On/File: A Continuing Record of Groups, People, Movements and Events Impacting Religion: May 2018

1) Started from a small group meeting in his house, Thomas McConkie has created a blend of Buddhism and Mormonism that draws up to 200 people—most of them from Mormon families—through guided meditations at a monthly gathering of the Lower Lights Sangha. Lower Lights Sangha is said to be a laboratory where a new generation of Mormons is shaping novel expressions of the faith that include a form of meditation derived from Buddhism. McConkie initially rebelled against Mormonism but has come to the position of integrating it with Buddhism after he participated in meditation retreats led by Joshu Sasaki Roshi at Mt. Baldy Zen Center in Southern California. The fact that McConkie integrates mainstream Mormon doctrine with a new contemplative approach to devotional practice has won him an unusual degree of acceptance within Salt Lake City’s Mormon establishment. While he has faced opposition from some quarters of the church, McConkie has made presentations on his teaching at Lower Lights for administrators in the church’s main offices, and he was invited to produce a podcast (“Mindfulness+”) for the church-owned news radio station, KSL. (Source: Tricycle, March 14)

2) The Madkhali movement in Libya is an ultra-conservative Islamist movement that has quietly transformed the country while the rest of the world has been occupied with the Islamic State in the rest of the Middle East. The movement, based in Saudi Arabia, took hold of Libya during the upheaval of its revolution, aligning itself with every self-proclaimed warlord and government during the past three years and silencing other Islamist and liberal voices. The group has sought to prevent the Islamic State from setting up operations in the country while imposing its own theocratic rule and social and security services throughout society. A central tenet of the Madkhali movement is its belief in the principle of “walid al amir,” or “the one who rules,” which grants acceptance to whoever rules in government, which contrasts sharply with most Wahabi Islamic groups that will only support Islamist rulers who uphold Sharia. Madkhali ideology also has an aversion to politics and democracy. Like other Wahabi Muslims, the movement opposes any move to give women a greater role in society, as well as urging separation from any influences, such as music and literature, that are considered anti-Islamic. Because it lends leaders unqualified support and calls for silencing any alternative voices—whether Islamic or secular—Madkhalis have been granted wide privileges, including the authority to issue official fatwahs. Its security forces have been able to organize book burnings, ban public events, such as a comic book convention, and gain control of prisons throughout Libya. (Source: Christian Century, March 28).