Monday, September 4, 2006


I caught the tail end of an intriguing interview on The Current this morning. Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed DR. INGRID MATTSON who was elected as leader of the Islamic Society of North America. Now if that doesn’t make you sit up and take note – check out the fact that she is a convert to Islam from Catholicism. (read more about her here…) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The first half of the interview, Tremonti dug around to see how Mattson could wade through the quagmire of gender equality issues that face Muslims around the world but more importantly in NA. Mattson danced quietly through some tricky spots even in the face of being labelled as not progressive enough. (Imagine that: a woman leader of a prominent Islamic organization who has not been codified from birth as a Muslim is being accused of not being progressive enough – huh!)
In the middle of the interview Tremonti shifted ever so effortlessly to questions about radical factions and reactions within Muslim expressions of faith. Here’s where a few things really jumped out at me:
Mattson has been quoted as calling on Muslims to denounce radical violent factions and terrorist organizations citing that misinterpretation of the Qur’an is the root cause of these problems.
I think that is interesting because I have thought for a long time that our own interpretation of the Bible is one of the most important tasks of our day and that much damage has been caused by our mishandling of it.
Mattson went on to say that when that misinterpretation is combined with a cultish social context that encourages the exclusion of moderating perspectives, the seeds of destructive radical movements have fertile soil. She said that the way these organizations work is to isolate themselves from other movements denouncing them along with secular NA society as selling out. This leads to brain washing. She suggested that especially young Muslims need to be taught how to question and allow the competition of ideas to help solidify their beliefs. Otherwise their beliefs are insulated from an accurate perspective on the Islamic Scriptures.
Interesting! I mean I guess to a greater or lesser degree I think that Evangelicals have been eager to cultivate certainty in their young people. So then literal interpretations of Scripture are paramount; as they give neat and tidy answers to the big questions in life. Parents want to make sure that their children have the answers nailed down to all the big questions in life. Yet disturbingly we are finding that these same kids are walking away from ‘the faith’ in droves. So maybe they are not joining a radical militant group but our kids are doing equally disturbing things (at least to our preconceived sensibilities). They are coming home after university and other pursuits having engaged in sex outside marriage, drinking and smoking, and horror of horrors --- GAY. They certainly are having almost nothing to do with church.
I would say that the root cause is not that different than what Mattson was describing.
But not only is the issue of misinterpretation a problem. Mattson also said that one of the key issues was that of disconnectedness between parents and their children (esp. teenagers). She said that in NA society Muslims are just as eager as anyone else to establish successful careers and ‘provide’ for their families. But in their busyness they are losing touch with their kids. Unaware of the ‘trouble’ they are getting into. She said that in many cases family members were unaware of their relative’s involvement in radical terrorist organizations. She called for parents to reconnect with their kids and give them a deep sense of belonging and worth within the family setting. She saw this as an answer.
You know what? That book has already been written. Chap Clark in his book Hurt or Patricia Hersch in A Tribe Apart or Ron Taffel in The Second Family all point to abandonment as the key ingredient in the degeneration of adolescent culture. But here is what came through so clearly as I processed this interview. There is a connection, a deadly one I fear. And this is the equation of that connection:
Misinterpretation of Scripture
(based in reductionism)
Social Superiority and Isolation
Parental Abandonment
I don’t know if that makes sense for any of you out there but here is a link to the broadcast of that interview. See if you come out at the same point I do…


Freezer said...

For someone who hates formulas for anything, I must say that I think this is good framework. There was a report a little while back in Ontario on the local news about the "youth ministry" that is beginning to happen within the Muslim people of the GTA. Unfortunately they seem to be taking the same "baby-sitting" models of youth ministry that have just made parents even more irrelevent.

Incoming... said...

yeah i hate putting it to a formula but this one was begging to be written

roverT said...

I really like the formula. It is interesting to see that Muslim people are struggling with the same issues as Christians. I like the way you drew the parallels.

Question: In your formula, does the misinterpretation of Scripture need to be based in reductionism? Could the opposite be true as well?

Incoming... said...

well i suppose any misinterpretation would be harmful but interpretation is so relative that I thought that qualifier might be important. Sure the opposite is likely true also.
Just as long as I'm right :)