With Muslims being portrayed as terrorists in the West, giving rise to Islamophobia, drawing a corresponding response from the East, Sufism provides a platform for the two sides to interact.
This was stated by Marcia Hermensen, a professor at the Loyola University in Chicago while delivering a lecture on “Sufism and the West”. The lecture had been organised by the Muslim Institute.
Hermensen said that Sufism, practised for centuries, made co-existence among various religions and civilisations possible in the past.
Moreover, she said that sufism was often characterised as culture-friendly so that Islamic thought could be introduced through subjects such as art and poetry and hence Islam could spread around the world by meeting people where they were in their cultural interest in an adaptive manner.
In the wake of globalisation, migration from ‘East’ to ‘West’ increased along with the invention of different modes of transportation, allowing more and more western population to come into contact with sufism and also led to the establishment of Sufism in the West as an academic field. “The isolation of individuals has lead people to search for inner peace in Sufi poetry which can thus create a peace-loving and friendly society. Sufism provides the western community with rationality and objectivity regarding contemporary issues,” Hermensen said.
“Multiculturalism has emerged as a reality and Sufism provides us with the platform of interaction between the East and the West.”
One peculiarity of Sufi teachings, she said, was that it addresses humanity above all linguistic, racial and ethnic differences.
“In the wake of prevailing extreme tendencies, Sufi teachings can lead us towards harmony and brotherhood,” she said, adding that focusing the commonalities and bridging the gap between people was the need of the hour.
With the portrayal of Muslims as extremists in the west giving rise to Islamophobia, drawing corresponding reactions in the East. there was a need for dialogue between Muslims and the West for the resolution of contemporary issues. “We are all connected to Sufism because of our spiritual aspect. Even scientists are looking for spiritual connections behind physical happenings,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2017.