Shrinemont & Islam without extremes

Spent the past weekend enjoying Shrinemont, a wonderful retreat center in the mountains that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia allows Maryland and DC churches to use. Gorgeous blue skies, fall leaves, great food. Veeka stayed amused much of the time, playing with a little friend named Emma and allowing one kind gentleman named Charlie to teach her about sewing. I had already given her many lessons in it and recently bought her the smallest thimble I could find (they don’t make ’em for kids any more) but it was nice for her to learn from someone else. We also had the mile-long walk through the woods, the late-night bonfire and on Sunday visited a corn maze, which she did not like. I didn’t either – felt kind of creepy getting lost in it.

Sewing lesson

Yesterday, had the most interesting lunch at the Heritage Foundation where I got to hear Mustafa Akyol, author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” speak. You can click here to get his half-hour speech, which I found impressive. He made a case for reforming sharia because much of it is based on the Hadiths (post-Quranic sources) that can be re-interpreted rather than the Quran, which Muslims say they can’t tinker with. One person in the audience asked if Islam was genetically (his wording) violent. The author was not too sure how to handle that question, but I am guessing most of the people in that room perceive Islam as inherently violent. No turning of the other cheek in that religion.

At a lunch afterwards, we talked a lot about Islam’s problem with allowing other faiths religious freedom in Muslim-majority countries. If Islam was confident in its truths, he said, it’d try to share its precepts rather than impose them. Mustafa is Turkish, so he and I had a brief chat about the beauties of eastern Turkey, where I spent some time in 2004. That said, I would not recommend that single women travel alone there!

Veeka atop ridge overlooking Shrinemont

One other note: When I visited Shrinemont for the first time in 2007 as a guest of the Falls Church, I got all sorts of nasty remarks in the blog on the web site for the National Cathedral from people who said that because I attended a retreat given by a Virginia church that was leaving the denomination, I was too biased to be covering the Episcopal/Anglican wars. The pure spitefulness of those remarks was amazing, considering how those same people never questioned the biases of reporters who attend liberal churches. That blog has since disappeared from the cathedral’s site and I have since moved into the Diocese of Washington. I’d say I won that battle.