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Finding God in our society

Ali Gomaa, Cambridge University

Today has been a very interesting day. I’ve not had the chance to blog much this week between preparing a Communion service with my fellow students for next Thursday and preparing a sermon for this Sunday (whilst also trying to keep up with studies)… but I couldn’t let today pass by without comment!

Today, Cambridge University and Ridley Hall respectively were hosts to lectures by Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Dr Gomaa is, by all accounts, one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the world and a man of great influence and power across the Middle East.

He gave a lecture at the university at lunchtime today and then participated in a further lecture here at Ridley Hall later on. At the University lecture, he repudiated Islamic extremism and terrorism as not being the true way of Islam. He spoke so strongly as to say such extremists are not Muslims at all. I am hoping and hunting around for the text of his lecture online so that I don’t do him a dis-service in how I report what he said but thus far I’ve not found it.

One thing that really struck me in his address was his call for the current tensions and debate to include a theological element. I hope I am not misrepresenting him but I understood him to have said that governments, economists, commentators, the media have no hope of truly understanding what is going on unless they are prepared to take on board the fact that many of the protagonists look at the world through theological eyes. If God is not part of the discussion, they have no hope of understanding. Already, their search for peace is disadvantaged.

For me, it resonated strongly with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words last week. Returning from China and arriving into the storm of the Jack Straw-veil debate, the Archbishop warned that when people try to talk about whether the UK should become a truly ‘secular society’ where religion and talk of God is totally excised from the structures of power and public debate, they may not know what they are truly asking. He writes:

‘This [i.e. the UK] is a “secular” system in the sense that it does not impose legal and civil disabilities on any one religious body; but it is not secular in the sense of giving some kind of privilege to a non-religious or anti-religious set of commitments or policies. Moving towards the latter would change our political culture more radically than we imagine.’

I hope that their words reach those who truly need to listen. For those in politics and other spheres of influence where they would much rather religion was part of the discussion at all, tough luck – God is not someone of whom you can be so easily rid.

Comments

Tiffer Robinson
Reply

He was a fascinating man. He might have convinced me that he represented the majority of Islam – my fear is that he doesn’t.

My main problem with the “Extremists aren’t really muslims” line is that to my knowledge no one refutes that Islam in Mohammed’s (pbuh) time did convert people by the sword. If someone could tell me this wasn’t true then I would humbly accept I was wrong. I suppose it is similar to the crusades, I wouldn’t say there were no Christians fighting – I would just say they were misguided (at least after the firs crusade)

Either way, the Grand Mufti was a wonderful man with a wonderful sense of humour and I hope he does represent mainstream Islam.

wannabepriest / Riches hidden in secret places
Reply

[…] Ridley Hall is playing host this coming month to three young Islamic scholars who are staying with us and engaging in a cultural exchange. Essentially the idea is that they learn about Jesus Christ from Christians and also learn about our society while they are here. Pretty cool. As part of their opening day, we were also enjoying the presence of the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar University, Cairo which I blogged about earlier. […]

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