Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Smiling Infidel Goes Muslim

Well, for a few hours, anyway.

Our local mosque sent out a letter of invitation to Churches in the community, for the opportunity to experience and tour their newly built mosque, and also participate in a short presentation about Islam. Judging by their delighted reaction at our presence, I don't think there was exactly a thunderous Christian stampede, beating a path to their door. A representative of our Ward contacted them, and organized a meeting mainly for the youth of our Church, along with whoever else wanted to play voyeur too. I wonder if the nearby synagogue got an invitation extended to them also? I wanted to ask during the Q&A session, but decided that might be just a tad incendiary. I grew up in a semi-Jewish household. The animosity? I get it.

If you all receive a similar opportunity, make sure you upgrade to the V.I.P package. I hear that entitles you to a sneak peek at pictures of the 72 virgins, and all you can eat falafel patties. MMMM! So, the guy who did the talking is the superintendent of Iman Schools. No, you silly people, that is NOT where you learn to be a Somalian supermodel, and strut your burqua clad self all over the catwalk. He found lots of time to admonish America for injustices against black people and to liken the L.A. riots to the "fringe radical" Muslim skirmishes happening all over the World today. Hee-Hee, whooooo, I guess he kind of forgot that the riots didn't happen to involve suicide bombers or killing and detonating innocents in the name of their religion. Whoops, maybe he just had a momentary brain freeze? Interestingly enough, when asked about the true meaning of jihad, and a Quran perspective on Christianity, the guy all but looked at his watch and sheepishly said, "Whoa, look at the time". Yeah.

We then watched as everyone prepared for the prayer at sundown. As guests, we were allowed to stay and observe. Women and men are separated by a partition due to complete prostration on the prayer mats. Sheikh ALLAWI (wonder if he's related to Iraq's new P.M.?), commenced to singing amazingly long, drawn out prayers with nary a stop for breath, and selections from the Quran, while everybody faced Mecca. My oldest daughter leaned over and whispered, "Mom, that guy is kind of scary". I said, "Yeah, but I bet he'd kick American butt in a yodeling contest". We laughed quietly. Afterwards, they presented a lovely little buffet with my favorite treats like hummus with pita chips, baklava, fresh fruit. Alas, no pork rinds. We ate daintily as making a pig out of yourself in a Halal environment would most certainly be frowned upon. We also got gift bags with our very own English Quran in it. I promise we won't pull a "Gitmo". Both of our neighbors attend services there, and we got to socialize with some of the other members. The women, in particular, proved exceedingly friendly and easy to talk to. As luck would have it, I started a conversation with the only lady there who homeschools her kids. Her fellow Muslims disapprove of that , just like so many people I know at Church. We got along very well. Social pariahs always find each other. :) One thing I noticed; not everybody speaks Arabic. That essentially means that they can't possibly understand what the Sheikh is saying and that their responses, in turn, are largely just rote. Interesting.

Even though we got to wander around a place of worship in our bare feet, and that does really appeal to me, I think that my belief and testimony of the Christian faith remains safe and sound.

24 comments:

Elizabeth-W said...

Just bought a book a few nights ago titled 'No god but God: The origins, evolution and future of Islam' by Reza Aslan.
Hey, he could have brought up the Crusades, or the Inquisition. ;)

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Yes, he could have elizabeth, justifiably so, but then that wouldn't have allowed him to cast his opinion on "American inequality and injustice", now would it?

RC said...

how interesting, and how intering for the muslim community to reach out to other faith communities.

sounds like a pretty neat opportunity they gave you.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Yes, RC, it was enlightening. Our Church plans on hosting a reciprocal tour for them to become acquainted with our faith also. I pray that we can be as good as hosts as they were, and not say or do anything offensive.

Our Muslim neighbors went with us to tour the Houston Temple during the Open House. They always said that one day, when their mosque was completed, the favor would be returned. Hard to imagine violent and hateful members coming from a religion where I've only known wonderful people of peace.

compulsive writer said...

