Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sufism and the Future of Islam

Stephen Schwartz gives a history lesson on Sufi muslims in an attempt to discover whether they could act as a potential "Islamic unifier." Schwartz seems to conclude that there are some possibilities, but that the West should be careful:
. . . it would be an error to believe that Sufism can or should become a direct agency of political change, or an implement of Western strategy, in the transformation of the Islamic world. "Official Sufism," whether financed by the U.S. or not, would no more be appropriate than the merging of the state and the Catholic religious orders, such as the Franciscans, Jesuits, or Dominicans, in such countries as Nicaragua, Poland, or the Philippines. The esoteric nature of Sufism, which is necessarily private and personal, must be respected. Those are the lessons of the Jerusalem Sheikh Bukhari's rejection of a seat on the Palestinian Waqf, and it is in their spirit that Westerners sincerely seeking the betterment of the Islamic world should approach him and the millions like him.

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