Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To Be or Not To Be...


Yesterday I blogged about meeting a Muslim woman I will call Helen and how she was very patient in sharing her faith with me.
I had talked to my Mom about it. My Mom mentioned this to her sister, my Aunt. My Aunt has a neighbor who is Muslim and he is very nice to my Aunt...she is a widow and he seems to be concerned for my Aunt's welfare...I guess they would be neighborly with each other. (I hope they still are with each other) He mentioned an open house at the Mosque he attends and invited my Aunt. She called me and asked if that might be something I would be interested in going to...I said that it was. It was this past Saturday.


As Saturday morning came and I was trying to pick out what to wear...I thought back to how Helen was dressed...long, loose and flowing pants and tops. She wore long sleeves and her head and hair were completely covered. She wore traditional hijab headdress and she told me when she left her home she wore a veil. She explained that it was for modesty and to follow Muhammad's instruction's. I wanted to wear something modest...I found a long pair of brown pants and a denim blue long sleeved painters smock top. I wore socks, when normally I would have put on a pair of flip flops. I was conscious of the fact that when I entered the mosque I would be taking my shoes off. I knew that they would want me to wear the head covering which is wrapped around your neck and head. My Aunt had said already she wasn't wearing that...but I felt I should out of respect for their place of worship. I wanted to wear my own covering...but none of my scarves matched my blue and brown ensemble...I did find something that matched...a Bali batik sarong given to me by my friend who is a nudist! This just made me laugh...So..I am laughing and ironing a sarong that my nudist friend would barely wear...so I could put it on my head! It matched...it had lovely shades of blue and brown and yet...my Hubby was not impressed with my outfit!

I drove to my Aunt's and we rode together, in her car to the open house at the Mosque.
We pulled up into the parking lot and the building, resembled a church building and what could have been an attached school or daycare type building with playground area as well. It looked very normal...I wasn't sure what I was expecting! I had talked to my Aunt in the car ride over about the book that I read (The Faith Club) and what I had hoped for or was looking for. My Aunt told me her neighbor wouldn't be there but a friend of his was and that he was expecting us and would answer any questions I had.
I hadn't thought of speaking with a man...I just wanted to speak with a woman but as we entered I didn't worry at all. There were so many kind women who approached us and greeted us. One in particular asked if she could show us around and we said that would be kind of her. She showed us the men's prayer room and the women's prayer room, as the sexes pray and worship separately. When we came to the larger room she asked that we take our shoes off and then there were young girls with boxes of scarves and they asked if we wanted one..my Aunt said no and I said I had one but did not know how to wear it. I took out my sarong and this very sweet girl wrapped it over my head and asked me to hold the left side of it while she wrapped it around my neck and over my shoulder. I asked if my hair could show as I remember Helen's did not and she smiled and said it would be okay!

We entered the Mosque and there were tables lined in the shape of a rectangle with women and men together with paper and literature on each table. My first inclination was to go to the table with women around my age but my aunt spotted this man that her friend said we should talk to...this turned out to be the new Imam who had just been hired.
We sat down and I was uncomfortable from almost the first moment we sat down.
It just seemed very wrong to be sitting at a table with two men and I was so self conscious about my head covering NOT staying on. I asked the same questions that Helen had answered but I just didn't get the same authentic answers...I also was told that it was Western Media's fault that Islam had a bad image and that Sunni and Shia had gotten along fine until we invaded Iraq. Now...I am a liberal Democrat... and I am not a big fan of the Iraq war..however...I don't remember a lot of peace in the middle east...whether we were in Iraq or not. There are reasons that Shia and Sunni do not get along and they have nothing to do with Western Media! I also asked whether he considered Christians infidels...in hindsight maybe I should not have asked but... anyway more men came over until it felt a little like we were surrounded. One of the men who spoke English very well started quoting scripture from the book of John in the bible...implying that Jesus was just a human. It wasn't what he said but the way he said the words and how he fake smiled at me that upset me. Clearly this was about proving me wrong. I let him speak...and when he was quiet...I said I wouldn't argue Jesus' humanity with him...I did believe that Jesus was fully human. He smiled and said something to the others like..."she said Jesus was human!" I then said "He was fully human and Divine...this is what I believe and I am Christian." The men were just staring at me. I asked "Does this mean that we can not have respect for each other's faith?" They assured me that we could and that Islam meant Peace...and that we, those who are Jews or Christians would be considered people of scripture not infidels. The men left the table then and did not come back. It was over...I suppose, I had offended them.

