HEZBOLLAH'S 'VICTORY' QUESTIONED
Speaking of Islam, as I will be in the post below, I find it intriguing that prominent voices from Islam's epicenter, Saudi Arabia, have begun to criticize Hezbollah's leadership for the recent war with Israel. The instant a cease-fire was proclaimed, you may recall, Hezbollah declared victory. That victory is seeming increasingly hollow to others in the Middle East now.
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ISLAM'S FUTURE IN AMERICA
DEARBORN, Mich. -- When I was here last weekend for a conference, I stopped by the Islamic Center of America (pictured below here), where Imam Hassan Qazwini (shown in the bottom photo heading to lunch after Friday prayer services), a man I've met several times and interviewed at length, is the spiritual leader.
Folks, get used to this. Islam is growing in America and mosques are springing up all over the place. As that happens, Muslims -- from both the immigrant stream and the conversion stream of predominantly African-Americans -- are figuring out how to find their place in American culture.
There still is much for them to figure out and much for the non-Muslims among us to figure out in response.
How can Muslims be true to their faith and also be politically active? What charitable role will mosques play in the larger community? How will the face of Islam change in this country as aging immigrants turn over leadership to their American-born children and grandchildren, who may well view things in a different light? How will Christians, Jews, Muslims and others ever learn to live in harmony?
I spent some time talking with Eide A. Alawan, who, on a volunteer basis, heads up the center's Office of Interfaith Outreach, which is an important goal for Qazwini. Alawan places his hopes for the future of interfaith harmony with young people (like the little boy standing amid all the kneeling men around him in the picture below).
Alawan is retirement age, but he thinks his generation of American Muslims is moving too slowly to create interfaith understanding and to communicate a clear Islamic message of harmony to non-Muslims.
I also attended the Friday prayer service, which, as you can see, was packed. It's Islamic tradition that men worship in front of women. The explanation is that if women are in front, men would get distracted when the women bow to the ground for prayer.
So at Qazwini's mosque, women pray in the same room as -- but behind -- the men, though there's overflow balcony space for women, especially women with young children.
In his sermon that day, Qazwini urged Muslims to speak out on behalf of Lebanon and Lebanese citizens who were killed or injured in the Hezbollah-Israel war. He pointed to a recent full-page add in The New York Times paid for by a Kuwaiti Muslim as a good example of using available mainstream media to give an Islamic point of view about current events.
As I've noted before, the religious demographics of America are changing. Christians still make up a large majority of the American population, but there's much more diversity than there used to be and it's only going to grow. So we'd better be learning how to live together without hating or killing one another.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.