I have nothing against Oregonians, but I do wonder why the Portland Christmas tree bomber would pick such an islamofriendly state for his failed jihadist statement. It's kind of like holding an anti-vegan sit-in under the steer head logo at Gino's Steakhouse--kind of preaching to the choir. Oregon memorably reacted to the the planned slaughter of its citizens, including children, by holding rallies to show SUPPORT for the guy who wanted to carry it out.
Now we have a screening of the French film, "Of Gods and Men", which is based on the 1996 kidnapping/murder of six Trappist monks in Algeria. The monks were decapitated (whether before or after death, I don't know). The movie explores their mission: to help the impoverished Muslim inhabitants of the surrounding area, while living simply in devotion to Jesus. They were eventually taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists and killed.
I should mention that this incident has been very controversial. Were the monks really killed by Muslim fanatics? Conspiracy theorists say that the "Muslim fanatics" never existed, and that French forces accidentally killed the men, then tried to cover up their deaths and blame it on terrorist activity. But like they tell new medical students learning to make diagnoses, "If you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras." Muslim fanatics have killed thousands of Algerians since the French scurried out of the country, and the story of the coverup doesn't make sense. How many people were involved in this "secret" for the past 15 years, and, if they were indeed killed by a barrage from automatic weapons, wouldn't a bullet or two have hit at least one of them in the head?
In any case, the movie, which was made pretty recently, doesn't get into the controversy, which sounds like the creative team has dismissed those stories.
So: The Oregonian invited four people--two Muslims and two Catholics--to the screening. Their comments were VERY interesting, as were their credentials. The Muslims represented the pro-Muslim viewpoint, and the Catholics, of course, represented the pro-Muslim viewpoint, too.
The interview that followed the screening is very revealing.
The Muslims never once brought up the conspiracy theories involving the French, which is funny because Islamic media is all about conspiracy theories (vultures put under a spell by Israeli intelligence, the AIDS virus being given, in candy, to unwitting Arabian youth by the crafty Jews--"And that's how Ahmad got AIDS !!"--and the "fact" that 9/11 was planned and carried out by Zionists, etc. etc....these are all from Arab news reports, by the way).
But they DID bring up the Residual Effects of Colonialism Factor, which is getting really, really old. Basically, the Muslim kidnappers were just the victims of Western domination, so who could blame them for taking out their fury on the monks?
One of the panelists, Fatima AlBar, is especially riled about people not hearing "the whole story" re: colonialism. Give me a break. This film was about one incident. And she wants it put into this overarching "context" that justifies murder/decapitation?
Later, Fatima says, "It is a small thing, but when in the movie you hear the (Muslim) call to prayer, it is not nicely done. When the Quran is recited, it is not nicely done (in the movie). If you are going to have the monks' chants sound so beautiful, the Quran should sound beautiful, too. I asked myself over and over, "What is the purpose of this movie, these parts of the story without the whole picture?" I think the movie will create hate and suspicion of religious people. There will be more fear, more untrusted relations. But Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace for hundreds of years. We have so many different stories that will lift us up, help us feel positive toward each other, that won't spread hate or suspicion. Why do we not focus on spreading the voice of love instead?"
So, let's dissect:
*She doesn't like the fact that the monks' chants sound better than Qur'anic recitiation/call to prayer. Monastic chanting is an art form, its own musical genre. They should MAKE the Qur'an sound beautiful? Perhaps re-write it in Latin with a Gregorian tempo? Qur'anic recitation is simply what it is, nothing to be embarrassed about, and a lot of people find classical Arabic very poetic. But Fatima resents the fact that it doesn't sound as "nice" as a totally different form of prayer. She's either really shallow or a little jealous, or both.
* Again with the colonialism context. We get it, Fatima. This is just like a neo-Nazi insisting that every anti-Nazi movie include a "prequel" that explains all the hardships and humiliations the German people endured after WWI that allowed Hitler's freaky Aryan zeal to take hold. Ho-hum, so what?
*She points out that the movie will just "create hatred and suspicion" because the Muslims are the bad guys. (Despite that the movie evidently went to great lengths to show how well the monks and the Muslim neighbors got along.) At least, her fellow panelists takes issue with her on this. But her statement is a PERFECT example of our ongoing "dialogue/not dialogue" involving Islam. the cardinal rule is: You can never, ever, ever mention any negative incident involing Muslims. And if you do, you have to say that the incident/perpetrator was a one-in-a-a-million aberration and NOT representative of the religion of peace....or you have to bring up colonialism.
* And speaking of colonialism, Muslims were the biggest colonialists on the planet for a millenium ! Islam spread like crazy in just a few generations after Mohammad's death, and the people who were subjegated were only allowed to keep their religions if they accepted second-class status, always deferred to Muslims, and obeyed sharia. "Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace for hundreds of years." Yes, as long as they knew their place.
* As far as Fatima's suggestion to "spread the voice of love instead," she should send a memo to Hamas, al-Qaeda, the governments of Iran and all the other Islamocracies, et al.
Anyway, moving on from "moderate" Fatima, I looked up the credentials of Sister Mollie Reavis, another panelist who is also a member of Portland's Institute of Christian-Muslim Understanding. This took me to ICMU's page, and I pulled up their reading list . All I can say is, OMG !
One of the first books on the list is by Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, also known as the Ground Zero Imam. He calls himself a moderate, but he is not. He's pretty extreme. He's an Islamic apologist, and he has expressed tolerance for sharia, justification for terrorism, and contempt for anyone asking him to back up his facts. The forward to his book was contributed by Karen Armstrong, a former Anglican nun who--talk about context, Fatima!--likes to tell half the story and call it complete.
John Esposito is also listed on the page, and this makes me laugh. Esposito is a shameless apologist for political Islam. The media has anointed him an expert, even though his books are clearly biased and he can't refute scholars who point this out. (He's above all that.)
But here's what's really interesting, and it really highlights the biggest flaw in the Christian-Muslim Dialogue that is now going on in schools, churches and community centers all over the US: the books on this list are either about interfaith (Christian/Muslim) relations or they're about Islam ( "In the Footsteps of the Prophet," "Progressive Islam," "A Brief History of Islam" "What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam," etc. etc.). There is not ONE book about Christianity or Catholicism in and of itself. Not ONE.
(Interestingly, there's a book called "Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam"...and Muslims do regard Mary with great respect. At the same time, it's death-penalty-level blasphemy to refer to her as the Mother of God. Which is kind of a problem when having an interfaith rosary session.)
So the question is, where's the balance? Where's the dialogue? Where's the exchange? There isn't any.
Obviously, this kind of interfaith "dialogue" is sick. Any healthy relationship needs to have a balance, and both participants are allowed to have a voice.
Usually, when one voice is stifled, it's a sign of abuse.