Monday, April 9, 2018

Post 71--Unjust Power Relations

The author of the main body of this post goes by the name Ingrid Mattson.  Now that sounds pretty common, so common that I would not even begin to guess from what Western European country she might hail. "Ingrid" sounds Scandinavian to my ears, but "Mattson?"  No clue. Actually, as with so much in life, things are seldom as they seem and, when it comes to names, things often don't sound the way they are.

Actually, Mattson is a highly respected female Muslim scholar. Yes, all of that. Female. Highly respected. Muslim. Scholar. She "is London and Windsor Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron Univeristy College at the University of Western  Ontario. She is a recognized Islamic religious and interfaith leader. She has published numerous articles on Islam, she travels and lectures widely, and is past President of the Islamic Society of North America."

One topic touched upon in this short article is the standing of Aboriginal peoples, most of whom are animists by tradition.  My research in Islam has brought to light deep-seated contempt for Animists. At least, Christians and Jews can be accepted as second class citizens as long as they tow the Muslim line about their status, but Animists have to rights at all in the traditional Muslim system. Mattson is more kind and wants to accord them recognition and a place to stand.

(For my research, go to my Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, vols. 1-8. See


Blindspot!Unjust Power Relations
A number of decades ago, the "Abrahamic" identity was created to expand Christian-Jewish dialogue to include Muslims. This was a positive development that has since established a shared platform for dialogue and engagement. At the same time, it is a constructed identity that does not fully encompass the theological ethics and identity of each of us or all of us. Anything we build will necessarily be limited in space and perspective, and we must be mindful that enclosures, as much as they unite people in a space, also restrict that space. I am particularly concerned that the "Abrahamic" appellation reinforces a patriarchal lineage that I believe Islam came to reform. The elder men of the community have no preferential claim on religious leadership and authority in Islam, as much as that might be the cultural preference and social reality of many Muslims. As we work together to build a more peaceful world, we must embrace language and appellations that do not replicate or reinstate unjust power relations.

Islam also recognizes that God's guidance is not limited to the scriptural traditions. The Quran states that "messengers" have been sent by God to every community. While it could be argued that communities without a written scripture have a tendency to drift further from prophetic teachings over time, they still can preserve some authentic teachings. This means that teachings of Islam in the literal sense of "submission to God" can be found among the non-scripturalists. In the Americas, New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, there are Aboriginal people, some of whom belong to our scriptural faiths and others who try to follow a traditional path left by their ancestors. In most of our countries, there is a terrible history of injustice towards the original people of the land. Our interfaith engagement should not only address these injustices, but also open a spiritual appreciation for those who might retain some of the wisdom received from the Messengers.

Compiled From:
"Of Fences and Neighbors: An Islamic Perspective on Interfaith Engagement for Peace" - Ingrid Mattson. The compilation is found on Friday Nasiha, Issue 993, April 6, 2018 / Rajab 20, 1439.  So, now you know where all this comes from and even have access to the book that discusses all the above in much greater detail. 

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