Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Druze Heritage Symposium at Library of Congress

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Druze Heritage Symposium at Library of Congress

Article excerpt

TEN DRUZE scholars from the United States, Europe and the Middle East gathered at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for a Feb. 7 symposium entitled "Druze Heritage: Roots, Development and Challenges of Modernity." The day-long event was sponsored by the American Druze Foundation, the John Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, and the Library's African and Middle Eastern Division.

The speakers detailed the historic and theological background of the Druze faith, which began as an 11th century branch of the Ismaili sect of Shi'i Islam. The faith came to incorporate a unique blend of Gnostic, neo-Platonic and other religious philosophies. Today, the majority of the Druze population resides in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. Expatriate communities can be found in the United States and other countries around the world.

A recurring topic of the symposium was the faith's ongoing pursuit of tawhid, defined as a oneness with God. The Druze approach to tawhid encourages an open approach to other faiths.

"The bee doesn't make honey from one kind of flower, rather from many flowers," noted Dr. Melhem Salman, chairman of the American Druze Foundation. "Therefore, why freeze out other religions from our thinking?

"The Druze don't have a dogma. …

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