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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: When the pew and the pulpit don't see eye-to-eye?

There is a difference between the pew and the pulpit on this matter. Of course, that is not the first time a divide has been seen between the leaders of a religious tradition and those who adhere to that faith. What I would like to hear from you all this week is how such a divide gets resolved in your tradition. I recognize that sometimes they aren't resolved, but I would like you to elaborate upon this question:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Indeed, there is a great difference between the pew and the pulpit and most certainly a few issues get resolved and a few go to the holding pen to be unleashed whenever the opportunity arises to get even.

About a decade ago, a guest speaker Imam (pastor) addressed the Annual Ramadan celebrations at Fair Park, attended by nearly 20,000 Muslims in the Centennial Hall at Fair Park. Obviously it was a festive occasion for families and a few kids were unruly and crying out loud. The guest speaker let out his misogynistic remark by specifically calling on the sisters to cut the gossip out and take care of the children. Boy, did he get jumped on. The pew decided never to invite him and the pulpit agreed without blinking an eye. It was all instantaneous, indeed it was a pent up anger built over a period of time, and released to get even and to send a clear message that it was not acceptable.

Among Muslims, the power usually rests in the hands of the management team. Frequently, the ones who write big checks get their say. The conflict is usually between the management and the pew rather than the pulpit. However, if the Imam is a towering figure like John Hagee, he gets away with a lot of things that goes against the will of the congregants.

While most of the Imams lead their congregations in pluralistic traditions of Islam, the orthodox Imams do their conservative bit just as in other traditions.

There is a massive gap between the pew and the pulpit on the international levels. Issues like apostasy, blasphemy, stoning to death and a few others have remained unresolved for centuries.

The punishment for apostasy is death as practiced in four of the 56 Muslim majority nations. Fifty two others don't practice it. Prophet Muhammad said there is no compulsion in the matters of faith, one can choose to leave the fold of Islam and come back at will. Quraan 2:256 " ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ..." Dr. Mohammad Farooq writes at the site Apostasy and Islam, "This is Islam's unambiguous affirmation of freedom of faith, which also applies to changing of faith."

The punishment for apostasy was not a prophetic tradition, but an employ of the dictators and monarchs over a period of time that has crept into Islam. Obviously a majority of Muslims and Muslim nations do not believe in it, but the clergy have a hold on it and are not willing to sign a declaration to put an end to this.

They don't even want to touch it with a ten-foot pole, as it was erroneously canonized into the Sharia (way of life) document. Their justification is the numbers. In the last decade there have been a handful but shameful cases of apostasy cases - Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan was released, Iranian Pastor Nadarkhani is still at the mercy of the Iranian Government and Lena Joy was forgiven in Malaysia. The first two were Muslims converted to Christianity and the third one to Buddhism. 

Asia Bibi, a Christian lady in Pakistan is charged with blasphemy laws for defaming Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This law goes against the very nature of Islam and teachings of the Prophet, who was once pelted with rocks by the miscreants, just as Jesus had endured. He was bloodied and his associates wanted to beat the bad guys up. Even the archangel Gabriel said he will crush them boys, but the prophet said no to any revenge. He turned the other cheek instead, and asked Gabriel and his associates to join him to pray for the well being of the miscreants and asked God to give them guidance. 

Thank God for the relentless efforts of many men and women in the last decade to purge these laws from the books. Given the momentum, I believe things will change in a few generations.

One of the Imams said this beautifully, "I am glad you are not a part of management in any of the traditional institutions, it has given you the freedom to do the right thing that most people wanted to do, but afraid to."

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Mike Ghouse is a writer, thinker and a speaker on pluralism, politics, Islam, peace and building a cohesive America, links to details at www.MikeGhouse.net.
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TEXAS FAITH: When the pew and the pulpit don't see eye-to-eye?

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