Following the September 11, 2001 'attack on America' by Muslim extremists we received a number of e-mails asking questions about Muslim membership in Freemasonry and other matters relating to these horrific events at the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC and in the skies of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, we felt it appropriate to create a page to provide information relating to the matter.
It should be understood first and foremost that Freemasonry takes no position on matters of religious or political issues. That having been said, the wanton destruction of life by religious extremists cannot help but sicken every right-thinking person.
Freemasonry has many Muslim members in lodges throughout the world. Since no record is made of a member's religion, the numbers are impossible to ascertain. Regardless of the number, adherents of that faith, in the main, see no contradiction between their Masonic membership and their religious obligations. However, extremists have in some cases 'hijacked' the true beliefs of the Muslim faith just as have some Protestant extremists and both use their self-created 'fundamentalist' beliefs to justify both words and acts of hate.
Within hours of the attack, for example, the anti-Mason Pat Robertson was vigorously agreeing with salacious comments made by Rev. Jerry Falwell to the effect that the attack was the result of things like the gay and lesbian movement. While Rev. Falwell quickly retracted his statements in the flurry of negative publicity which followed, Robertson's press office issued a passive comment that Mr. Robertson didn't understand Falwell's comments completely (despite his eagerly agreeing with them). Readers are free to draw their own conclusions but certainly the anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic rhetoric is not limited to the followers of Bin Laden or the Taliban alone!
Does Freemasonry exist in Afghanistan? Simply, no! The so-called 'religious clerics' under whose rule of terror there are public beheadings regularly, brutal punishment for even minor infractions (such as a woman showing a wisp of her hair in public), and the horrific treatment of children and women clearly would not tolerate an organization which teaches humanity and toleration. In various Middle Eastern countries there have been Masonic lodges in the past but most were found on US or British military bases.
In the Middle East, there is a strong hatred of Judaism. There is also a great belief in conspiracies and the "Protocols" is one of the most widely read documents. Little wonder, then, that in these areas ruled by bigoted despots acting under the imagined banner of religion would find Freemasonry an anathema.
But what about the Shriners, their mosques, their fezzes, and all of that stuff?
The Shrine was formed in 1872 by a group of Masons in New York City who regularly lunched together. They wanted an organization which would give them a chance for friendship and fellowship but without the solemnity of the Masonic Lodge. One of their number, an actor well known on the New York stage, had just returned from a world-wide tour and suggested a 'fun' group based on the mysteries of the Middle East, then only being explored. There was a great fascination at the time about all things Egyptian, Napoleon's invasions occurring not even 80 years earlier and the Suez Canal having been completed barely 3 years before. These friends and Masons created a ritual which used the names and barely understood symbols from that seeming mystical and magical area. Pyramids, camels, curved swords (scimitars), and most of all, the 'words' used to name the 'temples'. All of this was done with essentially no knowledge of the religious implications of what they were co-opting. Now, over a hundred years later, we still know precious little about this far-away and often confusing area. It is important to understand that there is NO connection between the Shriners and the various religious or geographical entities whose names they use. (See also our explanation of the Shriner's use of the fez.)
The flag, flying at half-mast, was created by Brother Donald Gray, Royal Naval Lodge 2761, Yeovil, Somerset, England
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