 percent didn’t want to answer wether they approved of suicide bombings. The hard questions have already been asked and shown to be conversation stoppers.

        “So, Paradigm, I’m asking you to collar a Muslim this week and ask that person to lunch and see what happens. How’s that old Huckleberry Finn-like saying go?: “You never know how far a frog will jump unless you poke it.”

        They live in our countries and are fully aware of how we differ from them. A small group of academics adjust while the vast majority stay the same. A lunch isn’t going to change that.

  18. Pingback: Make Babies or Islam Takes Over? « Spritzophrenia

  19. Christ's Angel says:

    “Because I believe that dialogue is the hope of the world.”

    Neither dialogue nor hope is of the world. Your gibberish confirms what St. Paul the Apostle wrote concerning God putting into play belief in lies. Your indulgence into agnosticism has spawned this.

    What you should first condone concerning Muslims as anything near an English anything is the interpretations of the Koran by ApplePie.

    • mary says:

      Remove the wax from your ears, Angel.

      Asra Q. Nomani, a Muslim, points to problematic verses in the Quran in an article at the Daily Beast:

      … “But I believe that there is something that endangers Americans and American soldiers even more: certain passages that—when read literally—pit Muslims against Americans and the West.

      “We, as Muslims, need to tear a few pages out of the Quran.

      “I believe the Qurans are being burnt because we, as Muslims, haven’t dealt sincerely and intellectually with very serious issues that certain Quranic passages raise, particularly in the West. These include verses—when literally read—that say that disobedient wives can be beaten “lightly,” that Muslims can’t be friends with the Jews and the Christians, and that it’s OK to kill converts from Islam.

      “We, as Muslims, need to tear a few pages out of the Quran—symbolically, at least, by rejecting literal adherence to certain problematic verses. The Christian faith had to deal with problematic verses from the Book of Deuteronomy that sanctioned violence. Jews have had to confront rigid readings of the Old Testament that sanctioned stonings. Muslims, too, must re-interpret verses that aren’t compatible with life in the 21st century.

      “Look at one literal reading of the 34th verse of the fourth chapter of the Quran, An-Nisa, or Women. …

      “Such appalling recommendations occur because we haven’t yet universally drawn a line in the sand, as Muslims, and said that this verse may have been progressive for the seventh century when women were supposedly beaten indiscriminately, but it isn’t compatible with the modern day, if read literally. …

      “The kidnapping and killing of my friend and colleague Daniel Pearl in 2002 forced me to confront the link between literalist interpretations of the Quran and their role in sanctioning violence in the world. For critics of Islam, these verses are the smoking gun that proves that Islam is intrinsically violent. These are verses such as At-Tauba (“The Repentance”) 9:5, which states that Muslims should “slay the pagans wherever ye find them” or Al-Mâ’idah (“The Table Spread with Food”) 5:51, which reads, “Take not the Jews and Christians as friends.”

      “We need to reject literal reads of the Quran and recognize that these verses were communicated during specific moments of war, and they aren’t edicts for all time. We, as Muslims, must reject the notion that we read these words literally. To many, that would be an act of blasphemy. But, until we do, the literal words of the Quran will be used to rally hate against the faith. And that is why, indeed, Qurans will be burned by the small congregation of about 50 folks from the Rev. Terry Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center. It’s really just these particular verses that need to go up in smoke.”

      Asra Q. Nomani is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for
      the Soul of Islam.

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09-08/get-over-the-quran-bur
      ning/

      • santitafarella says:

        Mary,

        I agree that there are violent, sexist, and authoritarian passages in the Quran, and that a lot of Muslims read them literally, but please don’t pretend that equivelent passages in the Bible have been transcended by all Jews and Christians (or even most). As we speak, the Bible is being used to sanction the following: war, terrorism, psychological abuse, sexism, injustice, torture, homophobia, anti-evolutionary nonsense, general irrationality, apocalyptic nihilism, and child abuse (just to make a short list). From Uganda to Gaza to the United States, it is easy to find demonstrations of evil things that have been, and are being, justified via expressed loyalties to The Book. Ever heard, for example, of Serbia or Ireland?

        I hope that the dialogue that I’m promoting in “International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day” opens up honest conversations about fundamentalism and religious nationalism, and the ways that we, as humans, use religious texts. In other words, I hope that we can start to do better than just point fingers at the pathologies of the other side even as we remain blind to our own (or worse, crassly apologetic).

        Also, I’m of the view that atheists and agnostics need to come clean as well. There’s a lot about us that stinks too, and it needs to be talked about.

        But now I’m thinking of Billy Joel’s song, “Honesty.”

        —Santi

      • Christ's angel says:

        And what is a Muslim? A decendant of Ishmael, a mulish man, who knew nothing of the abuses to be heaped upon Mohammed by Mohammed’s greedy family which attempts to foster an international religion based on a book of poetry, the Koran, which is mostly a rewriting of the Book of Revelation of the Holy Bible.

        Take the mud out of your eye, mary.

        The key word here is greed. The non-greedy decendants of Ishmael and Isaac get along just fine because they give Christ a home in their hearts.

  20. Pingback: A Song for International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day (September 17, 2010) « Prometheus Unbound

  21. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    I take exception to your point that
    “but please don’t pretend that equivelent passages in the Bible have been transcended by all Jews and Christians (or even most). As we speak, the Bible is being used to sanction the following: war, terrorism, … ”
    First: Yes there are some sections in the OT that is hard to defend, but starting with Philo the Jewish teacher and many early Church fathers from Origen to St. Augustine, they applied allegorical interpretation to these texts. Also most of the OT is focussed on moral teachings that are good and positive.
    Second: The clear message of the NT, as stated by our Lord Jesus Christ and reiterated by almost all the disciples, is “unconditional love even to your enemies”
    Third: Yes people can still distort the message of the Bible but they can distort any book holy or unholy. So don’t blame the Bible for all its misinterpretation.
    To sum it up I will use your approach as a Professor of Literature: You ask the students “what are the main messages of this book? What are the main messages of the OT, the NT, and the Quran? That should be a very important question to ask.

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      I, personally, don’t conflate texts. Paul says something different from John, John from Mark, etc.

