What if this happened here?

I read an article about Sudan (click to read it) yesterday that bothered me. Obviously, one would think that this article was about the injustices that are occurring in Sudan's western Darfur region but it wasn't about that. This article was about a man named Hassan al-Turabi, a Muslim theologian and leader who in the past has been known for his radical views and is credited with inviting Osama bin Laden to live in Sudan in the early 1990's. al-Turabi has been very outspoken in the past about his radical views on Islam and has helped to shape Sudan's overtly Islamic regime that is closed to any form of Christian evangelism or religious freedom. While these facts alone could be considered disturbing, it's what has happened to al-Turabi recently that has me bothered.

Earlier this month, during a conference in Khartoum, Sudan's capitol city, al-Turabi announced that he thought the Quran was "backward" when it came to womens' rights. Historically, Islam has lowered the status of women below that of men and has limited their religious expression and ability to contribute to society. Now al-Turabi, once one of Islam's staunchest supporters of oppressing women, has made a surprise move to announce that women should have the right to lead prayers, have their testimonies equal to that of a man's, and have the right to marry a Jew or a Christian if they so choose. These views are considered liberal if not radical to most Muslim scholars and now many are calling for his head. Yes, many Muslim scholars and clerics in Sudan are asking that al-Turabi be convicted and possibly sentenced to death for his views on women.
When I was in Sudan earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit side-by-side with the Grand Sheik Muhammad a-Nil of Sufi Islam and we had a very thoughtful and heartfelt discussion. He expressed to me sincere respect and appreciation for our differences and wanted very much for the people of America and the world to see that Islam is not as bad as everyone portrays it. While I will always hold this Grand Sheik in the highest regard, I cannot help but think he is in the minority amongst the Muslim leadership in countries like Sudan.

This whole topic may not hit home with many of you who read these words, but it should sound like a clarion of warning to those of us in the West who value our freedom. America isn't perfect - far from it. And while I would wish that many of the values that I hold dear could be law in our country, I realize that even if I don't "get my way" I will still have my life to show for it. Sudan is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people, yet Islam has slowly choked the life out of this once vibrant nation. These words aren't intended to scare or paint unfair images. They are simply a small sampling of what a religion like Islam is doing in one small corner of our world to the freedoms that we hold most precious. For those of you who think that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the rest of the "religious right" (myself included) are out of bounds, be grateful that at least we can tune each other out without fear of losing our heads. Pray for the people of Sudan, that they might have the opportunity to see the light of Jesus and have the freedom to follow Him if they so choose.

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