I didn't take much notice when St. John's Episcopal Church here in town hired Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni to head up their Abrahamic Initiative. Sure, the guy was anti-Israel, but that didn't make him dangerous.
Then, I found some interesting, uh, reading material on the web, and went to go hear him speak yesterday.
First, the reading material. Kazerooni was chosen, pre 9/11, to translate a speech by the Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah to the Stars, or, in this case, the current President of Iran. Yes, that President of Iran. If you'd like to know more about the current theologician behind the throne, go here, or here.
Now, you might think that this is an academic translation, not really indicative of Kazerooni's beliefs. Guess again. It was at a public event, the Imam's voice is clearly full of reverence, and in any case, you don't just happen to get chosen for something like this because you can speak English. Islam, like Judaism, runs on the personal ties and confidence of its leaders, so suffice it to say that Yazdi knew what he was looking for. Go ahead and listen, with the text in front of you. (Corrections and amendments accepted.)
Then, there's this interview, with Homiletics Online, a leftish religious site dedicated - as near as I can tell - to the principle that Christians don't necessarily believe anything worth arguing over. Wherein you will find the following pearls of wisdom:
Number one, one has to start dealing with the premise that is used for such an argument. If we look around the world from Northern Ireland to Lebanon to the Far East, to South America, conflict exists between various religious communities. This violence is not unique to Islam. In Northern Ireland you have the Catholics and Protestants fighting each other. In the Balkans you had Christians on one side and Muslims on the other. In the Middle East you have Jewish-Muslim conflict, in India and Pakistan you have a Hindu and Muslim conflict.
So if we are trying to make a judgment based on contemporary events, I don’t think it is unique to Islam in particular.
OK, I'll give him Northern Ireland. City centers fenced off and searched, and nary a mosque in sight. But Latin American? Religious strife there pretty much ended with the last of the Inca converts, unless you want to count the uncontracted demolition of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center by, um, Iranians.
As for the rest of the conflicts, you might notice a certain common thread: Lebanon (Muslim-Christian, Sunni-Shiite), Far East (Philippines: Muslim separatists; Indonesia: Muslim separatists; Sri Lanka, Muslim separatists), Balkans (Muslim-Orthodox), Middle East (ok, Israel here, to be precise, Muslim-Jewish), India (Muslim-Hindu). So really, it's not just Muslims involved, but by and large, they're one of the dance partners.
And this qualifies as his defense.
He also claims that 1) Israel doesn't care about world opinion (if only!), that 2) Israel deliberately killed Rachel Corrie, 3) that moderate Muslims like himself don't get enough platforms to speak, 4) Hezbollah isn't really terrorist, because they were only killing Israelis.
Read the whole thing. And this is the guy who wants to bring understanding to the world.
Oh, right, him and the Mufti of Jerusalem.
Yesterday, one of the guests (not panelists) was the girl from MILA, who had defended this fellow's appearance and was surprised that the Jewish community wasn't shoulder-to-shoulder with them on it. She was there to promote the appearance this Friday of a Muslim comedian at DU. I'm sure he's a laugh riot. Shame he's performing on Shabbat.
Denver's Muslim community has been among the least radicalized around. Too bad these guys are getting a platform.
More about yesterday's appearance soon.
UPDATE: The Kopel/Carroll links have been fixed