That's so beautiful! I love it when people are willing to walk a bit in someone else's shoes and try to see the world from their perspective.

(I'd be tempted by the barefeet thing, too!)

mullet said...

glad you went. we came, we saw, we made like donald 'n ducked!
i don't know too much about the muslim belief....& based on my naivete....|I think the reason it's all blood sweat 'n tears, has something to do with not wanting to become spoiled....ie - to realise that life is such! Much like any said following - catholoscism...judiasm etc...there will always be those that get it wrong - contort it....but for everyone of those - there must be so many that are pacifists & foloow the absolute message.

mullet said...

flooooow.....lol
follow

White Man Retarded said...

Hey wait, elizabeth, wasn't the Crusades the then-Western response to the military-like conquer and kill spread of Islam? So what. Islam is ghetto. If Islam is so peaceful, then how come the Muslim population kills on a whim? How come they burn their cities? How come they kill their women? Do the women get virgins also? I can't buy the 'peaceful' Muslim. Just like a snake basking in the sun, docile until you learn its true nature. Yeah rc, reach out with a bomb. I'd like to see the world through blinders also; suicide is a cop-out, whether it be for religion or otherwise. Islam is breathing its last gasp...

White Man Retarded said...

lol, mf, lol...

Mimo said...

My son had to learn about the origins of Islam in his school. They were taught that when Islamic invaders took over lands and people that they let them keep their religion, but taxed them greatly for not converting. The kids were taught that the Islamic invaders did this for hundreds of years.

mullet said...

i would say - if that is he logic - then every....and i mean every single priest is a paedophile????

Elizabeth-W said...

Before I met my husband I was seriously involved with a man from Gujarat, India, and was/is a devout Hindu. He chose to go to grad school at byu because the Honor Code, etc. appealed to his religious/moral values.
I was taking a graduate class at U of U and the professor was a woman who described herself as Persian (Iranian), and a Muslim. When she found out that I was going to go to India with my boyfriend, she went ape. Remember the horrible Sally Fields movie "Not without my daughter"? Well, that was what she warned would happen to me-that I would be taken hostage by these evil Hindus, that I would likely be sold into slavery, and on and on. The irony was completely lost on an otherwise highly educated, intelligent woman. The class members looked at her as if she were insane. But her sense of reality was 100% true to her, to her experience of the world.
All I'm trying to say is that atrocities have been happening in the name of one religion or another for much of the world's history, and it seems to me less about religion and more about will to power.

jams o donnell said...

When a faith has around a billion adherents the adherents will run the whole gamut from the saintly to the sheer evil. The great majority of muslims will sit somewhere in the middle leading their lives with much the same aspirations and desires as anyone else on the planet.

That does not mean one should tolerate those that pervert their beliefs and commit acts of terror or brutality (viz Taliban, 9/11, Bali, Madrid, Beslan, London, Mumbai).

mullet said...

patrick henry - you seem to forget that not everyone is an extremist. How come the muslim population kill on a whim??? Is everything so black & white for you?

RC said...

elasticwaistbandlady...

i think that all just sounds so neat...I hope you post on your experience as the Muslim friends you are making come and see and experience parts of your faith.

I would also hope that more than buildings, etc. they would be able to get a sense of how your faith makes you different and changes who you are.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Hey compulsive, before passing judgement, one should always walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Because by then you're a mile away AND you have their shoes.

Okay, I appreciate all the comments. My only point from this entry is to show that in the span of 2 1/2 hours, I listened to one guy give an Islam presentation who's a fairly recent immigrant to America and couldn't help himself but to castigate us for our past. I immediately felt intense dislike towards him, but then my daughters and I were embraced by everyone else we met at the mosque. This sort of proves the point that the majority are similar minded in their respect to people of different ideas, faiths, ethnicities, but there just had to be that one provocative butthead that tries to spoil the experience.

