SHAFAQNA – Dr. John Andrew Morrow, the Director of the Covenants Initiative, and the author of the ground-breaking Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, participated in a Sunni-Shiite Summit on April 15, 2016.
Organized by ISNA, participants also included Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director for the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances; Sayyid Mohammad Baqir Kashmiri, the representative of Ayatullah Sistani in the United States; M.J. Khan, the President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston; and Imam Mohammad Elahi, the spiritual leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom (IHW) in Dearborn Heights, among many others.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow related some of the traumatic experiences he faced when he entered Islam in the mid-1980s and how he was confronted with Takfiri Wahhabis who taught him their three pillars: haram, bid‘ah, and takfir, namely, prohibition, innovation, and excommunication.
An account of his initiation into pseudo-Islamic extremism, titled “Nightmares in Takfiristan: A Cautionary Tale,” can be found in his new book titled Restoring the Balance: Using the Qur’an and Sunnah to Guide a Return to the Prophet’s Islam.
Morrow was quick to point out that although such Salafi gangs used to openly recruit fighters in mosques in the 1980s and 1990s, they were forced out of Islamic centers after 9/11, and now limit themselves primarily to cyber-radicalization.
In the comments he addressed to the participants in the intrafaith summit, Morrow expounded upon the importance of identifying the origin of extremist ideology and those who are responsible for spreading this plague across the planet.
He spoke of the importance of selecting imams carefully. As he explained, “We should select scholars who were trained in traditional centers of Islamic scholarship; namely, Tarim, Yemen; al-Azhar in Egypt; and al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco.”
“When I go to a Sunni mosque,” said Morrow, “I want to be attended by a Sunni Imam; not by a Salafi-Wahhabi-Takfiri Jihadi.”
He also insisted that mainstream Muslims should produce their own literature that accurately reflects the traditional teachings of Islam as opposed to rely upon the sectarian propaganda produced in places such as Saudi Arabia.
Morrow also voiced his concern that intrafaith efforts were not necessarily trickling down to common Muslims who attend mosques.
“We may meet once a month, share tea and crumpets, and express how much we appreciate one another; however, we are all educated, cultured, and generally affluent people. How much of this message is reaching our congregations?”
Moving forward, Morrow proposed that the Muslim Community should be independent, indigenous, and centrist. “We should be independent,” he explained, “namely, we should neither be agents of Saudi Arabia nor of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“As Muslims,” argued Morrow, “we should be loyal to our nations.” However, as he explained in an important caveat, “loving one’s nation does not necessarily imply loving one’s government or its policies.”
Not only should Muslims be loyal to their nations, explained Morrow, they should be indigenous, namely, they should represent their own interests as American, Canadian or Western Muslims. Otherwise, he stressed, they would remain subjected to what he described as religious or reverse colonialism.
Finally, he emphasized that Muslims should be centrists. Acknowledging that there are extremists on both the Sunni and the Shiite sides, he called upon believers to move towards the center and to focus on commonality.
Stressing that importance of studying the full spectrum of Islam and appreciating the blessings that are inherent in diversity of opinion, he insisted that Western Muslims should promote traditional, civilizational Islam.
“There are those who speak of American Islam,” pointed out Morrow, “however, that could be misconstrued as meaning an Islam at the service of the American Empire. I am speaking of Universal Islam.”