My Muslim Experience
Islam has been one of those religions that had been fed to me through the poison of news media. "We are a fallen prey of the media," says an Imam at an Interfaith Event Friday evening. The topic of the interfaith event was titled, “The Importance of Respecting People with Different Faith.” The website asked people to come and, "enjoy an evening interacting with member of various faith groups in the interest of fostering harmony, shared values and peaceful coexistence." About 6:15 was the call to evening prayer which was afterwards followed by a 30 minute lecture and a Q&A.
|Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley, Utah|
Khadeeja Islamic Center, West Valley Utah
Showing up to a religious church, synagogue, temple or mosque not of your faith can be a daunting task. To be honest my morning ritual of pumping that pill of Celexa down my throat did not suppress my anxiety. How will I be received to the members of the Islamic faith as a member of the LDS faith? Do I shake hands with a Muslim or slightly bow? Am I allowed to speak the name of Muhammad as an "infidel" or touch the Qur'an? Do I say, "God" or "Allah?" Can I speak to the women? Am I going to eat bad Islamic food that will make me cringe or make me sick? How do I get there? What if I come late or miss the calling to prayer? What if no one wants to be involved with my interview questions? So I went. The Mosque was very large and beautiful. As I entered the Mosque a woman gently approached to please me with some Islamic food. The food was great. I saw many muslims there from all kinds of different cultural backgrounds. They were all dressed in different hats, clothes, different professions and languages. I was told that upon entering the place of worship that I was to remove my shoes.
I entered their place of worship and immediately noticed that there was no seating arrangement what so ever. The place was seriously barren. Sitting upon the soft carpet is a first come first served basis. The absence of ritual objects, music, chairs and decorative images added an inhospitable feature of desolate barrenness. The only thing that directed a person's eyes off the barren white walls was a huge red digital clock centered right above a microphoned pulpit. That was very insightful to me as this taught me or at least signified to me that time to Muslims is extremely important.
The lay congregational Muslims were insightful to watch. Their kind of clothing showed no prestige in profession but instead simple street clothing was prevalent and acceptable for worship. All were uniformly in kneeling position. It was quiet. So quiet you can hear your pulse beating. A man with a microphone began to sing a prayer. It was beautiful to listen to. His voice bounced rebounding from wall to wall causing a mild and gentle echo. My spiritual moment was soon disrupted by a small commotion behind me. I only turned behind when I saw one of the Muslim Mosque leaders frantically walking from the front of worship to the back. There was a woman in the place of their worship. I heard him very politely ask her to leave as only men were allowed to congregate in the Mosque for worship. Having the small irritation soon restrained was a relief to the Muslim man. He quickly ran to the front where he was previously praying and meditating.
The call to prayer was very insightful to me. As all Muslims do the congregation knelt in the direction of Mecca as one man previously designated, prays on behalf of all the people who are present. One voice for the people. One benefit of become a practicing male Muslim is the cardio exercise one receives during the worship service. There was during the service constant standing, kneeling, bowing and prostrating. The worship was not too long. In fact I was shocked at how fast the worship was. If I had to guess then I think it was about 10 minutes long. When the prayer worship ended a man approached me and politely welcomed me to proceed to the front and to sit down next to the Muslims. To this I warmly accepted.
With prayer time now over the director proceeded by inviting the woman to take their place among all others. I turned around to see that every woman, even non-Muslim women were wearing a cover over their heads. The Imam approached the pulpit and spoke about many things. He was very adamant about instructing the audience about the destructive force the news media has implemented upon the Islamic faith. He said in effect that the media has so well distorted the views of the American nation about the Muslim faith that it has fashioned the human mind and heart to intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, racism and extreme narrow-mindedness. He says, "Tolerance should be removed from dictionaries because that means you have to put up with people." Because of the media," says he, "people dislike Muslims." The poison that the media injects into the veins of the American people is a, "force that tries to divide us." The media supports contention and conflict because contention and conflict sell. This is the great truth of media marketing. "We love conflicts," says Dr. Scott a UVU Mormon Culture Professor. "We love secrets, money, power, religion and politics." What the media has done to the Muslim faith has been unfair, unreasonable and undeserved. He stated that the "Muslims" that drove the airplane into the tower are not Muslims. As a lay member of the LDS faith I could definitely relate to what he was trying to say. The people who directed the plane toward the tower on the 11th of September are as worthy enough to be called a Muslim just as a polygamous family in Utah is worthy to be called a "Mormon."
"Muslims defend the rights of others," says West Valley Imam. "Islam is not against difference." The extent of their love towards all people of different backgrounds, race, ethnicity and religions is expressed, he says, in the story of Muhammad's tale of releasing an animal from bondage. Upon traveling Muhammad saw an animal caught up and tied in a tree. He being angry at this bought the animal from its owner and set it free. His meaning today is to be interpreted, "How much more should we show compassion on our brethren!" He says that, "We are too quick to make judgments," about others.
"We Love America"
"We love America!" he says. "We buy homes here, we have children here and our women are out in the public. There are 12 million Muslims in America today and we are growing. Whether you like or dislike Muslims you cannot avoid us. One out of five people you will run into on the streets will be a Muslim."
A person stood up during the Q&A session and asked what he thought about the Florida burning of the Qur'an. His reply was logically intelligent and wholly based upon love and compassion, "I am not offended about people burning the Qur'an. I am more offended at Muslims being offended at the people burning the Qur'an." If I can remember correctly he said that if the Muslims in Florida would have just left it alone then there wouldn't have been a good story for the media to tell. It would only in the eyes of the world portray the anti-Muslim book burning "religion" as intolerant, biased, hateful and unethical.