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:: Friday, July 18, 2003 ::

From the OpinionJournal - Taste column:
For the first time in six centuries the muezzin's cry echoed over Spanish Granada with the inauguration in that city of a new mosque last week. The call to prayer hadn't been heard in the old capital of Moorish civilization since the last Muslim king was expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

Wistfully overlooking the peerless 14th-century Alhambra palace below, the boxy, whitewashed mosque sits atop a hill, wedged between a convent and a church. It's saga has been a long and unlucky one. Begun in 1981 with Libyan money, which soon petered out, it was taken up by King Hassan II of Morocco, who soon died, and completed finally with funds mostly from the United Arab Emirates.


A rather ominous remark by a top mosque official was quoted approvingly in the Muslim coverage. The new mosque, he said, would be "one of the purest sources of Islam." Someone should have told him that the Islam of Moorish culture at its height was not pure but thoroughly evolved after eight centuries of collaboration with Jews and Christians. In fact, one could argue that the oft-bewailed missing "reformation" of Islam was under way there, until it was aborted by the Inquisition. At any rate, doctrinally Moorish Islam was anything but fundamentalist. The new one, however, is unlikely to be anything else.

The completion and opening came at a bad time, arguably the worst moment in Spanish-Muslim relations since the muezzin went silent. Not only has Spain uncovered a string of al Qaeda plots on its soil but it has publicly backed the invasion of Iraq to the anger of its growing Muslim population, some 500,000 at last count. Indeed, the entire new-mosque venture is now freighted with sensitive historical and political questions.

Predictably, the Spanish authorities seem to have little influence or knowledge regarding the new mosque's direction, although they vetted its architectural design with scrupulous care. The funding came from outside the country. As for the religious precepts and the choice of members for the mosque's five-person ruling committee, all were determined independently.
Here, then, is a precise illustration of the West's complicity in its own troubles. The mosque seems customized for Spanish soil and the traditions of Spaniards only aesthetically. Spiritually and politically--which are the same thing to hardline Islamists--the mosque remains a product of forces from outside Spain.

This article raises some serious ethical questions about government involvement in and influence on religious philosophical discussion. Mr. Kaylan seems to advocate that the Spanish government take an active role in determining what is taught with this comment:

Why shouldn't Spain actively try to re-create Moorish standards of Islam in doctrine as well as in brick and mortar? It can start by sponsoring a Spain-inspired creed within its own borders. We in the West complain incessantly about anti-Western thought in Saudi-inspired madrassas, or religious schools, around the world. We demand that they open up to a freer market of ideas, but we shy from entering the marketplace. We can start within our own borders by sowing new ideas in mosques and madrassas. The benefits will accrue as much to Islam as to the West. After all, the grandeur of Moorish culture grew not out of a pursuit of purity but from the irritant of exposure to other cultures.

While the return if Islam to the Iberian peninsula may be troubling for many valid reasons, a return to Spanish government involvement in religious instruction holds equally troubling potential.

:: Mark 10:40 AM [+] ::
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