Tue Dec 26th, 2006 at 02:51:52 PM EST
as Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, has written, almost as if he was thinking of Kamil and Francis, "Those who are confident of their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faiths of others. ... There are, surely, many ways of arriving at this generosity of spirit and each faith may need to find its own."
Who are the al-Malik al-Kamil and Francis of Assisi of our day?
Thomas Cahill of How the Irish Saved Civilization fame, writes that
We stand in desperate need of contemporary figures like Kamil and Francis of Assisi to create an innovative dialogue.
Are there any individualus like these today? People who ar willing to risk their lives, as Francis did, when he went to Kamil's Egyptian court to proselytize him, a capital offense, and walked away so impressed, claims Cahill, by the religious devotion of the Muslims that perhaps the "the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin"?
Like his model, Jesus of Nazareth, Francis was an extremist.
And yet, today, "extremist" is a bad word. Perhaps what is bad is not the word "extremist" per se, but "ideological extremist", which Francis and Jesus were not; rather, they were, for want of a better phrase, "humanitarian extremists": i.e. they recognized and embraced the inherent diversity of humanity, the "glorious dignity of difference", as Rabbi Sacks put it.
It is high time that the world produces a new outlook, a planetary outlook, that recognizes and embraces the richness and variety of traditions and cultures in the histories and geographies of different peoples, but that looks forward towards the interrelated condition that more and more, and more and more rapidly, is becoming the common lot of all of us. This outlook seems to be already emerging, has been emerging, for some time. Do we need to accelerate it? Do we need to agitate for it? Or do we just let it come together "organically", "on its own", through technological, political, economic and cultural interchanges and developments? In short, do we need build a new myth, a new "narrative", that rejects parochialism and embraces "planet-consciousness", or do we just let this new outlook continue sprouting on its own?