      But, at their best, I would hope that people would read their religious collections—their Bibles—in the light of their deepest spiritual intuition, which is love and walking in the shoes of others. No religion is any good that doesn’t foreground these two things, and with regard to the Quran I would note that every chapter begins with God’s mercy and compassion. If you cannot see that this is what impels Muslims to love their book as you love yours, then I think that most Muslims would say that you do not understand them or the heart of Islam.

      Most Christians are drawn to the admirable qualities of Christ and most Muslims are drawn to the admirable qualities of God (the 99 names of God in Islam), as well as the admirable qualities of prophets like Muhammad and (for Muslims) Jesus.

      I believe that if you are going to love people, and you are going to make them part of your family, then you’ve got to find out that highest part of them, the thing that calls them that is admirable, and regard that as their “true” self. To the deep fault of agnostics and atheists, we have not done that toward Christians, Muslims, and other religious people, and I apologize for that. I’m trying to fix that in myself by promoting dialogue.

      —Santi

  22. Responding to the questions about problematic passages in the Quran above, I don’t pretend that all is fairy-dust and smiles.

    I personally find some passages in the Quran highly problematic (as I do with some in some other religious texts). As I’ve said on my own blog, I don’t find conservative Islam personally attractive.

    HOWEVER, the important point to me is that we have more in common – as humans – than we do different. We all love our families and desire to live a peaceful live.

    I’m convinced that talking to each other on this human level will do more good than arguing over interpretations. I’m hopeful that if the Muslims in Afghanistan protesting had met a non-Muslim who took them out for coffee, they would be a little warmer towards the West.

    How could someone who “knows” us personally continue to hate us?

    • Josh says:

      That’s a very thoughtful statement.

      The problem is, it’s hard for most Muslims to reconcile their love for other fellow human beings, with being devout to their religion. After all, the Koran does command them to mistreat and even kill “infidels”. So why should we be less concerned about this than we are about the past attitude of Catholicism when it persecuted “heretics”?

      If the Western world doesn’t start reclaiming its values and being realistic about the doctrines and practices of Islam, then we are headed into a new dark age. America and Europe are falling apart socially, culturally, economically and spiritually.

      Yes, we should love Muslims and respect them, but that doesn’t mean we have to be lying to ourselves that their religion is peaceful and that any criticism of it is hatred. This is intellectual suicide, and many are going into that directio.

      We can respect their religion the way America respected it even 150 years ago, without compromising our own beliefs and values.

      • Josh says:

        And without compromising our freedom of speech.

      • santitafarella says:

        Josh:

        Why don’t you invite a Muslim for coffee this week and have a dialogue? Bring up the issues you raise above, and see what the person says.

        Let’s strike up conversations, not bonfires.

        —Santi

      • Oh, I agree Josh. It is very hard for some Muslims to see outside their cultural upbringing; but I would argue the same for us ghetto-ised Westerners. (If we only talk to other people of our culture, we too, are in a ghetto.)

        Even though it’s hard, I think the long-term benefits of having gentle conversations could reap the benefit of less hate, more understanding. I hope.

        If anything, surely it will achieve more than war?

        As Santi said, why not find a Muslim and try it?

      • Josh says:

        I talk to people from other cultures. You can’t be too blunt with a Muslim, however, because they get offended or they just tell you that terrorists misrepresent their religion. It’s an easy way out of a conversation like that.

  23. santitafarella says:

    Spritzo:

    I’ve got one report of an imam speaking of International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day from a pulpit on the East Coast of the United States! More details later.

    And I spoke to a reporter last night. More on that later.

    —Santi

  24. Pingback: Saudi Woman Links to International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day (Sept 17, 2010) « Prometheus Unbound

  25. Josh says:

    You should read “Why we left Islam: former muslims speak out”. It’s a book that has the testimonies of former Muslims, and they emphasize the nightmare of living under sharia law. And sharia does not have anything to do with extremists, it’s just basic Islamic doctrine. Islam is not Islam anymore without sharia law. So living in an Islamic society is something that we as Westerners can’t imagine.

    That’s why I think all the propaganda against “those who promote fear of Islam” is dangerous and stupid, because it encourages ignorance. It’s a normal fear, we don’t want to lose our freedom and live under Islamic totalitarianism. That’s what it’s all about, it’s not about hating people.

    • santitafarella says:

      Josh,

      First off, Sharia only applies to Muslims—to Muslim converts or people who were born in the religion and have remained in the religion. It’s not a totalitarian ideology that Muslims mean to impose on non-Muslims by force. Any Muslim who does want this, I oppose. But most Muslims do not have this view of their own religion. Submission to God in Islam is voluntary: it is not an act of coercion (or, by definition, it wouldn’t be submission).

      Second, if you become an Orthodox Jew, you also submit to the law of your religion (which most non-Orthodox would decidedly hate trying to do). If you take up Buddhist practice, that’s hard too. Or being a Catholic or a strict Hindu. All religions have their levels of difficulty. Not all practitioners practice with the same degree of rigor.

      Third, Muslim Americans are a small minority in the United States. They couldn’t force Sharia on everybody (even if they wanted to). What is dangerous for America, in my view, is dropping our Jeffersonian principle of treating Muslim American citizens as complex individuals and replacing that principle with cartoonish stereotypes and collective guilt scapegoating.

      I would ask you this week to simply put your theory to the test. Locate a Muslim, ask them for coffee, and ask them what their relationship is to Sharia law and how they look at it. They’ll tell you. And then come back here and tell me what they said. We’ll all learn something.

      —Santi

      • Paradigm says:

        “First off, Sharia only applies to Muslims—to Muslim converts or people who were born in the religion and have remained in the religion. It’s not a totalitarian ideology that Muslims mean to impose on non-Muslims by force.”

        According to a Gallup a majority of people in for instance Pakistan and Egypt wish to have Sharia as the only source of legislation, thus applying to all.

  26. Josh says:

    I don’t know if sharia only applies to Muslims.

    It’s interesting what you say, Santi. But if it applies only to Muslims, then why aren’t religious minorities in those countries allowed to preach their faith openly?

    As far as submission to God being voluntary, you’re simply wrong on that. “submission to God in Islam is voluntary: it is not an act of coercion (or, by definition).”

