Wednesday, May 16, 2007
  Farewell to Falwell
While it's not nice to speak ill of the dead, I have to say that Jerry Falwell was one of the pivotal figures in what I consider a terrible turn in American politics -- the (most recent) attempt to include religion in legislative matters. His mobilization of the Religious Right changed the landscape of American politics for the worse. It threatened -- and continues to threaten -- the basic civil rights for whole groups of people (women, the glbt community, minorities). It polarized the nation into self-righteous religionists who saw political opponents as devilish and sinful, rather than just as people who disagreed on principles. It claimed that the only way to be devout, the only way to be moral, was to adhere to their principles, and that conscience and morality were no longer matters of individual agency, but issues which had to be legislated by the government.

In short, it advocated a kind of Christian theocracy. It should be obvious that theocracy is a disaster, whether it is Christian theocracy, or Muslim theocracy. Ample evidence of that can be found in 1500s Spain, and modern day Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, although Falwell's personal power and influence waned as he made more and more outrageous statements about disasters being a punishment for homosexuality and women's lib, the ramifications of the Moral Majority's entrance into American politics is ongoing. The religious left, thankfully, has begun organizing to reclaim moral space -- to make public the stance that there are other ways to understand morality, and to reassert that the freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, etc are fundamental, to America and to simple human dignity.

Also unfortunately, Falwell's disastrous legacy does not lie only in American politics. He, like many of his evangelical brethren, took an aggressive and inhospitable view of religions other than Christianity. As a Muslim, I was well aware of his characterizations of Islam, and how they served to divide and set people at odds with one another, rather than to encourage peace and harmonious relationships. His belligerent stance against other religions only facilitates stereotyping and arrogance, both of which enable the kind of ongoing conflict and warfare we see today between America and various Muslim countries.

I can only say that it is sad that someone who had so much influence didn't use his power to bring people together. Think how much he could have accomplished if instead of characterizing Islam as evil, he had said, we don't agree on religious matters, but all of humankind is my brother, and I must love my brother as I love myself. That might mean you wish everyone would follow your beliefs, but it also means you would treat them with the same respect, dignity, compassion and consideration that you would like to be treated with. Think how much he might have accomplished if instead of trying to force people to live the morality he believed in, he had tried instead to inspire them to do so.
Although it shows the influence one man can have, I must admit that I alomost cheered when I heard he had died. I was not proud of that sentiment, but...
Falwell was in the end a caricature of a Minister gone to hubris on TV cameras and audience attention. He was a sad old man who did more harm than good, and like all of us, he will have to answer for it to a higher power. May God forgive him and us.

Ya Haqq!
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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