Selle, Robert R., The World and I
Khalid Duran's family is a microcosm of racial, religious, ethnic, and cultural reconciliation.
His father was a Muslim businessman from Morocco who worked in Germany and his mother a Roman Catholic from Spain. His wife is a black Catholic from Kenya among whose other family members are Muslims and evangelical Christians. One of his daughters once told her young friends, "My dad is white, my mom is black, and I am golden."
Duran himself is a Muslim who was raised in Spain and Germany; spent years studying Islam in Morocco, Bosnia, and Pakistan; immersed himself from 1961 to 1968 in political science and sociology at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin; traveled widely throughout the Muslim world and especially South Asia; and then taught at universities in Pakistan, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States in the departments of anthropology, history, religion, and sociology. He has lived in America for the past 15 years and speaks Arabic, English, German, Spanish, Urdu, French, Italian, Kiswahili, Persian, and Turkish.
The work he likes best (in addition to caring for his five children and providing for the profusion of banana plants and palm and rubber trees that adorn his home) is promoting interreligious understanding and harmony through his writings. His latest book is called Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews, published by the New York- based American Jewish Committee.
The work earned him a formal condemnation by a radical Jordanian Muslim cleric. The edict, issued last June by Sheik Abdel Moneim Abu Zant, a leader in the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, was one step short of a fatwa, a death sentence imposed for supposed betrayal of Islam. The decree nonetheless means that Duran's "blood could be shed," according to Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The edict, which calls for Muslims to "unify against Duran" because of his alleged vilification of Islam, prompted the 61-year-old writer to move to a safe house with 24-hour security and to split up his family. Duran says the Abu Zant decree was issued because CAIR's fulminations against him distorted his book and found their way into the Arabic press.
"CAIR [pronounced care] was very much opposed to me for many years," Duran says in an interview. "While my book was still with the printer, and nobody had seen it, they started inventing all kinds of things about what I was saying in it."
One example, he notes, was his section on female circumcision. CAIR assumed the scholar would excoriate Islam over the issue. "In actual fact," he says, "if you look into my book, that section explains that female circumcision is actually a custom that is practiced in many parts of Africa, and predominantly by non-Muslims--animists and Christians. There are probably more African Christians who practice female circumcision than Muslims."
Duran notes that there are basically two Muslim countries, Egypt and Sudan, where female circumcision is practiced, but it was indigenous before the arrival of Islam. "CAIR should have been grateful to me," he declares, "for making it plain to Americans that Islam is not responsible for female circumcision. But they didn't care to open the book."
The organization's fiery reaction illustrates a problem with Muslim groups and mosques in America, Duran says. Of the roughly 2 to 5 million Muslims in this country today (estimates vary widely), some 50 to 60 percent are immigrants. While America's black Muslims are represented by strong, populist cultural and political organizations, the professor says, immigrant Muslims have no such representation.
Instead, Duran charges, wealthy patrons in mainly Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have financed the start-up in the United States of some two dozen cultural, charitable, and political groups that have no roots in the Muslim immigrant population. …