As if the joy of lilacs and birds singing outside my window, the beautiful crisp spring air and the sweet, green, pea plants pushing their way up through the soil of my garden weren't enough to make me dance, there is the news of Hasan at-Turabi officially saying female imams are ok.
At-Turabi, for those who are not familiar with him, has a large following and is very well respected in much of the Muslim world. He is somewhat a contradiction in terms -- he was/is the voice of hardline Islamists in Sudan and was instrumental in bringing shari'ah law to Sudan, yet he is also known for championing women's rights. He supported a coup in 1989 that overthrew the democratic government, and brought in a defacto dictator, and yet, he was removed from his position in the government and jailed for advocating democratic reforms and the power of elected officials to remove the "president" from his office. He is accused of having be insturmental in Sudan's sheltering Bin Laden from 1990-1996, though many Muslims think that is just the US trying to frame a popular Islamic scholar. Liberal muslims are fond of his positions on women, and generally take an ostrich approach to some of his problematical political stances.
At-Turabi is at best a mixed bag and at worst a supporter of terrorism... but that does not diminish the importance of his coming out in support of woman imams. He has already been denounced by people like the Grand Mufti of Mecca, but the impact of his views cannot help but be widespread, especially given his Islamist credentials. He has the ear of conservative groups, the ones most likely to condemn female imams and declare the mere mention of such a possibility sheer blasphemy. Between him and Tahar Mahdi major inroads are being made into the conservative camp!!
How wonderful that such developments come in the spring -- such lovely symbolism -- rebirth, renewal, growth and revitalization -- dancing is definately called for!
It has given me a new appreciation for Easter and the joy it must bring to Christians that Easter comes in spring. I'd never thought of Easter in those terms (we had traditional egg hunts when I was a kid, and while Easter was about the only time I went to church, it was only because my dad was always being asked to play trumpet at Easter services, so my experiences of Easter were very much of a cultural nature). The whole idea of the renewal and rebirth of the human spirit, the mercy and love of God, which is so amply evident in the springtime, and the loveliness of the season, of reawakened animal and plant life, of voilets and birdsong -- what a lovely convergence!
As a Muslim, of course, I believe that renewal and rebirth is accomplished directly, between the individual and God, without the intervention of Jesus. Nonetheless -- I celebrate with my Christian friends God's mercy and love, His kindness and forgivingness of falliable humans -- in both our faiths these are the central characteristics of God, the ones that dominate our lives.