EXTENDING A HAND IN PEACE
Assalaamu alaikum, everyone ✌🏻
The other day my husband and I caught a Lyft to my weekly therapy appointment. We had a young white guy from New York as our driver. He was polite and eventually the conversation turned to where we were all from and how we felt about my city of Nashville, Tennessee. My husband mentioned that we did not feel welcome here because I’m a veiled Muslim and he is a Latino immigrant. The guy was stunned! He proceeded over the course of our conversation to say that people misjudge and mistreat US Christians because of Christian terrorism too, just as they do with us. He also said that we Muslims just need to reach out more to our communities. Here is what I have to say about that.
For decades, and increasingly so after 9/11, Muslims have been reaching out to their surrounding communities through open houses, disaster relief efforts, charity, friendship, community events, Islam 101 classes, press conferences and releases, community iftars (fast breaking dinners) during Ramadan, and so forth. But so few non Muslims actually go. Who actually reads their local mosque’s press release sent out in the aftermath of a theorist attack, denouncing the perpetrators? Who goes to that Islam 101 class to see what we believe, how we practice our faith, and how we live overall? And you know what? When Muslims go to such events being put on by churches, we are proselytized to. But we don’t proselytize to our guests at our public events!
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a non Muslim say, “I just don’t understand why Muslims don’t publicly denounce terrorism!” Well guess what. We do. Over and over and over. Sheikhs issue fatawa against suicide bombings. Imams give khutbahs (sermons) against killing. At open houses, community events of all varieties, and Islam 101 classes Imams and other Muslim community leaders stand up and speak, explaining why it is un-Islamic to commit acts of terrorism. Islamic organizations issue press releases and even hold press conferences roundly rejecting terrorism. Here’s a good example.
Just a couple of weeks ago I went to an Eid al-Fitr public carnaval at a local park. There was free food and water, music, inflatables for children to play on, face painting, and balloons. Everyone was laughing and talking. The point was to bring everyone together. Sadly though, from what I saw, too few non Muslims came. At such events, the non Muslims who come are usually the same precious few, who faithfully reach out to us as we reach out to them. That’s wonderful — but not enough. Truthully, before any non Muslim judges us and our beautiful religion, they should all come to a mosque, break bread with us, and just generally meet us halfway as we reach out to them.
What about society generalizing Christians because of groups like the KKK? Well, I can’t speak for the thoughts of millions of people. But I can tell you that the effects of such alleged “prejudice” against Christians are entirely different for Christians than are those of parallel prejudices against, say, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or Sikhs. When people don’t like Christians, they don’t go out to dinner with them. When they don’t like us religious minorities, they desecrate our houses of worship and our graveyards. They beat us and dump us in ponds. We and those who stand up for us have our throats slashed. We are pushed down subway stairs. Our religious head coverings are ripped from our heads, so often in fact that among the Muslim community videos on how to defend oneself from such an attack go viral online. I could go on and on. This is our reality every day: fear, violence, and hate.
Back to that conversation in the Lyft. I closed our conversation by saying what I’d like to say here; my religion teaches me that we were put on this earth to worship Allah with all of our being and actions. I personally believe that one of the greatest ways that we can worship Allah is to love His creation. So we need to reach out to each other in good faith and with love and mercy. One of my favorite Quran ayat (verses) is 49:13. In The Clear Quran English translation it reads: “O humanity! Indeed, we created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you. God is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Note that it doesn’t say that our superiority depends on our race, education, or wealth. It depends on who’s a better person on the inside. It’s about our hearts and souls, our words and our deeds. We were created diverse and unique so that we can all celebrate this diversity as a sign of God’s greatness. Subhanallah!
Moral of the story: we should all be reaching out to each other. Muslims and many other minorities have been, are continuing to, and always will be doing so. Why? Because that’s what Allah wants. Now it’s your turn! Go to that open house. Talk to that Muslim hijabi in line at the grocery store. Strike up a conversation with a turbaned Sikh man. Compliment a Hindu lady’s Sari. Break bread with a Jewish family on the Sabbath. The cycles of hate, violence, and fear will never end if we don’t learn to see each other as human and therefore equally deserving of kindness, respect, and love.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on my Facebook page. Thank you! Until next time, peace! ✌🏻