I was very moved by Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, Grand Mufti of Syria when I met him last summer in Damascus. Like Bashar Assad, the Mufti has been misrepresented and demonized in the Western press. Though a very different personality than the Syrian President, the Mufti, like the President, represents what is good and strong in Syrian society.
The Grand Mufti of any country is the highest Sunni official who is endowed to interpret Islamic law for his people. Many Muslim countries have a Grand Mufti. So, like most other Sunni majority countries, Syria has a Grand Mufti. According to my research, the Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun studied in a relatively conservative tradition of Islamic Law, but my sense of him was that he is a man who is open to the spirit as well as the letter of the law, whose faith and understanding have grown through the experiences of life, If Mr. Assad is the head of a Syrian state fighting for survival, Grand Mufti Hassoun is the heart of a great people who will not be divided by terrorism and threats, by isolation from an arrogant Western led global economy, or the by lure false prophets who offer an Allah limited to the imaginations of impoverished humanity.
Yes, the Mufti has been demonized by the enemies of his country, and of Islam. He has been accused by Western sources of threatening to send suicide bombers to Europe and America. That is their expectation from a powerful Sunni Scholar, barbarism. They expect him to act like the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, or the spiritual leaders of the extremists who are destroying his country. But, their expectations are confused by the negative bias of Western culture, not just against the Mufti, but against Sunni Islam. In fact, the Mufti said that if you create terrorists to fight your battles for you, you will not be safe from them. This is a reasonable statement and one that has proven true. To the extent that you know the Mufti, you will understand that the image of Syrian society and the Syrian people that has been presented to you is a lie. This is why he is not allowed to visit any western country to tell the story of the Syrian people since the beginning of the war of terror against Syria in 2011.
I led my talks last summer and fall with images of the Mufti. Intelligent, passionate in his faith and full of compassion for the people of his land, he is a true reflection of the Syria I was so often told of before the war, and that I saw in Damascus when I visited in 2014 and again in 2016. I can repeat the stories he told when we met him. Yes, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun is a man with a big heart, one moment speaking passionately of his faith, the next making a pointed joke to show his appreciation for the rituals of his Christian counterpart, while a smiling Bishop Lucas chuckles in the next chair. I could go on, but I would prefer to let him tell you his own story.
. . . . I found these two videos just last night. So, if you can take a half an hour to meet the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, you will meet a very special man, and see Syria in a different light than before.
First, the Mufti speaks to the Irish Parliament after he was finally welcomed by a Western country, Ireland, in early December last year. (He was very upset when I was in Syria last summer because he could not get a visa to visit any western country.)
And then, Grand Mufti Badreddin Hassoun’s words at the funeral of his youngest son, Sarya, who was murdered by Saudi hired mercenaries in late 2011 after he had refused to abandon his responsibilities to his people.