Sunday, August 19, 2007

Al Qaeda Alternative

I've listened to Krista Tippett's radio program SPEAKING OF FAITH this morning. The teaser for the show was American Muslim Eboo Patel saying this:

Young people want to impact the world. They want their footprint on Earth, and they're going to do it somehow. So when people say to me, 'Oh, Eboo, you know, you run this sweet little organization called the Interfaith Youth Core and you do such nice things, you bring kids together,' I say, 'Yeah, you know, there's another youth organization out there. It's called al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda's been built over the past 25 years and with lots of ideas of how you recruit young people and get them to think that this is the best way they can impact the world.'
Tippett then said,

So much of the news of recent years has a religious component, for good or ill, and often involving the young. Since I interviewed Eboo Patel, I watch this unfold with a Gwendolyn Brooks poem ringing in my ears — a poem that he has taken as his rallying cry. It is called "Boy Breaking Glass":

"I shall create! If not a note, a hole.
If not an overture, a desecration."

I spoke with Eboo Patel two years ago, just before Muslim youth in suburban Paris began to set their neighborhoods on fire, and weeks after four young Muslim men walked into three subway stations and boarded one bus in London with bombs strapped to their bodies. In light of such events, Eboo Patel is puzzled by people who patronizingly describe his own projects as "sweet." He sees the work of honoring the vast spiritual longings and religious energies of the young of every faith as work of extreme urgency for us all. At 23, he founded the Interfaith Youth Core, now at work across America and in several countries.
He calls Al Qaeda and their ilk "religious totalitarians," a phrase more apt than "conservatives" or "extremists":

Well, for me, it's the best word, and you can also use "extremist" or "radical," but totalitarianism means people who are committed to condemning or converting or killing everybody who does not share their interpretation of their religious tradition. That's what a totalitarian is. And it's dramatically different than an evangelical or than a conservative or than a traditionalist. You can believe that everybody except your tribe is not going to share heaven with you and still live in perfect peace and harmony and be an excellent neighbor.

(from Krista Tippett's journal at the web site of SPEAKING OF FAITH. See my link near the heading of this blog.)

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