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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's in a Name?

Haram Al-Sharif or Temple Mount?

Professor Amina Wadud reminded a group in a talk I heard some years ago that to speak a name is to invoke a single tradition when that name is allied with one and only one tradition. She spoke of and to those of us who were engaged in inter-religious discourse who talked about Hagar and Abraham rather than Hugr and Ibrahim.
The professor who guided us through the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque yesterday explained to us that Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif (meaning "the Noble Sanctuary") was the Arabic name for the site and that he and many other Muslims heard in the Jewish traditional name, the Temple Mount - also used by many Christians - an erasure of Muslim presence, history, culture and religion. The Jewish temple has been gone for almost 2000 years. The mosques have been there for more than 1300 years. In any tradition, the holy place is a noble sanctuary.
I also know that  many people still mourn the loss of the Temple and treasure its remaining Western wall. I count myself among them. For some, the absence of the temple is compounded by the presence of other religious sites on the same contested ground. And I understand that the words "the Temple Mount" are an essential reminder of  sacred history and lineage. And there are some who seek a third temple in place of the mosques - I am not among them.
The language seems to force the speaker - even the peace-loving and seeking speaker in an inter-religious conversation - to choose a side, a polarity in the binary. Of course I am a "both/and" woman.

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