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Sheik Ahmad Kuftaro,
Grand Mufti of Syria


[I was sick all day, so this account is second-hand.]

Today the group visits the mosque of Sheik Ahmad Kuftaro, the Grand Mufti of Syria. The Sheik is very interested in inter-faith dialogue, and has an excellent website at kuftaro.org. (We later discover that the Sheik and his order are Sufi. Sufism is the mystical wing of Islam, and has a strong anti-authoritarian tradition.)

Our group first meets with the Sheik's son and spokesman, Salah Kuftaro. The Sheik is almost 90, and is in declining health. Today is Friday, the Muslim Sabbath. Every Friday the Sheik and his guests give talks to his followers. Rev. David Parks-Ramage of our group will give a talk today.

The group goes to the mosque itself, a large but somewhat ugly modern building. The women go to the first balcony, the men sit near the podium on the ground floor. We are told that there are 25,000 here, and that another 100,000 will listen to the live webcast. After a talk by the Sheik, David gives a short, excellent talk. Next, a Shiite from Iran speaks. He appears to be a hardliner. However, when the event is over he approaches David and invites him to Iran!

Kuftaro is widely viewed as a moderate, but I should note that he did issue a fatwa approving of any attacks on Americans in Iraq. His son has publicly disavowed this fatwa, calling it an error, but as of December 2003 the fatwa was still posted on the website. (See the New York Times article for more.)

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