It’s crazy because for the last two days my Islamic Relief USA team and I have been traveling between about 14 different nonprofits in Southern California in the past two days (it’s been a jam-packed schedule) that are doing beautiful work with people of all faiths. We visited food pantries, social service organizations, domestic violence help centers, schools, and a clinic, among others, and it’s been amazing to see how a group of dedicated, kind individuals can work together to bring up their communities. They started these beautiful projects to serve those in need, regardless of faith, and with those goals and open arms, people of all faiths have joined in and brought change to these communities.
I was excited at the decision to broadcast the athan (call to prayer) at Duke, and I’m sad that they changed their minds. I was born and raised in the US, and growing up we went to assemblies at public school where Christmas carols were sang and it was normal despite the class diversity. Being approached by strangers with the sole intent of converting me is something I’m used to (and BOY do I have stories!). There are so many different examples of how I’ve felt excluded from my community. On the flipside, there are the beautiful people who have asked me genuine questions about my faith when they didn’t know something, made simple accommodations for my religious needs, or simply just made an effort to understand. I would say I have a really good mix of friends who come from all faiths, and no faith. Everyone is a diamond to me, but I want to focus on the broader community – the community that includes people who wrote hateful words in response to Duke athan (I won’t provide a link because the comments are deeply offensive and I’d rather not give any more attention to them).
What if ALL faith anthems became normal? What if all students felt included because of it? What if news networks had a positive agenda, like unifying people based on acts of kindness, rather than creating a dichotomy fueled by hatred and fear of the unknown?
Get to know your neighbor. Learn about cultures that differ from your own. Join in efforts to uplift communities based on similarities with people of all backgrounds. Turn off the TV and use your own judgement based on real interactions with people. Learn to be OK with expression of faith, or lack thereof. Be considerate and respectful when discussing faith-based topics because yes, it’s a sensitive topic. If you have an intense hatred for an entire group of people, then I really don’t know what to tell you. That’s a disease of the heart that can only be cured by opening up.
This is NOT a melting pot. Let’s work a little harder to make it one, shall we? 🙂 Let’s extend that model internationally.
I know I’m a bit of a dreamer, and sometimes I feel hopeless. After my meetings today and yesterday, I’m confident that we’re moving in a good direction. I hope and pray that I’m right.