A Matter of Heart (broken) and Soul

Sunset

Who can deny the favors of your Lord? Qur’an: Surah Al-Rahman

Insomnia rarely affects me, but I’d worked at an outdoor summer market, napped, and then drank too much coffee in the evening. Catching up on news regarding the over 11,400 children separated from their parents and guardians by government and accomplice profiteers, I just could not stop ruminating grief.

Adding to and compounding lament, members of my social media community are split over if engaging in dialogue and seeking to understand opponents’ resolve regarding the occupation of Palestine is conducive to peace or just succumbing to their propaganda. I recall that once when reading an English translation of the Torah, I concluded that it is understandable that opponents’ motivations could seem justified if only based on the belief that the tome was legitimate and not altered. Therein lies what may be one significant factor in the conflict.

Are the scriptures authentic and uncorrupted or not? Because if each side contends that their scripture is divinely inspired, and yet they conflict, someone bears the onerous guilt of causing generations of huge suffering.

Lately, I’ve been making analogies between our corrupt, unrepentant, arrogant, cruel, and chronically adulterous political leadership and ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh, who was abased by God. I pray for those suffering the scourge to be relieved and given justice.

Yesterday, at the market where a Latino family was perusing our wares, a cute, little two-year-old wearing Minnie Mouse ears, peered at me and waved bye-bye. She was scrumptiously adorable, so of course I reciprocated with a gentle twinkle in my eye, secret-like smile, and baby waved back. She melted me.

As I’d read and saw videos about the abducted immigrant children, heard their cries and pathetic wailing, glimpsed at toddlers’ images behind tinted glass, and read about some being possibly trafficked, I thought about who could condone and fuel such horrible acts? Have we, as a nation, lost our hearts? How could I sleep?

At the end of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr prayer recently, the imam reminded the congregation, “If you sleep in your home tonight feeling safe and secure, you are among the lucky few in the world.” He was so right.

And yet, when all seems hopeless, I look for what may be the Creator’s plan. Perhaps it is for good people of faith or no faith to recognize the need to see ourselves not as different, but unified. Even those Muslims who are dividing over the willingness to dialogue with those associated with the prosecution of the Palestinian people are maybe following the right course.

For as long as people perceive each other as less than equal humans, we can “other” the other and deny them respect or even consideration. We will remain divided and not see the reality that we are all humans sharing our destiny on earth.

It was narrated that al-Nu’man ibn Basheer said: The Messenger of Allah said: “The likeness of the believers in their mutual love, mercy, and compassion is that of the body; when one part of it is in pain, the rest of the body joins it in restlessness and fever.” This hadith was verified by both scholars, al-Bukhari and Muslim.

There are members of humanity able to correct those living in poverty, political instability, and in unsafe environments that are NOT doing what they can to alleviate the suffering of other souls. This too will be a testimony against them, and we will remember.

Change Perceptions: Make ‘The Strangers’ Yours

Anyone can be Muslim

The picture you see is my family celebrating an Eid camping trip after Ramadan in 1998. The red, curly haired, very Caucasian peanut just secured his driver’s license today, and he is a towering 6 foot, 2 inch (183 cm) tall Muslim.

When people see him with brown skinned kids at school, they are very surprised to learn that he is indeed Muslim because most people think of Muslims as ‘Other,’ meaning other than ‘Us.’

Typically, the image that comes to American’s minds is that a Muslim is Arab or perhaps Asian, although a large proportion of Muslims are in fact from African descent.

I believe this is significant to how we tend to value the lives of Others, and in particular to the political perspectives and policies toward the Middle East and Central Asia in general.
What should be known is that anyone can be Muslim. It is not an ethnic or nationalistic reference; rather it is simply a comprehensive religion on the continuum antecedent from Judaism and Christianity that guides the lives and identity of about 1.6 billion people (23% of the world’s population), according to a 2012 Global Religious Landscape report from the Pew Research Center.

Most disconcerting though is a more recent Pew Research Study referencing How Americans Feel About Religious Groups. The study was conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, and cites feelings towards religious groups on a scale of 0 as cold to 100 as warm. A 50 would reflect no particular positive or negative feeling about a religious group. In this report, prior to the Gaza spectacle, Muslims were dead last compared to all other groups, including Atheists. Forty-One percent of respondents placed scores of 33 or below for Muslims, which I find pretty sad and perhaps not representative of where I live.

Fortunately for my family, we live in a relatively affluent suburban Chicago setting with an abundance of educational institutions, houses of worship for many religions, and a fairly large non-segregated population of Muslims. Many of them hold advanced degrees and professional employment.

In retrospect, I noted that when the U.S. economy took a hard pullback a few years ago, it seemed that store clerks were friendlier than they’d been in the past. Looking around the malls, I found a greater percentage of Muslim patrons making purchases than other shoppers. Maybe the cashiers were the first ones to realize the value of Muslim purchasing power.

Even yesterday, I was acknowledged with a smile and friendly “Hi there!” initiated by non-Muslim women in two separate incidents while walking through parking lots at the local community college and at Whole Foods Market. I felt hopeful that the gloomy implications informed by the Pew reports were not representative of every part of the United States.Strangers

With this data though, I am asking everyone to help make ‘The Strangers’ documentary a reality. My friends, Abdalhamid Evans and Salama Evans, who are also on the founding team of the American Halal Association, have been working on a film project which is critical to changing erroneous perceptions about Muslims. Their story about a misfit group of hippies who stumbled upon Islam, converted, and created a community about 40 years ago in the town of Norwich, UK, is a story which needs to be told. salama-profiledownload group-copy-300x175 Please read about their amazing story and see them in the film trailer. Then give a bit of help to this project and share with your friends. It could make a positive move toward reigniting compassion, illuminate hearts, and dispel the ignorance out there. At least get a T-shirt and warm things up for the next Pew report. knees-300x174 http://halalfocus.net/the-strangers-documentary-essential-viewing/