Sunday, November 27, 2011
"You're Not a True Muslim:" The Challenge of Religious Understanding and Self-Representation
This clip is from a talk show with Anderson Cooper where he includes those on the reality show All-American Muslim from the TLC channel. This program follows the lives, joys, and struggles of various Muslim families in America.
One of the interesting facets of this clip is the reaction of a woman in the audience to the guests from the show, and their religion. Several thoughts come to mind that relate not only to American's wresting with Islam, but are equally applicable to other minority religions that are also viewed with suspicion.
First, although the Muslims in the television program define themselves in terms of their religious practices and beliefs, the woman in the audience presumes to know more about their religion, and its "true" representation than the adherents do. Allowing self-representation in religion is crucial.
Second, related to the thought above, there is a frequent problem in the Evangelical subculture about the understanding of a given religion as the only true and right way to understand that religion. Any other representation by adherents is held to be inauthentic and deceptive.
Third, from these it follows that we must recognize diversity in religious traditions, and that these traditions change, develop, and evolve over time. Religious adherents disagree among themselves about how to interpret their tradition, so it seems difficult for outsiders to adjudicate as to which expression within a diverse tradition is the only true one.
Fourth and finally, we must be willing to work through the difficult process of listening to the religious other, and then wresting with our preconceptions in a process of dialogue so as to come to grips with religious diversity and complexity in our religiously plural environment. All-American Muslim seems to be the best type of program to help us wrestle with difficult post-9/11 issues.