May 4, 2010 | 10:31 am

Tuesday – What’s going on inside that mosque?


Above is a picture of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. I was able to get this aerial view because a friend let me climb a minaret. It always pays to have connections. The mosque is stunning, and it is sizeable. It will hold over six thousand inside, and the entire space will accommodate over twenty thousand. Just as there are “mega-churches,” so too there are “mega-mosques.”
The mosque is open to the public and thousands of tourists pass through the mosque each week. What most people do not know is that there is a lecture hall attached to the mosque. In it they hold lectures on a variety of religious, social, and political topics. They host Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, leaders, and politicians from all over the world. The topics have included democracy in the Middle East, gender equality and Islam, and a Christian theology of religious diversity. My favorite part is always the Q&A after the lecture. I recall a Dutch philosopher saying the only way to be open to greater truth is to doubt what you believe (a/k/a, epistemological modesty). This made for interesting dialogue with the Muslim community!
One of the reasons I admire this initiative is that the goal is not to present the country’s party line. It is to stimulate conversation about the currents of dialogue and hot topics in the world today. Oman does this very quietly without seeking praise or publicity. Most people have no idea what goes on inside this mosque.
Random thought for the day: We can get in our comfort zones and only seek those opinions and ideas with which we are already comfortable. But if we want to grow, it requires us to listen and engage the views of those with whom we may disagree.
p.s. The Grand Mosque holds a special place for our family. Austin had his senior pictures taken there.