A chance to be immersed in Islam, particularly Sufi traditions and the mystic Rumi - without having to convert...
A social enterprise is offering individuals the opportunity to immerse themselves in Islam, without having to convert, through a trip to Istanbul that takes in the regular sights and sounds but also includes prayers at dawn and midnight and lessons on Islam and its basic practices.
It draws heavily on the country's Sufi traditions – with a particular emphasis on the poet and mystic Rumi. Ben Bowler, from the Blood Foundation, which runs the project, said: "We wanted to focus on Rumi because he is a unifying figure. Turkey has a relatively open brand of Islam and Istanbul is an existing tourist destination."
"There is a willingness to engage with the west. We might not have found it in the Middle East or parts of south Asia. If we were in Saudi Arabia it would have been harder."
So, let's see:
- Find a Muslim country that is friendly to the West, because we sure don't want to challenge non-Muslim Western people's world view of what Islam should look like. Check!
- Make sure said country has a big cosmopolitan city and lots of touristy stuff to do, cuz we don't want to make it this Muslim-for-a-day thing too hard. Check!
- Present praying five times a day as a contest. Check!
- Charge typical tour-package fees (the £600 doesn't include airfare) to keep the riff-raff out. Check!
- Lie by calling it "Muslim for a month" even though it's for nine days Check!
- Focus on Rumi and Sufism, because those are the easiest for non-Muslim Westerners to "get into" and mis-appropriate for the cachet of being all advanced and open-minded. You know, that ally-cred thing. Check!
- Put a liberal "we're doing this to increase understanding" spin on it so that non-Muslim Westerners don't have to feel guilty about appropriating Islam. Check!
- Hey! Look! No commitment! Get your instant Islam fix! Check!
Yeah. Something that pisses me off is people wanting to get spiritual quick-fixes without doing the work or making a commitment, and somehow it always winds up being people with relative privilege cherry-picking the easy parts of non-dominant religions and cultures. I mean, how many "Be Christian for a month" tourist packages do you see?
It's like Madonna thinking that she's a special and enlightened honorary Jew because she practices a fake commercialized newage Kabbalah scrubbed clean of its years of study and torn violently off from Judaism. (Although, it seems Kabbalah isn't good enough for her any more; easy come easy go, I guess.)
It's like people saying they're Buddhist because they meditate and have a little shrine in their living rooms, complete with thousand-dollar gold-plated Buddha statues. As best I understand it, Buddhism is a way of life that encompasses compassion, non-violence, anti-oppression, and anti-materialism. Kind of like Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are. But that stuff is just so hard, and who wants to do that when you can just spend twenty minutes a day sitting with your legs crossed before you go to your job where you push subprime mortgages onto poor people?
If you want to take up a faith or a belief system, do the work of living it.