Thursday, September 23, 2010

who our friends are

i've been blown away by the support we've received for the park51 project:
strippers, socialist workers and gay and lesbian organizations, hebrew school students, woody allen, salman rushdie, michael bloomberg, jon stewart, russell simmons, the african-american community, the jewish community of lower manhattan, christians, buddhists, hindus, agnostics, atheists, even a pot-smoking, amarillo, texas-raised quran hero (who ended an anti-muslim rally by grabbing a kerosene-soaked quran off a grill and skateboarded off, famously saying, "dude, you don't HAVE a quran!")

and, as a muslim, i keep asking myself, "are we going to remember who our friends are?"

when all the controversy dies down, are we going to leap on to the tea party's campaign and fight gay marriage and abortion, and complain about the jewish conspiracy and all those leftwing liberals?

we muslims - as any woman who's walked into a tea party full of vicious aunties will tell you - can be somewhat judgemental. the pursed lips and head-shaking and murmured, "astaghfir'Allahs" (God forgive us). the sideways glances as the porcelain tea cups clink politely. oh yes, and then there's the taliban.

will we have learned the right lesson from this? that tolerance, love and compassion, for people and situations we don't understand or that make us uncomfortable are always the better way. as muslims, we've been shown this kind of solidarity. can we learn to release our judgements and show the love back?

a friend of mine sent me an email today in which he said:

"One can only teach and live by example if one wishes to remain true to the larger spirit of humanity. Narrower interpretations are based on vicious forms of group tyranny. I am sure that it hurts when these narrow interpretations cloak themselves in the name of Islam - claiming to "own" it in some way that excludes all others."

in my mind, the most important lesson in Islam is the opening of every chapter (or sura) - the phrase we repeat over and over again, until perhaps we don't hear it any more - "the merciful, the compassionate." as the native americans said, all faiths are threads of the same rope. even if those faiths include agnostics and atheists. it's not just "people of the book," it's all of us. every one. we must learn to embody that compassion.

what i loved about william chittick's blog about islam on the huffington post is that it reminded us that the rules (and the people who break them) are not the point.

our friends are not always the people who seem to be just like us. our friends are the people who stand by us when we need them. we must appreciate their generosity and stand by them, too.

to all of our supporters - i know this isn't why you do it but - thank you.

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