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A Muslim Benedict Option

Al-Maqasid, a center of learning and formation in the Lehigh Valley
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I’m just hearing about a small community in the rural Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania called Al-Maqasid. A Muslim reader (who is not part of it) says that some Muslim families moved out there to raise their kids around this education and spiritual formation start-up. They not only don’t want to lose their kids to liquid modernity, they also want to form their children to be able to serve in the world as faithful Muslims. I understand that they’ve been at it for five years, and that more and more Muslim families are moving out there.

Here’s a fundraising video they did:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs1J5R6vhnU&w=525&h=300]

Here’s a link to a brochure explaining what their vision is. I don’t know anything about the group other than what I’ve read here, but it seems interesting.

I’m really interested in knowing more about this group, and I hope to have the opportunity at some point in the next year to visit. It sounds pretty Ben Oppy to me. You know that Muslims in America have a much harder time doing something like this than traditional Christians do, in terms of outsiders regarding them with mistrust. I see opportunities for building solidarity, though it’s understandable that both sides approach the other with suspicion. That’s something that’s real, and not always based simply on misunderstanding. We have to work through it.

Still, I believe this is a risk worth taking, though both sides should go into it with eyes wide open. I say “both sides,” but I also would like to include Orthodox Jews, so, all three Abrahamic sides. I assume no one who would be interested in this initiative is interested in happy-clappy ecumenism that denies our meaningful differences. But I do believe that we can learn from each other’s experiences — the effective things we have tried, and the mistakes we have made — and defend each other’s religious liberties when they’re challenged.

I’ve said here before that I find it easier to converse with traditionalists within Christianity, and in non-Christian religions, than with liberal Christians. I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, but I think it has something to do with the basic orientation towards religion, and towards truth. For trads, generally speaking, religion is not simply part of life, it is the basis for our life. America is not only post-Christian, it is moving towards post-religious across the board. The receding of Christian hegemony may make life easier in some ways for Jews and Muslims, but I think in most ways it will make life harder, because the things that liberal culture resents traditionalist Christians for also apply to Jews and Muslims. Liberals may not sue Orthodox Jewish or Muslim bakers over wedding cakes, but the kind of society in which that sort of thing happens is a society that is hostile to traditional Judaism and traditional Islam, even if the hostility never ends up in court. Raising kids in that kind of culture is a great challenge to traditionalists of all three Abrahamic faiths.

Shouldn’t we talk about it, together, and get a sense of where we all are, and what common interests we share? I’ll be talking with some folks about putting together a conference at some point where we can establish some common ground, and discuss first steps. Advice welcome.



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