Thursday, September 16, 2010
What's Wrong With What's Right -- A Critique of Imam Feisal Rauf's Book: What's Right With Islam
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is at the center of a controversy concerning the proposed community center in Manhatten, New York -- a center known alternatively as: Cordoba House, Park51, and the Ground Zero mosque. Consequently, people -- both Muslims and non-Muslims -- might benefit from a critical examination of his ideas concerning a wide variety of issues.
'What's Wrong With What's Right' is a critique of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's book: What's Right With Islam. Throughout his book, Imam Rauf seeks to draw parallels between, on the one hand, constitutional democracy in the United States and, on the other hand, the nature of Islam.
He seeks to argue that they both share a similar approach to ideas such as: rights, freedom, purpose, and morality. However, he often does the foregoing in problematic ways both with respect to his explication concerning the nature of democracy, as well as in relation to his explanation of Islam.
Unfortuantely, Imam Rauf stumbles into very dangerous territory when he seeks to put forth an argument which maintains that because both democracy (through the notion of inalienable rights that are endowed to us by our Creator) and Islam (through the guidance of revelation and the Prophetic tradition) are rooted in Divine authority, then, a person is under an obligation to follow or obey whatever leaders are in power (within a democracy and/or an Islamic state) provided that such leaders act in accordance with the principles and values established by Divinity.
However, Imam Rauf fails to convincingly demonstrate -- either with respect to democracy or Islam -- why anyone should accept his interpretation of either democracy or Islam. As a result, Imam Rauf adopts a variety of positions concerning: 9/11, corporations, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, banks, foreign policy, capitalism, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, Islam, shari'ah (so-called Islamic law), and the Sufi path that may not be tenable.
Imam Rauf is a person who is one of the leaders of the group of individuals who are at the center of the storm surrounding the proposed community center (also known as Cordoba House, Park51, and the Ground Zero mosque) in New York City. Given his centrality in that controversy, the process of critically exploring Imam Rauf's perspective concerning a variety of issues may be of value to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Three years after 9/11 Imam Rauf wrote a book -- namely, 'What's Right With Islam' -- in relation to some of the aforementioned issues -- and, therefore, his book offers an opportunity to engage what he has to say and reflect on such matters. The fact that many people -- both Muslim and non-Muslim -- have endorsed Imam Rauf's book raises some important questions concerning such endorsements -- especially if the critical commentary in 'What's Wrong With What's Right' constitutes an accurate and fair critical assessment of Imam Rauf's ideas.
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