    Then why do they have so-called apostasy laws that apply to all their people? In their legal system these laws call for the punishment and in some cases even the death penalty for people who convert to another religious faith. If that’s not coercion, then you don’t know what you’re talking about, sorry for saying this.

    If you go to this link, you’ll see a real life story, people who are victims of apostasy law.

    http://markdurie.blogspot.com/2010/07/nagla-al-imam-convert-to-christianity.html

    And while you’re at it, you may want to sign the petition that tries to change this.

    http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/petition-sign.cgi?2010smpf

  27. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    In talking to Muslims we need to seek the truth to look deeper and not get blinded by superficial images. Somehow liberals in their attempts to be nonjudgmental avoid the painful truth and swallow the sugarcoated lies. Embracing Islam today is not much different from embracing communism in the past, before communism collapsed in front of our eyes. Remember how the left painted Reagan as loose cannon, how they considered him a threat to peace when he called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire, and how they laughed at him when he asked Mr. Gorbachev “to tear down that wall” They did that while the intellectual elite like Professor John Gurley of Stanford University said in his book “Challengers to Capitalism” published in 1975 “American tourist to China in the last few years have had the opportunity to contrast the optimism of the Chinese with the pessimism here at home” He said that while China was going through the nightmare of cultural revolution. Are we approaching Islam today with same gullibility we treated communism then? For the sake of humanity all of it of every creed we need to ask the hard questions and demand answers from Muslims about what they are really seeking to accomplish in their own countries and in the countries they immigrated to.

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      Ask the hard questions, I agree. Surely where you live there must be a mosque. Go talk to the imam and report back what he said to you. Ask him who sharia, for example, applies to. Or what the core values of his religion are. I think that it will boil down to love.

      As for your communism/Islam analogy, for it to work then you would have to consider Islamic civilization an “evil empire.” I suppose that you do, but I continue to believe that Islam is, like all other religions boiled down, a way for most of its adherents to get in touch with the ontological mystery (“God”) and love, compassion, and empathy towards one’s neighbors. The great question remains, Who is my neighbor? The broader that net gets cast by a religion, the better it is for humanity. I think that Islam is capable of answering that question globally, as is Christianity, as is Judaism. You regard Islam as sui generis. I don’t.

      But why don’t you go talk to some Muslims directly in your community, especially the leaders well versed in Islam, and tell me what they say? That’s an effort I’m making in my own community. I’m not sure where that journey will take me, but I’m about to learn something, that’s for sure.

      As an aside, I’d remind you that Reagan used to call Afghan’s mujahadeen “freedom fighters” against communism. How soon we forget.

      —Santi

      • concerned christian says:

        Santi:
        I don not need to talk to an Imam, because as I mentioned before I came from Egypt where every Friday you can hear loudspeakers from almost every Mosque and there are thousands of them, cursing Christians and Jews and praying to God that they should be annihilated. In Arabic they say
        “اللهم بددهم بددا
        ولا تبقي منهم أحدا”
        God scatter them “the Christians and the Jews” and do not leave one of them. As for Reagan, obviously his support of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan was a bad idea. He was so focussed on defeating communism that he allied himself with the wrong party. I guess sometimes the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can backfire on you.

      • santitafarella says:

        Concerned:

        So what you are saying is that you, personally, have what I would call “understanding fatigue,” and you are done with dialogue, right?

        If so, I don’t blame you. It’s often hard to give a shit, and it’s often hard to see the good in something in the midst of a lot of bad (or the value of even bothering).

        But let me ask you: why do you assume that what a radical cleric says over a loudspeaker is going to be the same as what an American Muslim imam says over coffee? What makes you privilege the situatedness of the Turkish imam as a more authentic expression of Islam than the liberalizing American imam?

        What if the American imam, his politicization toned down, is actually more in contact with the spiritual heart of Islam—the best that is in Islam—than the culturally beseiged radical imam in, say, Turkey? Why, in other words, is it assumed by you that fundamentalist reaction to modernism constitutes authentic Islam, the heart of Islam?

        I would suggest an analogy: the finches at Galapagos are different from the ones on the South American continent. Likewise, American Muslims are in a process of accelerated evolution as well, and are different from, say, Muslims in Pakistan.

        Put another way: the old breeds of finches on the South American continent may always have their niches, but others evolve as well. Why do you assume that Islam is not, under the pressures of modernity and different contingent geographies, evolving?

        And if religion evolves, why not help it evolve in the direction of the heart and compassion by keeping dialogue open? It seems to reinforce cult results if you don’t talk to outsiders, don’t you think?

        —Santi

  28. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    Yes you got it, my attitudes towards Muslims changed over the last forty years, but it’s not my fault. After all the atrocities committed against my Christian brothers in Egypt, and after what was done in the name of Islam all over the World, from New York to Bali, I like many others changed my attitude towards Islam. BTW this is “the Elephant in the room” here in America since 9/11. While a relatively long list of terrorist actions were committed in the name of Islam here in America, we have a government that bent over backward to avoid “calling a spade a spade”. We have an AG who cannot say “radical Islam”, a homeland security chief who want to call terrorism “man made disaster”, and we have a MSM who continuously lectures us about our bigotry towards Muslim. The average American is frustrated by this circus and he also started to develop “an understanding fatigue” towards Islam. This problem will get worse unless we have more people like you who can see that side of the issue and try to openly discuss it.

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      You wrote: “This problem will get worse unless we have more people like you who can see that side of the issue and try to openly discuss it.”

      I do see your side of the issue: I’m not confident, for example, that traditional Islam is compatible with democracy. It may be an alternative to democracy, but it may not be compatible with it. It may be the same with Orthodox Judaism. Once you have the final revelation of the law, how (logically) do you make new laws according to the will of the people? If the people in an Orthodox Jewish or traditonalist Muslim community or state veer from the law handed down by God as a final word on how things should go, then democracy means “straying from its source.”

      Christianity, by contrast, in declaring the Jewish law null and void in Christ, inadvertently opened a way for the Greek demos to sneak back into Western cultural history in the political realm (to the enormous benefit of humanity). If you don’t have a law code, you’ve got to evolve one. And if you render unto Ceasar one thing, and to God another, then church and state are separate. These are the minimal conditions for serious democracy (rule by individual citizens).

