Most of my friends know that I am not a religious person. I am certainly not Atheist or Agnostic by their true definitions. I just have a hard time being religious. I enjoy going into old places of worship, of all forms. Whether they be Celtic, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or Catholic. Modern Christianity in “Born Again” form, bores me to tears, so I stay away from those pre-fab monstrosities. I don’t dislike the idea of religion either. If a person needs a way to do right by their fellow man and common sense can’t help them, then by all means, read the Bible, Q’aran, a math book, or whatever is going to help get you there.
My point is that I may not be religious or attend church, but I do believe in God. If this is the name I am to give the wonderment of the planet and universe, then this is what I will refer to in this writing.
How can a person not believe in something greater than themselves when they look up to the nighttime sky? How can I, a lowly form of primordial ooze, not be thankful for everything around me? How can you look into the eyes of child, feel the wind or rain on your cheek, sit with friends drinking wine and eating bread and laughing and not look at them and think, “Wow! Look at their beautiful smiling faces, how lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?” It just can’t be two seeds colliding together in a frenzy of lovemaking that put us on this this planet. There has to be something more…
And so through this amazement, I have found Islam. My natural curiosity that I was born with and a healthy dose of my father’s belief, that all men are good and created equal leads me to the simple fact that Islam, at it’s most basic form is a beautiful and very misunderstood religion. And so are Muslims. I don’t remember my first encounter with a Muslim, (a covered women) what I do remember is asking my father why she was covered up on such a hot day? He told me it had to do with her faith and not to stare. He said hello and she replied and we walked on. Me being the brat that I am wouldn’t let it go, and my father being the world traveler that he was, took me aside and told me that in the Middle East, the women are so beautiful that the men cover them up so they won’t be stolen away. Thanks Dad. Truth to a point. But not what I was looking for.
I have had the incredible honor of having many students from many different countries who are Muslim. They incited that curiosity in me, once again, enough to take a World Religion course at my local college. And to be brave enough to ask questions and be able to attend services at a local San Diego Mosque. These services were like almost any other with one difference, the men are separate from the women. Not because the women aren’t good enough, it is just the tradition. And I like that. It is not an anti-feminist ploy to keep women away. Trust me when I say that these women have a big boot they wear to keep their families in line, including their husbands. I appreciated that the women can pray, and sit after and gossip as women do, without some man interjecting something stupid into the conversation. The service itself, was started by an Imam and he had lovely things to say about the family unit and being kind to the outside world even though the outside world wasn’t being too kind to them.
I later had the honor to spend some time in the Middle East in Qatar, where I was treated like royalty. I never felt threatened or that my life was in danger. The only thing I have ever felt was stupidity. I felt stupid for all of the people I know, who spout off terrible words of hatred and dislike for something and someone they know nothing about. My only piece of advice is that when something scares you, educate yourself. Ask questions. As usual, the only thing you have to fear, is fear itself…
I now own a Qur’an, given to me by a lovely Muslim (Sunni) student who helped me with my course in school. It sits with my Bible that I bought. I read it. It is simple in its verse and at times confusing because the translation gets lost, but nonetheless understandable. There is nothing in there that is remotely offensive to me, but maybe that is because I find a bit of ridiculousness in ALL religions, and I am able to laugh at that. If I am being offensive it is not my intention. I just find the seriousness of life, in general, absurd at times.
There are radicals everywhere you go, in most places a “normal” man might call these people insane. I feel they have a sickness inside them to do the things they do and have done. All throughout history, there have been radicals in one form or another. Savonarola was the one of the great radicals in the late 1400’s. He was burning, yes BURNING people in public, at the stake, who were believed to be heretics of the Catholic faith! Joan of Arc was a woman who believed that God had chosen her to lead an army against England, to supposedly save France, and they burned her at the stake too! In India, there is a festival that happens in this day and age, to get the person participating, into such a state of enlightenment that they are able to pierce things into their body (swords, pins, chair legs) and then walk around the city, for hours on end, IN BLISS. Seriously! Look it up!
According to Merriam-Webster, Radical is defined as:
: very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
: very basic and important
: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people
But insane is defined as:
: mentally disordered : exhibiting insanity
: used by, typical of, or intended for insane persons <an insane asylum>
: absurd <an insane scheme for making money>
My Muslim friends are neither. They are perfectly wonderful people who are just trying to live their lives in the best way they know how. Just like everyone else. If they do something different from you that you don’t understand, just ask why. Educate yourself, make a new friend. I have never had a Muslin tell me to mind my own business when I have asked them questions about their faith. And yet, I have been told that by Christians. I have never been yelled at by a Muslim, and yet I have been by a Christian. No Muslim has ever attempted to ‘recruit’ me into their faith, and yet many Christians have. I have been told that I am going to hell unless I accept Jesus Christ into my life, and yet no Muslim has ever told me that unless I do things as Mohammad requests, I am an infidel.
Yes, there are plenty of radical Islamists, but there are just as many gun-toting Christian right-wingers too. Probably more. Media has chosen to vilify a lovely religion by using scare tactics, and our own government made some great big errors stirring the money pot in the Middle East that pissed a lot of people off many years ago. Is it insane? You bet. Is Islam insane, no way. We really don’t know what happened 2000+ and 1500+ years ago when the Bible and the Qur’an were written. We have to take it all in faith that Jesus and Mohammad were men of a certain type and actually did what their books say they did. That is all you have to go on when you are a believer. And if that is true then both books also say to be kind to one another, to be patient, to love other and do to others as you would do to yourself.
I will not buy a gun to protect myself from my Muslim friends. I will not turn my back on Muslim women who come come to my work, as I have seen others do. I will not be led down the rabbit-hole of nasty words because of the actions of a few. I will say, As-salamu alaykum when I greet my Islamic acquaintances, and Wa-Alaikum-Salaam when they leave, because this is respectful, and in all honestly quite a lovely thing to say to someone. And, because I know what it means.
I am thankful to Islam and to my Muslim friends for teaching me another thing about this lovely world we live in. And I am thankful to them for befriending me, in all my craziness and introducing me to a new and different way of life. I didn’t even get started on the AWESOME food, but that is a whole different post.