So they say that Islam is 99% well intentioned with just a 1% Islamo faschist element hell bent on terrorism and destruction. I'm inclined to believe this. It would be nice to see more solidarity amongst Muslims in condemning oppressive regimes and terrorist factions though. After all, it's incontrovertable that every major skirmish throughout the world at this very moment involves the so called, "religion of peace".

the flying monkeys said...

thanks for this

White Man Retarded said...

Mullet-woman, what is 'he-logic'? As opposed to she-logic? I see mor than black and white...I enjoy the blues and purples of the bruises I inflict. Why aren't the supposed 'majority' denigrating the supposed 'few' (Muslims) who are causing trouble? Why is the supposed 'majority' so silent?

elasticwaistbandlady said...

You know that I agree with you there, Patrick. If there was a stronger show of force by the Muslim community to denounce terrorist acts, they would find themselves better received by non-Muslims.

Traditional dictates and more rigid followers of this faith bring oppression and horror to women. Forget about negotiating any kind of peace treaties either, because they'll renege and kill your children. Israel has learned this the hard way. Thanks a lot Ariel Sharon; giving up the Gaza Strip in pursuit of peace was a real dandy idea, wasn't it? You can't reason with those that embrace the culture of death; you have no trading power with them.

Syar said...

As a Muslim, I'm glad that the muslim community there is reaching out and that you and your family chose to receive the hand. its always nice, especially in times of turmoil like now, for outsiders to see the real deal.

the quran is written entirely in arabic, and as a malaysian muslim I don't know too many people who know arabic. thank allah for translated versions. the language can't really define the deeper meanings.

I also respect firm grounding in your own faith. this was refreshing although I must say I have mixed feelings for some reason.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Syar, I didn't set out to offend anybody, just sort of grapple with my own conflicted feelings.

Perhaps, you, like my neighbors, represent a more moderate Islam than others? An Islam accepting of dfferent faiths and willing to co-exist peacefully. Then there's the other side of it where we hear that the Quran teaches that all infidels must be converted or killed. It's no secret that some followers take that to be the divine word and adhere to it thus making peace impossible.

Conflicted syar. This left you with mixed feelings because I have mixed feelings on it all too.

By the way, did you know that we're both natives of Indiana?

Syar said...

religion always makes me feel that way, elastic. kinda like when I eat too much for lunch then drink too much water.

are we? that's so cool.

Anonymous said...

For what it’s worth…

I think the matter of Muslims speaking out against the atrocities of terrorism varies greatly according to region. Here in Malaysia, a country that associates itself with a ‘moderate’ take on Islam, acts of violence and destruction in the name of the religion are castigated on a daily basis; be it by laymen or experts, in coffee shop conversations or on forums and talk shows. The compassion we feel for our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq, Lebanon, East Timor, etc, in no way diminishes the urgent need we have to distance ourselves from what we know to be false.

That said, it certainly doesn’t feel like speaking up is doing the world any good, and yet I don’t know what would. It seems like a situation in which we who are not in the thick of it have no control; sometimes the helplessness gets too frustrating to bear.

Also, and I’m speaking for myself here, the only constraints I’ve ever felt imposed on me as a woman were those meted out by society, not by my religion. Any perceived slight or notion of unfairness that arises in relation to my status as a Muslim woman have been and can be dispelled by careful study and informed analysis of Quranic text, coupled with clarification from qualified Muslim scholars. It’s the manipulative interpretation of this text that leads to the barbaric treatment of females in countries that identify themselves as Islamic - which is something that leaves me just as conflicted as Syar.

Ditto her on the 'thank God for translations'; when done right, it's really beautiful to read in any language.

--- Nadia (Blogger won't let me sign in!)

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Hi Nadia!

I'm glad to know that Muslim friendship, and a semblance of love for us Infidels is pervasive throughout Malaysia. If only you could bottle up those good feelings and send them to the Middle East and Indonesia.

syar, we're both Hoosiers by birth!