      Two great innovations of Western culture are thus “rule by the demos” and the separation of church and state made explicit by Locke. Muslims have to figure out how to square their religion with atomistic individualism governing via democracy and the separation of church and state. That’s why I’m hopeful that American Muslims will be the source for evolutionary innovation of Islam generally: that’s the American Muslim’s historic contribution to Islam: how to get that right within the context of the spiritual heart of their tradition. Reactionaries think it can’t be done, and intimidate others in even thinking thoughts about such subjects. But Muslims in America have the intellectual freedom to think these thoughts. They’re the hope for others who think them in repressive states (like Iran) but cannot express them.

      —Santi

      • concerned christian says:

        Santi:
        I agree with what you said about Christianity, but I want to clarify what I really meant by
        “This problem will get worse unless we have more people like you who can see that side of the issue and try to openly discuss it.”
        I am suggesting that average Americans have also started to suffer “understanding fatigue,” towards Islam. I propose this as an explanation for the changing attitudes of Americans towards Islam. While there was few violent attacks on American interest by Muslims before 9/11; The Marines in Beirut, the Rangers in Somalia, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the Embassies in Africa, and USS Cole, the average Americans did not rush to judgment and did not connect the dots. They managed to compartmentalize 9/11 and blamed it on Al Qaeda and the Rogue Regime in Afghanistan. However, as a pattern of terrorism linked to Islam started to take shape, after 9/11, Average Americans started to connect the dots and see that these acts are really linked to Islam. However the power to be and MSM continued the whitewashing and the denial of any link of these terrorist acts to Islam. They even went on the offense describing anyone who criticizes Islam as uneducated bigots. Obviously this approach is not working, and liberals need to see that side of the argument more clearly to be able to address it.

      • Scott says:

        “Christianity, by contrast, in declaring the Jewish law null and void in Christ”

        It didn’t declare the entire law null and void.
        Thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not have other gods beside Me, are still in effect and will always be.

        It just stopped observing certain aspects of the law, because they were fulfilled by Christ Jesus.
        The death penalty for certain sins is null, since Jesus died to pay for all sins. That’s a significant change brought by Jesus in the new covenant.

  29. concerned christian says:

    Now speaking of Sahria Law,, here is a tragedy that President Obama should be personally interested in. Recently there was a shock when a survey shows that 24% of the population thinks that Obama is Muslim, but do you know that 100% of Muslims applying Sharia will consider Obama to be either a Muslim, or even worse an apostate who deserve punishment.
    Here’s the law as it is applied in Egypt, children whose one of their parents converted to Islam automatically become Muslims. There are many cases in the Egyptian Courts where a Christian whose father or mother converted to Islam is fighting to prove that he is still a Christian. One of the most famous cases is the case of two young boys Mario and Andrew. In the last few years, with their mother Kamelia, they have been fighting in the Egyptian Courts to claim their rights to stay Christians. Their Christian father converted to Islam, few years after they were born, so according to Sharia they too became Muslims. The case has been in court for a long time and their mother cannot get a clear decision that her children are still Christians, in spite of the fact that they are active deacons in the Church. The absurdity reaches a new level when they were forced to take Islamic religion test in the Middle school. They simply wrote “I am a Christian” in the answering sheet and turned back. There was discussions in the ministry of Education at the highest level to find a way to get around their failing grade in the religion they did not choose!

  30. Rick London says:

    I love this idea. I wish I still lived in NYC or Wash D.C. where I knew many more Moslems, but now I live in the mountains of Arkansas where there are only a few. I do not know them, but I am going to call my old friends in D.C. and NYC just to say hello. When I think of the nuts who are burning Qurans simply out of hate, if they only realize they are comparing Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Mohammad Ali to Osama bin Laden, they could really see how ridiculous they are.

  31. Pingback: September 17th, 2010: International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day « Prometheus Unbound

  32. muslimah says:

    Im a muslim female and i dont see anything wrong with shariah law but then again i agree with capital punishment and believe the laws in the west are detrimental to decent moral values. There is a reason why prisons are getting bigger and we need more of them, its because our lenient laws are not taken seriously enough by crime doers. Chop of a hand or atleast give the threat of it and im sure the crime rate will drop dramatically!.

    • andrewclunn says:

      I used to believe that harsher punishments would deter crime too, then studies showed that most criminals are… well stupid and don’t think about long term consequences. So basically harsh punishments work for thoughtful people. But those people don’t become criminals anyways.

      My mind was really changed when I saw the information out there about police brutality. If you give the police unrestricted power to stop criminals then all the criminals decide to become police officers instead. Scary stuff, I know, but sadly true.

      • muslimah says:

        well i dont agree with the study because its proven in some muslim countries where crime rates are ALOT lower.
        Anyway i dont think its correct to say that criminals are all stupid (i wonder how they came about that) because some just abuse the system and know they will get out and the punishment isnt tough enough. Ofcourse im not saying give police permission to do all sorts, its ONLY the courts that can give out shariah punishments not a police officer or members of the public etc.

      • Josh says:

        You’re right. No matter how harsh the punishments, some will never change their ways. It’s stupid to have a system based on the terror of harsh punishments. But I guess in Islam a lot of things are based on fear.

        “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
        -Romans 8:14-16

    • santitafarella says:

      Musilmah:

      I heard a Muslim make the following argument: if you were to start killing, say, murderers with swift justice, and the very swiftness of the executions brought the murder rate down 30%, that society would be more humane, not less so (because fewer people would suffer from lost family members).

      Is that your position?

      But, if so, then how do you deal with two problems: (1) the notion of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (in other words, rights to reasonable appeal, which take time); and (2) giving the state so much power over citizens that citizens fear the state’s swiftness as intimidation.

      —Santi

  33. muslimah says:

    concerned xtian….

    well im sure jesus said similiar things to the non believers, infact he wanted to fight the jews because of their disbelief but he didnt have enough disciples, except a handful so he could not do anything!.

    • santitafarella says:

      Musilmah:

      What do you mean by fight here? Is it your position that Jesus would have killed Jews with an army of believers?

      In other words, is it a strategy thing? When you’re in the minority, be nice, but when you’re in the majority be naughty (hostile, violent, intimidating toward religious minorities)?

      What, exactly, are you advocating and from where are you advocating it?

