Interfaith Discussions

I am in a position to work with children in a volunteer capacity – which means I tend to spend plenty of time with their parents.  In talking with one parent, I learned something very interesting about the similarities between people, regardless of who they worship.

The Mom is a Muslim, and to protect her privacy (especially in this world), I’m going to call her Mandy.  Mandy is caucasian and 100% American (southern accent and all), married to a Muslim man from India.  She dresses in “Western” clothes, but wears a headscarf, and is a practicing Muslim (as opposed to a strictly cultural Muslim).  She and her husband are raising three wonderful children.

Mandy was on a rant at our last meeting – talking about her mosque.  How some (most) of the women only showed up to socialize and show off their fancy designer clothes and gold jewelry.  How during the prayer time people are on their cell phones and children are running all around (especially in front of her – you aren’t suppose to walk in front of someone praying).  How you can tell by the behavior of children at Mosque if their family actually is teaching them anything spiritual at home.  People run in at the last-minute, because it’s more important to be “seen” at Mosque, then to have planned and prepared to come to Mosque in order to commune with Allah.

That really resonated with me, because I think I’ve been in plenty of Protestant Christian Churches that are the same way.  Kids playing or acting up during prayer times.  Fancy clothes and jewelry, and making sure you “look good” before going to church – as if God cares.  Children and teens who have no idea of the purposes of many of our rituals, because no one has ever taught them.  And I’m certainly guilty of “forgetting” that church starts EVERY WEEK at 10am…  I know when we need to leave the house in order to make it on time.

I appreciated talking to Mandy, as she was very open to discussing her faith practices with me (and asked me questions about my own).  My intention was not to convert, but to discuss and learn.

Even something that has always baffled me – the segregation of churches (Protestant blacks and whites just do not tend to worship together), I’ve always thought that was an isolated problem because I live in the south.  Apparently, it’s not.  Pakistani Muslims and Indian Muslims don’t tend to attend Mosque together.

Or, of how Christmas and Easter have become more about socializing and seeing people and US rather than GOD.  She spoke of the same concerns about Ramadan and Allah, and how it’s crazy (people running around, not focusing on worship, it’s about the food and the activities).  In talking with Mandy, the similarities are amazing.

I’m not trying to say that there are not bad Muslims in the world.  There are bad *people* in the world, of every faith.  But your average, every-day Muslim in my city is just trying to raise their kids and get along with their neighbors.  I think it’s pretty brave of Mandy to bring her children to our meeting place (a Protestant Church), wear her headscarf and be unashamed of who she is.  She can joke about her religion in many ways (when we are discussing menus, it’s a hoot), but is obviously very devout.  Her oldest child is a complete joy; respectful and kind to the younger children and adults (said child went out of their way to help GO last Sunday afternoon).

I hope my own children learn to respect and not fear those who are different then they are.  One of the most important things I can teach my children is that acceptance of a person does not mean you have to accept their beliefs.  I can disagree with the Muslim faith, and yet respect and admire someone for being faithful to it.

Perhaps if we spent more time talking, we could spend less time hating.

~Mummy Butterfly  )i(


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