Two days ago, I had an opportunity to have a private forty-five minute meeting with Shaykh Abdul-Azeez bin Abdillah Aali Shaykh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, in Mina, Saudi Arabia.
Shaykh Abdul-Azeez stated that it is the “duty” of American Muslims to be engaged in their communities including voting, and that the best way to decrease misconceptions about Islam is to engage one’s neighbors.
Obviously, many Muslim leaders including myself have said this for years and the majority of mainstream American Muslims know this. This is noteworthy to me, however, that it was coming from the chief religious authority in Saudi Arabia, who is a Salafi.
Some of the other religious scholars and leaders that I’ve also spoken with have displayed a level of flexibility that I (and many others) don’t normally associate with Saudi Arabia. I was also surprised to see in Jeddah, where I’m at right now, that women are not being forced to wear headscarves. Many women, including Arabs, are walking the streets uncovered.
I’m not endorsing Muslim women being uncovered, but I’m highlighting a new flexibility that is slowly being instituted into this ultra-conservative society.
Back to my meeting with the Grand Mufti, I was also given a book written by him called “Al-Irhaab” (Terrrorism) written in Arabic. The book discusses the roots of terrorism and refutes the idealogy of Al-Qaeda. I also was given another book written by another author in Arabic discussing interfaith relations with a picture of Saudi King Abdullah and Pope Benedict on the front cover.
*Additional comment added at 8 AM Makkah time.
The Grand Mufti also advised American Muslims in regards to those who make mockery and attack Prophet Muhammad and/or burn the Qur’an. Shaykh Abdul-Azeez stated that American Muslims should not react out of anger or emotions and simply tell those who insult Prophet Muhammad that they are in fact also insulting Moses and Jesus, for Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were brothers in the family of prophets and taught the same core message. He also said that we should also voice displeasure in the best manner when any people insult or make mockery of any of the prophets of G-d (Moses, David, Jesus, etc.)
As I’ve stated before many times, American Muslims have overwhelmingly acted soberly and with civility with those who attack Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an. What I’ve also stated before, however, is that it makes no sense how some in the Muslim world get angry when the character of Prophet Muhammad is attacked yet voice no concern when Jesus Christ is made mockery of.