      What country are you writing from? England?

      —Santi

      • Josh says:

        He thinks Jesus and the Jewish Christians were like the Muslims of today, especially those in the West.
        This is what they do, when they’re in the minority they are nice and peaceful, and when they are in the majority they impose their religion by dictatorial means. Maybe not all of them think like that, but I dare say most do.

        The fact that he said this about Jesus betrays their mindset.

        You asked a good question, is it a strategy thing. Yes, for them it is. Too bad most Westerners refuse to realize this.

      • santitafarella says:

        Josh,

        My problem with your observation is how you shifted from one person to “they.”

        And it’s informative that someone who said that she just loves to engage non-Muslims in debate has, with some direct questions, split the scene.

        —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        That might be my fault. My posts were rather direct and had I taken to seconds to remember that the poster in question is female and fairly traditional, my posts probably came off seeming to indicate something I did not intend. (This is not intended to imply anything about females, but only about the traditional views of what is and is not acceptable for within Muslim traditional society regarding females and males from outside of the family).

      • Josh says:

        That’s because he’s not the only one I’ve heard talking like this. A guy from France said on an online forum that his neighbor, a Muslim doctor said to him that if they would be in the majority, the Christians would need a special permit to hold services in their churches. And again, that’s not the only one who thinks and talks like that.

      • Josh says:

        that’s because she’s not the only one talking like this.

    • Josh says:

      “You’re sure” Jesus said the same things to non-believers. really? How can you be sure?? You’re talking from hearsay. You probably didn’t even read the Bible, the Gospels and you say you are sure. 🙂

      By the way, a dialogue is a two-way conversation. You expect us to read your Koran and to understand your religion, but you’re not reading the Bible and you are not making an effort to understand ours!

  34. muslimah says:

    I love this idea too, i once went to a methodist church with an ex missionary freind from canada (im from the uk) and i challenged the pastor and his father (who was also a pastor) and some other members of the church and it was quite eye opening to say the least, i’d had some respect for christian theology but after that I have to say i lost it, they were all over the place and couldnt hold a constructive argument, the most weird thing was i was using THE BIBLE as arguments and they couldnt even answer saying but ‘jesus died for your sins’ was the most i could get.

    Some jehoavas witness (incl a priest or head of the group) had the most unfortunate chance of knocking on my door once and 6 hours later they couldnt wait to leave!! their faces dropped and it seemed as though they wanted the earth to split and swallow them, that doesnt happen very often as JW are usually very strong minded. I still respect them though and would love to have another discussion but for some reason they dont seem to reply to my emails or even drop by on my street anymore!

    • andrewclunn says:

      You. Do you live in the upstate New york area? You’re strong willed self-confident and itching for an upfront debate and discussion. I’ve been worried that any Muslim I talk to I’d feel bad about going into uncomfortable territory and would purposefully keep conversation light because of it, but if you’re this strong willed in person then you’re definitely the Muslim I want to have a discussion with.

    • santitafarella says:

      Muslimah:

      It’s admirable that you’re talking, but you seem rigid as well. If you’re an open minded person you don’t lose your respect (which you put in the past tense, meaning you’re done with the subject) for Christian theology based on your encounter with a small sample of lay Methodists.

      From my vantage, as an agnostic, I get the impression that you treat your encounters with easy targets (such as lay people in Methodist churches and JWs at your door) as ways to bolster an otherwise not entirely confident faith. If your religion has answers for all comers, could you please discuss with me how your religion answers secular scientists who insist that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that a process of evolution diversified life on the planet?

      Have you ever read, for example, any books on the subject of evolution by writers like Jerry Coyne? See here:

      http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-True-Jerry-Coyne/dp/0143116649/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284405326&sr=8-1

      I guess my question for you is this: if Islam is a religion with good answers for all comers, then how does Islam reconcile itself to evolution? Do you, as a Muslim, accept the age of the earth that scientists assert, and the evolution of species?

      —Santi

  35. Pingback: George Packer: Are Reason and Dialogue Losing Their Hold on Our Times? « Prometheus Unbound

  36. Pingback: Why I’m Trying to Get to Know the Muslims in My Community (And Why I Hope You’ll Consider Trying to Do the Same) « Prometheus Unbound

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  38. Pingback: Muslims and Non-Muslims Breaking Silence and Bread: James Fallows on Individual Idiosyncracies and Large Group Traits « Prometheus Unbound

  39. Scott says:

    http://pennireef1west.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/read-the-koran-dont-burn-it/ Great advice from a Christian Conservative pastor. Dont’ burn the Koran, read it and then tell others what a bunch of nonsense it is.

    • santitafarella says:

      Scott,

      Do you, personally, know any Muslims, and have you read the Quran yourself?

      How about reading a couple of chapters of the Quran and inviting a Muslim out for coffee this week to talk about it?

      Did you know, for example, that each chapter of the Quran begins with an affirmation of God’s mercy and compassion? Is that a bad or nonsensical way to think about God?

      —Santi

      • Scott says:

        I have read some portions of it. For instance, the phrase “Great is God! He will surely slay the unbelievers” appears a few times. If repeating that phrase makes sense to you, fine.

        I look at it this way. If God has anything to say to the world, to His creatures, I’d think He would have something more intelligent to say than that.

      • Scott says:

        Yes, I do know a few Muslims but I don’t talk about religion. I’ve done it before and they usually say something about terrorists misinterpreting their religion, it’s the easy way out of the conversation for them.

    • Scott says:

      I paraphrased what Josh said because I noticed that too. When you talk to Muslims about religion, “They say something about terrorists misinterpreting their religion, it’s the easy way out of the conversation for them.” That’s why it’s difficult to have an honest dialogue.

      • santitafarella says:

        Scott:

        Over one billion people. When you make generalizations about how “Muslims,” and what they “usually say” to get out of a conversation, what am I to conclude? That you’ve talked to a represenative sample of them? That you’ve discovered, by some empirical method, that they are unreachable via dialogue, and cannot be reasoned with?

        I don’t believe it.

        And what is your sample size, again?

        —Santi

      • Scott says:

        You’re trying to avoid the inevitable conclusion.

        If I tell you five out of five came up with the same arguments that I just mentioned, what would you say?

