Over the weekend many of us observed the anniversary of 9-11. In many ways our remembrance of this tragic event was overshadowed by the hullabaloo surrounding the antics of an until recently little known Pentecostal pastor. That the burning of the Qur'an got cancelled -- though there's evidence that others did it on their own -- didn't seem to put an end to the conversation. But, by and large, most people agreed that burning the sacred texts of other faiths makes little sense.
What is more important to reflect upon, and something that has gotten lost in the shuffle of the controversies surrounding the Manhattan mosque and the pastor's antics, is the real problem of stereotyping and collective guilt that surrounds tragedies such as this.
There are somewhere between one and one and a half billion Muslims around the world. The vast majority of these people have nothing to do with radicalized forms of Islam. What we forget is that the largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia, a nation that has elected a woman as its President (something Americans have yet to do). The Indonesian form of Islam is practiced very differently from that of Saudi Arabia. Shia and Sunni and Sufi are all different forms of Islam, with differing practices and beliefs.
So, even as I don't want to be identified with Pastor Jones or Fred Phelps, neither do the majority of Muslims want to be identified with Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin. It is unfortunate that Saudi oil money has led to the establishment of Wahhabist centers throughout the Muslim world, but there are plenty of other movements out there seeking to counter it. Islam may be in a period of transition, that is similar to what Christianity went through during the era of the Reformation and during the Enlightenment.
So, as I look back at a weekend that was full of its highs and lows (as a SF Giant fan I was thrilled to watch my team end a road trip in a first place tie with San Diego and watch the Oregon Ducks win big in Knoxville, TN, but watch as the seemingly luckless Detroit Lions got robbed by a bizarre rule of their first road win in three years), I want to bring back to our attention the importance of working together to overcome stereotypes and misinformation about others.
I read a bit of the Qur'an yesterday. I find some of it not to my liking, but then I can say the same about parts of my scriptures. But other parts are very much in tune with what I believe as a Christian. Like many Christians, I think many Muslims pick and choose what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize. Both do what Scot McKnight calls "adapt and adopt." In his book The Blue Parakeet, Scot offers this word about the way we read the Bible. Is this not also the way the Qur'an should be read. Yes, I realize that most Muslims tend to be literalists, but like us they do their own adapting, recognizing that not everything fits for today. So, hear this word from Scot's book:
“When we encounter the blue parakeets in the Bible or in the questions of others, whether we think of something as simple as the Sabbath or foot washing or as complex and emotional as women in church ministries or homosexuality, we have to stop and think. Is this passage for today?” (p. 25).
With this word, let us commit ourselves to better understanding!