Desmond Tutu Center hosts Islamic reconciliation discussion


“The snake stands for our lower self, our animal self,” said Dr. Ebrahim Moosa as he explained Rumi’s tale of “The Snake-Catcher and the Serpent” to the intent crowd of people in Shelton Auditorium Tuesday night.

“If the snake is not viewed and starred in the face by a human being, a human being who has excellence, who has justice, who has all these finer abilities, if we neglect those responsibilities, those serpents will turn into dragons.”

People of all ages and religions gathered at the auditorium in the Christian Theological Seminary to hear Moosa, a Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and Dr. Marcia Hermansen, Director of the Islamic World Studies program and Professor in the Theology Department at Loyola University Chicago, explain reconciliation from an Islamic perspective.

The discussion, a collaboration between The Butler Seminar on Religion and World Civilization and the Desmond Tutu Center, was attended by about 100 people from the community.

“Reconciliation can mean a number of things,” Hermansen said, noting that many people think of it as “desirably resolving social and political conflicts”.

Hermansen quoted parts of the Koran that tell people to make peace and encourage reconciliation, and she also said that the roots of the word “Islam” have three meanings: peacefulness, safety, and to rectify or repair.

Moosa said that although instinct tells us to revenge our enemies, restraint and self empowerment can be found in God, and conversation is the key to understanding other people.

“You have to talk to fellow human beings to humanize them and make them your friends,” he said.

Moosa and Hermansen both agreed that jihadism practiced by extremist groups in the name of Islam is a misinterpretation of the religion and that the majority of Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s population, denounce jihadism.

Moosa also said that he doesn’t believe air strikes and military power will destroy extremist groups like Al Qaeda because it is a political situation, not a military situation, and he is uncomfortable that America fights violence with more violence.

“I’m uncomfortable with what’s being done in my name,” Moosa said.

Both Moosa and Hermansen emphasized that reconciliation is a crucial aspect of Islam. Hermansen said that it is important to let go of anger and understand the importance of reconciliation with God and with others.

“Allah forgives with peace and grace one who swallows his anger,” Moosa said.