        I didn’t say they are all violent or fanatical.
        I’m saying that the majority of Muslims do not think critically about their own religion and never admit that it’s not terrorists who make Islam what it is, it’s some of the doctrines of the Quran.

        You’re going to ask me now, how do I know the majority does not think critically. Because if they did, they would have tried to reform it. There are very few who would do that. By the way, that’s one of the things that this guy is saying among other things in this interview. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpisP1jqKe8&feature=related

        Did you watch this interview? Please watch it, it’s very thought provoking, it’s from the British television. Then we’ll talk.

  40. Scott says:

    Tell others what a bunch of nonses it is. 🙂

  41. concerned christian says:

    Scott:
    Thank you and God bless you, we, the Christians and some Muslims who came from the Arab and Muslim World are trying hard to warn the West about the real agenda of Radical Islam. We are continuing the role played by those who escaped the iron curtain and tried in vain to tell the West about the tragedies going on behind the curtain. Unfortunately, Radical Islam managed to infiltrate Academia and the MSM. Most of Middle Eastern Departments in top colleges are controlled by people, some of them BTW are Christians, who are whitewashing Islam. Radical Muslims manage to find their way to NPR, CNN and major networks. So we are bombarded by all these programs on PBS, and other stations, that paint a bright picture of Muslim civilization as a great but misunderstood civilization. We are dealing with a World turned upside down, where positive messages about Islam, based on a Utopian beliefs, are treated as reliable facts coming from those who know the truth, while any criticism of Islam, while based on real events, is described as bigoted and racist opinion!

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      I tend to agree with you that political Islam, as most obviously practiced in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, is an alternative to democracy, not a compliment to it, but since we are living in the West, and there are Muslims living among us, do you see any value in having meals with them and integrating them into the American experiment? Or do you think of them as the enemy within (however nice, personally). Also, do you think that Islam has no capacity to evolve, via Western Muslim intellectuals, over the next century, becoming predominantly integrative and plurastic?

      Why do you presume, in other words, that political Islamism of the form practiced by the Wahabis et al is the future of Islam? Why doesn’t the future belong to the moderates protected in the West?

      Fifty years ago, for example, you would rarely see (so I’m told) veiled women in Iran or Cairo. In other words, what we are seeing today is a contingent cultural phenomenon. So why is the future of Islam set in stone—a reaction to Western capitalism and democracy? Why can’t it, over the next century, come to terms with these things (as Jews and other “book” religions have done)?

      Lastly, if the West provides the cover for intellectuals to do their work liberalizing Quran interpretation, why don’t you think the culture generally will evolve? Once the intellectual milk is spilled, it’s hard to put it back in the bottle, don’t you think? It may take a century, but what is the source of your pessimism?

      —Santi

    • Scott says:

      Yeah, I know the propaganda in academic institutions.

      You say some of those politically correct academics are Christians. I wouldn’t say they are Christians, they come from Christian backgrounds. They are liberal Protestants or Catholics who don’t take the Bible seriously. Some are secular Jews. Many of them don’t even believe in a personal God.

      You’re right, this propaganda is on television, in education, political analysis, just about everywhere.

      Is it any wonder then, why there are many “Jihad Jane” Western idiots who become Muslim terrorists?

      That’s the result of indoctrination with self-hate, it’s coming from the Left. When they hear over and over from Western Liberals that America and the West are evil and imperialistic, that capitalism is bad, that Islam is a wonderful religion, then some will turn against their own people and culture.

  42. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    Those are great questions and they are basically what you are trying to address through many postings on your blog, and here are may answers.

    “do you see any value in having meals with them and integrating them into the American experiment?”

    Having meals with meals with Muslims is a great idea, as long as it leads to real and meaningful dialog. I will support my argument with what is going on in Egypt. Now, we have many Banquets set up during the month of Ramadan, either hosted by the Church or by the Government, where both Christians and Muslims share a fancy feast, while glossing over all the nasty things going on mainly by Muslims against Christians. We did not have these meals during the time of our previous Pope, Kyrollos VI, but we used to have a much better relation between the church and the Muslims in general and the Government in particular.

    “Or do you think of them as the enemy within”

    Absolutely not, what I am trying to fight is radical Islam, the world will be much better if we can get more Muslims to recognize the danger of this ideology and join our ranks. BTW most of the victims of these terrorists are Muslims.

    “Why do you presume, in other words, that political Islamism of the form practiced by the Wahabis et al is the future of Islam? Why doesn’t the future belong to the moderates protected in the West?”

    So far we are witnessing the rising tide of Radical Islam, it started forty years age, picked up steam, and is still going strong. To defeat these systems we need the free world, from all religions and political persuasions, to come together. That is my hope and that is why I keep bothering you with my postings.

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      Well, the distinctions that you are making seem to me reasonable; you’re saying that Radical Islam is the enemy—and I agree—but if I am understanding you correctly, you are also saying that moderate Muslims in the West can make solidarity with non-Muslims for a pluralistic and free world. That’s what I’m arguing too, so I think we agree (if not in details, at least in general).

      I think that dialogue among free western Muslims and non-Muslims is a force for moderation, and I think that Western Muslim intellectuals, through the universities, will, over the next century, steer the broad ship of Islam toward an (uneasy) accomodation with the Enlightenment, capitalism, feminism, democracy, and pluralism (as have Reformed Judaism and Christianity, which are further along this road).

      And really, any form of Islam that does not evolve with modernism is simply going to be reactionary and stall the economic and democratic progress of any nation that adopts it. The world is moving so fast technologically that Islam simply has to keep up. Period. Most educated Muslims recognize this, I think.

      As for how we in the West should be, I think it is of the utmost importance to make alliances and not demonize Muslims as a whole, and isolate Radical Islam (which our foreign policy is already committed to).

      —Santi

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  44. Scott says:

    concerned Christian,

    That’s a very good point about the analogy between Islam and Communism.

    Islamo-communism would be an appropriate term.

    That’s because like Communism, Islam seeks to make everyone the same, under a government dictatorship. It’s also because during the Cold War, the Soviet Commies and their puppet governments made alliances with Islamic regimes and terrorists like the PLO, against America, the NATO Allies and Israel.

