March 4, 2006

"I went from a country where a sheik would speak and the people listened to one where the sheik talks and the people talk back."

Says Sheik Reda Shata, the imam of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge:
Day after day, he must find ways to reconcile Muslim tradition with American life. Little in his rural Egyptian upbringing or years of Islamic scholarship prepared him for the challenge of leading a mosque in America....

"America transformed me from a person of rigidity to flexibility," said Mr. Shata, speaking through an Arabic translator. "I went from a country where a sheik would speak and the people listened to one where the sheik talks and the people talk back."...

Mr. Shata settles dowries, confronts wife abusers, brokers business deals and tries to arrange marriages. He approaches each problem with an almost scientific certainty that it can be solved. "I try to be more of a doctor than a judge," said Mr. Shata. "A judge sentences. A doctor tries to remedy."...

It is a woman's right, Mr. Shata believes, to remove her hijab if she feels threatened. Muslims can take jobs serving alcohol and pork, he says, but only if other work cannot be found. Oral sex is acceptable, but only between married couples. Mortgages, he says, are necessary to move forward in America.

"Islam is supposed to make a person's life easier, not harder," Mr. Shata explained.
Much more at the link.

18 comments:

Jake said...

Bin Laden is the opposite of Sheik Reda Shata.

Bin Laden sees the West changing Muslim life and wants to destroy the West in order to stop it's influence.

Sheik Reda Shata sees the influence and says Muslims should adopt the better parts of Western life.

chuck b. said...

"Mortgages, he says, are necessary to move forward in America."

I've always wondered about that no-interest requirement for true believers. Was this an issue w/ Jews or early Christians? Where does this come from?

My first experience w/ Muslims was several years ago when I tried to buy gas. "We don't take credit cards!" The notice came with a dirty look. And there were like six of them--a whole family sitting in the little cashier's area watching TV. I'm like, "You, uh, don't take credit cards?" I'm sure I had an incredulous smile on my face. Their scowling answered my dumb question. I look behind me, and their lot is empty. I look at the gas station next door--right next door--and cars are lined up.

There's a mosque around the corner from where I live, and I sometimes see the folks who go there walking around in full 8th century modesty. One of them owns a house across the street from the mosque...it's been in a constant state of unfinished construction for over three years. I suppose it's because the owner doesn't want to fund the work w/ an equity line and so he's doing it piecemeal. Yeesh! And I wonder, did he pay cash for the house? Cuz, it was at least $600k. At least.

Someone from the mosque came by once trying to do some community outreach. They were collecting books for the poor. Books for the poor? Um, whatever. That's San Francisco for you. The only books I wanted to give away were a couple James Patterson mysteries (my boyfriend's, not mine--as if!) and Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. Nothing to do with interest, but I thought it was funny.

PatCA said...

If the NYT praises him as a moderate, I assume he is a radical.

No mention in the puff piece about why his family was refused entry into Germany or the cause of the "exhaustion" of the prior imam.

Simon said...

While I think most of that is dmirable, I do worry about the statement that "Islam is supposed to make a person's life easier, not harder." I tend to think that religion should challenge a person, and indeed, I think it would positively behoove a person to think carefully about their spiritual beliefs if their spiritual beliefs don't impose some uncomfortable things upon them.

It should always be stressed by a religion that the purpose is not an easy life, but the greater service of God, and anyone who expects an easy life just because they've "got God" hasn't actually got God.

Sean said...

Well, Simon, it's a little more complicated than than. "Come unto me, all you who travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: Yes, the notion that religion is supposed to make life easier surprised me. But I think the usual way it makes things easier is by saving you from having to think of your own answers -- and from getting into trouble.

Sean: Thanks for the good quote. I can think of some counter-quotes from Jesus... "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way."

anonlawstudent said...

Religion is supposed to make life easier, rather than harder. But life is the process of growing and learning. Religious can provide the impetus and the guidelanes for that growth and change. It challenges us to meet our lives with the highest of standards. It can also provide strength at times when we are at out lowest ebb.

Of course, it can do a whole slew of other things as well; both good and bad, if you believe in such things. Religious experience is as diverse as human experience. It is not limited to comfort and aid; nor is it limited to high standards. Religious life embraces every dimension of human experience. Is it worthwhile?

