Last week I expressed my concerns about the manner in which some media (and certain bloggers) portrayed Islam. While I do believe that we should strongly and clearly speak out against the many injustices of militant Islam, I think that a disproportionate emphasizing its radical elements would skew the public's understanding of a spiritually rich and culturally-diverse religion. Thankfully, Sandro Magister of the Italian website Chiesa, who had initially reported the story of Rome's confrontation with Islam in La Civiltà Cattolica, has also published an article on the thought and work of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims. 3 According to Magister:
- It is revolutionary, but perfectly orthodox. The Ismaili are part of Shiite Islam, the strain according to which – in opposition to Sunni Islam – the interpretation and historical application of the Koran is a never-ending work, always open to new solutions. The Khomeini revolution came from Shiite Islam, but it can also give rise to humanistic and liberal interpretations of the same Muslim faith. It is not an accident that, in the history of Islamic thought, the most original authors and those most open to other faiths and cultures have been, for the most part, Shiites and Ismaili.
It is a good article and worth reading for a presentation of another side of Islam -- the 'moderate side' whose voice is so desparately called for by Robert Spencer and others. (Coincidentally, it was earlier this week that I came across an article the interfaith magazine CrossCurrents on the efforts of the Aga Khan Development Network, whose mission is "building institutions that nurture a progressive Muslim identity" and counter the perverse influences of organizations like Al Queda and the Taliban and other radical Islamic organizations). 3
- The Institute of Ismaili Studies, founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, promotes scholarship and learning on Islam, with an emphasis on Shi‘ism in general and its Ismaili tariqah in particular, a better understanding of their relationship with other faiths and societies.
- The Agha Khan Development Network, "focuses on health, education, culture, rural development, institution-building and the promotion of economic development. It is dedicated to improving living conditions and opportunities for the poor, without regard to their faith, origin or gender."
- "The Other Islam. A Peace-Planning Network Is Born", by Sandro Magister, on the collaboration between Agha Khan and the president of Harvard University to launch http://archnet.org/, "the largest on-line resource in the field of Islamic architecture."
- "Lowering The Veil - The Aga Khan Award for Architecture plays a critical role in helping Muslim countries connect to the West.", by Ken Shulman. Metropolis November 2003.
- The Church and Islam. La Civiltà Cattolica Breaks the Ceasefire, by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. 10/21/03.
- "The Vatican's New Realism about Islam", by Robert Spencer. FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2003.
- "The Other Islam. The Peaceful Revolution of the Ismaili Shiites.", by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. November 3, 2003.
- On Nurturing a Modern Muslim Identity by Eboo Patel.