    Many left wing activists and intellectuals in the West had admiration for Communism. 🙂 They lied to people and poisoned public opinion with their lies.
    They insisted that the Soviets and other communist dictatorships wanted peace with the Allies, and made it appear that life in countries under Communist ocuppation wasn’t that bad. It was actually much worse than most Westerners imagine. If you can get some of the books written by Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina, you can see what I’m talking about. They were Jewish Christians from Eastern Europe who survived the political prisons and slave labor camps.

    santi – Of course Reagan called them freedom fighters. That’s because not all the Mujahedins were crazy extremists like the Taliban, and because that was the context. They were fighting against an invading force, the Soviet army and its political faction.

    At least Reagan was aware that the Soviets were trying to take over the world. It wasn’t paranoia, as many would like you to believe, it was real.

  45. Scott says:

    “Christianity, by contrast, in declaring the Jewish law null and void in Christ”

    It didn’t declare the entire law null and void.
    Thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not have other gods beside Me, are still in effect and will always be.

    It just stopped observing certain aspects of the law, because they were fulfilled by Christ Jesus.
    The death penalty for certain sins is null, since Jesus died to pay for all sins. That’s a significant change brought by Jesus in the new covenant.

  46. Pingback: International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day: How Did It Go? « Prometheus Unbound

  47. Scott says:

    I agree with you Josh, we have to reclaim our values. The political and media status-quo is doing the opposite, they are helping destroy our values.

    They say that capitalism is bad and needs to be replaced with socialism, that we need more government, which automatically means less freedom, and Christianity is irrelevant for today.

    It’s difficult to have something to hold on to and to save our civilization, when this is the norm in society.

  48. Scott says:

    How about the Bible burned in Afghanistan by our soldiers? In 2008, several Bibles were taken from a soldier at the base in Bagram, Afghanistan. The Bibles were translated in two dialects that are spoken in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright stated that the only alternative was to burn the Bibles in order to avoid their circulation among the population because the US military doesn’t want to give the impression that we’re in Afghanistan to convert them to Christianity.

    They could at least have the decency to send them back to the US.

    There was so much hysteria about burning the Quran here in the US, but almost no one from among those who talk about tolerance made a big deal about burning those copies of the Bible, back then!

    It’s even more outrageous that our own military did this. We make all these compromises because of political correctness. It’s sheer stupidity.

  49. This is a very interesting post with so many comments but I couldn’t read all of them now. Santi, I agree that “dialogue is the hope of the world” especially when both sides are open to it. You got a very good alternative to burning the Qur’an. When we have a meal with a Muslim, no violence will result. If only everyone in this world’s like you, we’ll have a more peaceful earth.
    I also know a few Muslim friends but I don’t talk to them about religion or ask hard questions because I don’t want our conversations to end up in a fight. What I observed when talking about religion, it becomes so heated that friends tend to hate each other. I think, having a meal or a dialogue with a Muslim is worth trying with the hope of bridging differences and finding common grounds. With this act, we start the peace process within ourselves.

    • santitafarella says:

      Mark,

      Good thoughts. I’m in the process of exploring what’s possible in the realm of dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. I may end up at your basic conclusion, I don’t know.

      I think I’ve found some very open hearted and vulnerable human beings to talk to, and it will be interesting to see where limits in agreement between us invariably emerge and where we can still be in loving interaction.

      Love is such an awkward word, isn’t it? But I think we’ve got to start using it. Human beings have to figure out how to make one another family, and not withdraw from one another.

      I think that, even if you find limits of tolerance for certain subjects, that the error arrives when you decide to give up the dialogue altogether. I think the secret is probably to stay in the conversation and absorb the heat, resentment, and suspicion that is bound to come from all sides. There is a path through here; we just have to be persistent and not give up on each other (or ourselves).

      —Santi

  50. Tony Ryals says:

    Asra Nomani is nothing but a right wingnut tied to elite interests such as the international criminal Rupert Murdoch and Georgetown University that represents the worst of Islamic and Judaic ‘culture’ and right wing Christian scum who are no better.
    Georgetown’s James Angel has been linked to the liars such as NTU and Agora Inc founder James Dale Davidson and their NAANSS or National Association against Naked Short Selling that was replaced in 2005 by Geico billionaire’s son Patrick Byrne’s NCANS or National Coalition Against Naked Shorting and his Overstock.con who are nothing but thieves using stocks for money laundering.
    (One example of money laundering fraud against American investors that Asra’s Georgetown University openly aided and abetted and profited from is Samaritan Pharmaceuticals.)
    Asra Nomani should as an ex WSJ ‘reporter’ be exposing the fraud that is at Georgetown University,(a one time Catholic university parasitised by disreputable characters such as herself,James Angel and even SEC attorneys such as John Reed Stark who has allowed so much cyberfraud such as Samaritan Pharmaceuticals to operate in the firt place !).
    I have no idea if Daniel Pearl was a lying Zionist like his father Judea,(a grown university ‘educated’ white guy who lies about being a ‘semite’) or not.But Asra, like Judea, avoids discussing the fact that Daniel Pearl’s supposed reason for being in Pakistan in the first place was to investigate Richard Reid ‘the shoe bomber’. And if that was what got him killed in Pakistan in the first place, was his intention to then go next to Israeli where Richard Reid,(just before he got on that plane from DeGualle Paris airport with his ‘shoe bomb to the U.S.) was coincidentally,( just like Asra Nomani),treated like a Moslem guest of honor, or not ?
    So Asra Nomani, was Daniel Pearl about to expose Israeli and ICTS International complicity in allowing Richard Reid ‘the shoe bomber’ to board that plane before he was beheaded by Mansoor Ijaz’s contacts (and if so he was a real American heroe unlike his father who is a hateful Zionist),or was he(like you) in a cover up mode for ICTS International and thus the Israel security,(stocks) and securities,(safety),criminals of convisted(in Israel) money launderer Menachem Atzmon’s ICTS International who allowed 9/11 to happen by allowing those flights that hit the WTC to take off from Logan BOSTON IN THE FIRST PLACE ?! To me Asra Nomani,you represent the very kind of danger to America our U.S.Constitution was destroyed for and replaced by Israel’s and Michael Chertoff’s Patriot Act to combat.But of course you are in league with ICTS and Chrtoff or you would speak up.And Daniel Pearl was either a Zionist,(like his daddy Judea),working against the American public to cover up Richard Reid’s trip to Israel for the Israelis of ICTS that allowed him to board the plane in Paris for the U.S. in the first place or he was a real American heroe who rebeled against his father and Zionists and lost his head for it.Which is it Asra? Recently ICTS (Christmas 2009) who allowed 9/11 to happen and allowed Reid to board in Paris wih his ‘sho bomb’ allowed the Nigerian ‘crotch bomber’ to board flight 253 from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Detroit.Which is it Asra ?
    Also Asra, after being treated so harshly by Israel’s allies in Saudi Arabia (at’ the mound of the rock’ or whatever you call it), were you treated better at Al Aqsa Mosque by your Israeli guests and friends when you worshipped there ? Are did they allow you to worship there or are you in fact a hypocrite who uses your Islamic religion just for stirring up anti Islamic sentiment and disinformation for your Zionist masters ?