Ann: Religion is not always a substitute for critical thinking. Historically it has been the impetus for a tremendous amount of critical thinking. From Augustine to Aquinas; Maimonides to Kant. Spinoza for heaven's sake! These were religious thinkers compelled to struggle with their human experiences and the conventional models of explanation for those experience in their time.

Certainly quite a bit of religion functions to offer answers to those who elect not to discern them for themselves; religion is not the only human institution that allows this; the common law use of precedent comes to mind; judges who rely on precedent are electing not to think through an issue critically. Perhaps that's a good thing, since I wouldn't trust any old circuit judge to reason like Cardozo or Brandeis or Posner. Likewise, can we really expect every soul out there to critically assess the experiences that impose themselves upon us tirelessly, incessantly, and to come up with a rational or coherent or even functional explanation?

anonlawstudent said...

Oops --> you made it clear that your statement was only a general observation; not an assertion of an underlying principle. My challenge was off base. Sorry.

Simon Kenton said...

Anonlawstudent -

"the common law use of precedent comes to mind; judges who rely on precedent are electing not to think through an issue critically."

The common law use of precedent is less for judges than for citizens, for without it there could be no predictability. If every judicial choplogic and casuist "thought through an issue critically" we would have no advance idea which of our acts would prove punible and which of our contracts enforceable.

Jacques Cuze said...

Fatwa said...

If the NYT praises him as a moderate, I assume he is a radical.


The Althouse commentariat are some of the most self-ironic I have ever read. Wonderful! Thank you.

Steven said...

I've always wondered about that no-interest requirement for true believers. Was this an issue w/ Jews or early Christians?

Yes. Until after the Reformation, all three of the Abrahamic religions, backed by the power of the state in Christian and Muslim lands, barred believers from charging interest.

(After the Reformation, the universality of state-enforced laws against charging interest crumbled in the Christian world. Prior to that, there was also somewhat lax enforcement in some areas under the argument that it wasn't really "interest", it was a separate payment for the inconvenience of the lender not having use of his money.)

The "Jewish moneylender" stereotype was due to the loophole that Jews were only barred (at least in some interpretations) from charging interest to other Jews. As a result, the only people who could lend at interest to the Christians of Europe (at least without circumlocutions about inconvenience recompense that might or not be tolerated by local law enforcement) were Jews.

Dave said...

To expound on Steven's comments, the Rothschilds dominated European banking for a couple of centuries precisely because they were Jews.

amba said...

There are many interesting statements in that article, but to me the most striking was,

"The woman who comes from overseas, she's like someone who comes from darkness to a very well-lit place" . . .

Jimmy said...

I live in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn near the mosque that the imam works at. I live on 6oth st and the mosque is on 66th st. There are actully two mosques within a ten block radius around my house and they both put up American flags shortly after the 9/11.

The mosque in question has two large flags on poles, one on eachr side of the entrance. I think keeping the flags up is the mosque's way of supporting America gainst 9/11.

BTW Muslims get mortgages through a clever loophole. They have the bank buy the house and then every month they make a payment to buy a percentage of the house along with rent to pay for living in the percentage of the house still owned by the bank.

Its parallel to the standard mortgages where every month you pay interest and pay down some of the principal of the loan.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ann Althouse said: "Yes, the notion that religion is supposed to make life easier surprised me."

Me too. People with deep faith find solace in their faith, but fundamentally, in my view, religion is about obligation.

When I was an atheist, I was rather pleased with myself. I didn't bother anyone, I didn't lie, cheat, steal, rob, assault people, etc., so I thought I was doing okay.

But when one comes to believe in God one is confronted with the fact that God's mandate is far more demanding.

I'm supposed to love others as I love myself? Is He nuts?

Ann Althouse said...

Jimmy: I wouldn't call that a loophole, but then, I'm a lawyer. I'd call it creatively structuring the transaction to meet the client's need. But something important is lost: a big tax deduction.

PatCA said...

And that's why I love NYT, quxxo, they are beyond self-ironical!

Aeolas said...

Jimmy,

I lived in Bay Ridge for a long while ending about 10 years ago. At that time, there was a strong (and I believed growing) Arab Christian presence in the neighborhood. Is this still so? If so, how are they getting along with the Muslims(there was almost no muslim presence in the neighborhood back then...at least I wasn't aware of any)?

Russ