I've been mulling this one over and snooping around the internet. The idea of mediation by a 40-member interfaith panel to deal with the Islamic Society of Boston controversy rubs me the wrong way. The recent Globe article didn't say who initiated this, but an earlier Globe article stated that the ISB offered "to stop litigation in exchange for private mediation." So we can conclude that the mediation was the ISB's idea, not any of the many defendants in the ISB's multiple lawsuits.
I assumed this mediation would involve a company that actually conducts mediation to resolve legal disputes, but instead the Interreligious Center of Public Life is involved. (Goodness, rather a grandiose name.) Hard to imagine getting anywhere fast with a 40-member panel. According to the article earlier this week, the panel chastised each side (as if there were only two), telling them "court was not the place to resolve the dispute." (How about telling that to the ISB, the party that initiated the multiple lawsuits?)
From looking at the ICPL's website, they sound quite liberal. The ICPL, established in 1999, is a joint venture of Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School. It calls itself "a forum for the dissemination of the principles and ideas of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as they relate to the great domestic and international issues of the day." They've held conferences on topics such as Religion, The Self and Human Rights and Promoting Religion as a Resource for Tolerance. The Executive Committee and Board of Directors appear to be mostly Jewish and Christian, with a few Muslim members. Salma Kazmi, Assistant Director of the Islamic Society of Boston, is on the Executive Committee, which might explain how the ICPL got involved in the mediation. Perhaps a small conflict of interest here? David Dolov, well-known locally for his involvement with pro-labor and pro-Palestinian causes, is also on the ICPL Executive Committee. Fr. Walter Cuenin, also on the Exec Comm, is quite liberal, openly supporting gay rights and women in the priesthood. Some excerpts from the ICPL newsletters:
- Dr. Khaleel Mohammed: "The view that Islamic law is harsh and inhuman is pervasive. No study, however, has been conducted to find out whether Islamic law ....is indeed Islamic, and in some cases is it really so that Islamic law is indeed harsh and is it, in fact, better to have a secular approach?"
- Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedine: "Monotheistic traditions are notoriously exclusionary. There is no difference in this respect between Islam and Christianity."
- Rev. John Stendhal: "Some of the most repressive teachings on human rights have been generated and defended in my (Christian) community..One of the many things Martin Luther is remembered for having said - is that he would rather have for his prince a wise Turk i.e., a wise Msulim, than a stupid Christian."
(Really, Dr. Stendhal, would it kill you to say something nice about your own religion? It's abundantly clear that Westerns beliefs in free will and universal human rights came straight out of the Judeo-Christian traditions. Ending slavery, polygamy, treating women as people not property - these are Western, Judeo-Christian moral reforms. But I digress.....)
Sorry, the ICPL strikes me as a well-intentioned but very leftist organization. Who decided that they should act as mediators here? Likely the ISB proposed the idea, and The David Project was afraid to politely decline, as they would have looked bad or uncooperative. But now on top of the ongoing legal proceedings, the defendants also have to divert time and energy to a 40-member panel whose sympathies appear to lie a lot more with one side than the other. I think the mediation can only benefit the ISB, who gets to appear magnimonious (after filing five or six baseless lawsuits). As always, stay tuned.