    non answer from Asra Nomani:

    Dear TonyRyals,

    Honestly, I don’t really get where you’re coming from. But, sadly, I never visited Israel with Danny. I went after Danny’s murder with my family, after we had completed the hajj in Saudi Arabia. I had a gun pointed to my head as I walked through the checkpoint to get into the Dome of the Rock, where I wish all people could pray.

    It’s easy to level conspiracy theories upon others. But I would gently suggest that the truth is far often much more boring. Right now, my highest priority is figuring out how to get my son weighed in for the “ankle biter” divison of tackle football and still get to Kings Dominion with a friend on Sunday. Boring.

    I’m not part of some grand conspiracy. I agree Mansur Ijaz is an interesting character. One day, I will pick up the phone to do a reported profile on him.

    Until then, thanks for writing, Asra

    …………..

    Christmas Camel by Procol Harum

    While madmen in top hats and tails
    impale themselves on six-inch nails
    and some Arabian also-ran
    impersonates a watering can

    Some Santa Claus-like face of note
    entreats my ears to set afloat
    my feeble sick and weary brain
    and I am overcome with shame
    and hide inside my overcoat
    and hurriedly begin to quote
    while some Arabian sheikh most grand
    impersonates a hot-dog stand

    The Red Cross ambulance outside
    can only mean that I must hide
    ’til dusk and finally the night
    when I will make a hasty flight
    across the sea and far away
    to where the weary exiles stay
    and some Arabian oil-well
    impersonates a padded cell

  51. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    Did I miss what happened in your follow up meeting with the Imam, but as a warning, look what happens when someone dared to apply critical thinking to the Quran.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/27/pope-shenouda-iii-egypt-p_n_740119.html

    • santitafarella says:

      I interviewed the imam for about two hours. We’ll probably do it again down the road. The video was done by Joseph, but he hasn’t been able to make YouTube segments yet. He’s working on them.

      —Santi

  52. Mary Hicks says:

    Santi, Here’s the next iteration: Take a Hindu to Lunch.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-goldberg/take-a-hindu-to-lunch_b_5638879.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

    Perhaps you could run with this.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      It’s a good idea, I’m game. But personally, I’m not at all ambivalent about Hindus. I don’t see them as having anywhere near the problems surrounding 21st century assimilation that Muslims face (think of “Bollywood,” for example). And living in Los Angeles County, I know Hindus, and don’t feel any tension with them at all. I’m largely “Eastern” in my own philosophical sensibility (setting aside reincarnation, for example, I think the Gita basically gets existence pretty close to correct). And there is a Hindu temple going up within a short distance from my home.

      I’m more ambivalent about Islam, and so the breaking down of mental and social barriers there is harder–and more necessary (at least for me).

      And I’ve made some personal progress (which I’ll share). I used to be far more uncomfortable with women in Los Angeles who declared their religious allegiance by wearing a covering, etc. It felt like a reversal of Western feminism. It still does, but I’ve gotten more comfy with this form of religious expression (even as I don’t like the the subservience of women in Islam). I see it as an expression of speech that is being freely chosen by the woman (at least in Los Angeles), and I see it in its LA context as little more than a Christian wearing a cross or a tee-shirt with a verse from the New Testament on it (though more “out there” and dramatic). It’s a statement of allegiance; of telling others what “team” you’re on.

      Much as I would like it to be otherwise, there are lots of people in the world who regard their cultural identification as far more important to them than their idiosyncratic individualism and individual expression, and if they express this identification without coercion, I need to get over my discomfort concerning it. It tells me who people are, and what they’re about, and how the world works. I want to know the truth about people. Nobody needs to be in closets.

  53. m says:

    Just stop making excuses for islam.those women would not wear headbags n’ drapes if they were free not to. Not to means being shunned at the least, killed at the worst. Islam hates gays, the west, jews….if you’re at all liberal the sight of a muslim should disgust you.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      No, disgust is a very dangerous social emotion to direct at groups. I would prefer a world without religion, and based solely on rationality, but you’ve got to live in the world as it is. Islam is not going away, and we are moving, globally, toward creating cultural spaces where we tolerate one another more often than not. I don’t like religious hostage taking (where love and threat are coming from the same source), but I also recognize that a complex dance of manipulation and choice is at work when someone declares allegiance to a religion. I’ve got to work with the way that person is in the world, not with just the way I see it. I encounter on a weekly basis (for example) women in Muslim apparel around Los Angeles. I don’t understand the impulse to conformity in these women, but I also recognize that they have a very different experience from my own.

      I realize that women are oppressed throughout the Islamic world, as are gays, etc. But short of a World War, Islamic culture is going to liberalize only by gradual evolution; by its ongoing encounter with Modernism (that means two steps forward, one step back; sometimes liberalizing, sometimes seeing a fundamentalist backlash). You can’t just bomb Islamic civilization into the stone age, and then de-Islamize the survivors of our barrage. That would be a crime against humanity, obviously, and could only be justified if Islamic states were making violent and rapid progress at taking over the world with wars of aggression, and we then appraised the religion to be as bad as the ideology of the Nazis (which experienced after WWII de-Nazification).

      Be patient. Christianity went through a similar, painful liberalizing process on encountering the Anglo-French Enlightenment. Islam, I believe, will evolve culturally liberal forms over time. I already see this in the United States.

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