"You shall do good to your parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to men good words and keep up prayer and give unto the poor."--The Qu'ran
"Repel evil with good; as for those, they shall have the happy issue of the abode." --The Qu'ran.
For those of you who do not know, I am from New Jersey. I could see the smoke rising from the twin towers on Sept 11 from the high school in my town . My aunt was trapped in NYC during the terrorists attacks and several people from my church worked in the towers. The planes that crashed into the towers were hijacked from Newark airport, the only airport I had ever flown out of at the time. It seemed like everyone we knew was somehow affected by Sept. 11. It was a very real and personal tragedy. Within hours of the attacks, terms like "Muslim fundamentalists," "radical extremists," and "religious terrorists" dominated the news. Inevitably, fear, stereotypes, and skepticism about the Muslim community spread across the country like wild fire.
Just a few months after 9/11, my friends and I were driving around looking for something fun to do. My one friend mentioned that her friend from college owned a coffee bar a few towns over. So we went. We walked into a crowded coffee shop, replete with card playing and funky music. However, we quickly noticed that the entire place was packed wall to wall with college-aged Muslim guys and girls. My friends and I are as WHITE and "non-Muslim" looking as they come. It was one of those moments when the music skidded to a halt, cards fell to the floor, and everyone turned to stare at us...at least that's what it felt like. The girl we were meeting rushed over and invited us to sit down. Apparently, this was a coffee/hookah bar for the Muslim youth groups and recreation centers in the area.
We sat down, ordered coffee, smoked the hookah pipe (relax, it's flavored tobacco) and played cards. Once we felt a little more comfortable, we mingled with other people. They taught us new card games and we had long conversations about the Qu'ran, Christianity, current events, and the differences, as well as similarities, between our religions. The coffee shop only played middle-eastern music and some of the Muslim girls got up and danced. The boys came over and offered to teach us! By the end of the night, we were dancing, laughing, singing, and connecting with these beautiful people, learning about their culture, their beliefs, and the diversity within their religion. A few of the guys told stories about how they had been pulled over, yanked out of their cars, and searched, but that they understood this was a fearful time full of uncertainty. Others told stories of the words "towel head," "rag heads," and "sand monkeys" spray painted on their cars, lockers, and homes. Others had their homes egged. And others shared their beliefs about Jesus, and I was SHOCKED how much respect they have for Him.
And while there are obviously distinct and fundamental differences between Christians and Muslims, plenty of common ground exists as a foundation for a meaningful and respectful conversation. These people value community, family, friends, purity, respecting elders, modesty, and truly love each other. We were on their "turf" and they showed us nothing but kindness, good will, and friendship during a time and place where both "sides" had reasons to be wary of each other.
This night will remain carved into my heart for the rest of my life. Those of you who have been to my house know that I bought a hookah pipe to serve as a reminder of the night I hung out with Muslim youth at a hookah bar. This experience kept me from branding all Muslims as extremists, radicals, or sinister enemies, as many have sadly done. It is so vital for Christians to extend a hand of friendship, hope, and healing to the Muslim community that feels alienated, misunderstood, and afraid. It's important to clarify the parts of our religion that confuse them; many Muslims are under the impression that Christians believe in three gods. We should keep in mind that there are MANY sects within Islam and HUNDREDS of interpretations of the Qu'ran, just like there are with Christianity and the Bible. We should realize that it is JUST as easy to take a bible verse out of context to justify HORRIRBLE atrocities in the name our religion as it is with the Qu'ran. We should understand that ALL religions, including Christianity, have been perverted and distorted by corrupt people, extremists, regimes, and governments to gain power and control over people and lands throughout history. We should recognize that although we disagree with the foundation of Islam, there are sincere peace-loving muslims who are trying to serve God, their families, and their communities the best way they know how. We should try to understand the viewpoint of the other to better communicate, to better love, to better reach out and to better live in peace with all people (Romans 12:18).
I came across this video and found it compelling. Watch and discuss.