As we were leaving my Aunt said she knew of a charitable organization made up of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women that might be a better idea for me. So, I will try again.
Later, I had a long walk with Hubby who sometimes reminds me why I find him so darn cute...he listened to all of it ...and then said "God will make a way for this if it's to be!"
I have decided I can't just interrogate people... or make them feel interrogated. I have to have a friendship with them based on mutual respect and then when they trust me...they will share their faith. I have to be patient and wait for that to happen. If it's meant to be...it will be!

22 comments:

Debbie said...

You have such perseverance. I have a lovely friend and neighbor who is Muslim and I wish I could send her to you to help you on this quest.

Rhonda said...

I have no words, Ronda. Really. That's odd, isn't it?

Good for you, though. If it is something you are passionate about, don't give up!

Carey Sue said...

I think what you're doing is wonderful, heartfelt and to be commended!

You've brought Another book to my attention... my book list is getting longer by the day!

Thank you.

Tiffany said...

Have you ever seen the show 30 Days? It's by the guy who did Supersize Me. He has an episode where a Christian man lives as a Muslim for 30 days. It was really enlightening for me. I got it from Netflix, if you have that. It was in Season 1.

Kori said...

Wow Ronda.

Ronda's Rants said...

Thanks...I think that would be interesting!

Noah's Mommy said...

I commend you for even going...so many people don't have the inclination to become more aware of other peoples faiths...which is sad, because it is the threads that bind us together...and just like not all Christians are closed minded....I think not all Muslims are either...and you will find the right fit for you....

jill jill bo bill said...

Please be careful. You will never be equally yoked with them because you are a believer. Just don't expect too much. You can be friends, but in reality, you need to listen carefully to the spirit inside you. There was no communion between spirits at that table. That is why you felt the way you did. I am not saying to stop learning, I am just advising you to be wise.

Ronda's Rants said...

I understand...I left with a great sadness that was papable.

Ronda's Rants said...

Or palpable..if I could type!

Joelle said...

Hi! ; )
I just came from my NEW FUN blog EVER..."The FUN House Loves You"... what 2 Great reads this morning!
You sound like a fantastic Person! That books sound very interesting and something my brother & mother would read... to know, to not judge but to try & understand.To get along.
My brother travels all over the world for his business and he meets so many of diff. faiths. He is learning alot and "listening" & respecting. I like to hear his stories because I do not know. Im not dumb, just not informed. So its pretty cool to hear from so many diff. people. Thanks for sharing.
Your husband sounds pretty sweet!
Best Wishes ~
Joelle XO

Diane said...

Understanding starts with questions and explanations. You didn't sound disrespectful to me. But I've learned the hard way that it's not difficult to offend people if they are always on the defensive. I'm not sure how to change that. But I think what you're doing is a start!

KeepinUnity said...

Ronda! What agreat journey your on! much respect to you,you have the patience of a saint! I am absolutly pissin myself laughing still over ya sarong lol!A gift from a naked beliver into the house of the cover up belivers its just priceless lol.

Z's Mom said...

Wow! Sorry you didn't find what you were looking for.....you have gone a lot further than I think I would have gone to find answers.

I think your husband is right though...

I read the last couple of posts you wrote on this as well....and that is exactly what I was going to suggest. I think your friendship with people of other faiths needs to be based on something other than faith....and then you can talk about the differences and/or similarities in your respective religions. I think it would be easier then because you are already friendly on another level. I don't know if what I just said even makes sense...

Ronda's Rants said...

It makes perfect sense!

Jennifer said...

That is so interesting Ronda! I'm very proud of you for doing that! I'm sorry you had an uncomfortable moment w/ those guys--but all in all it sounds like a very cool experience!!

Lisa said...

What a deep post. Im in awe. I need to go read a few more times to truly grasp it all. By the way: I have some bloggy bling for you over at my place.

Karyn said...

Ronda! You are freaking amazing! I learned a lot secondhand from your reading The Faith Club, and I was impressed with you walking up to Helen's husband in a store. You are an example to all.
After you do all the hard work :), I cannot wait to tag along. ALL followers of the God of Abraham should be able to dialogue respectfully with each other.
I hope there are other people like you trying to reach out to other faiths.

Ronda's Rants said...

You are my friend...and I love you!

Mer said...

What a fascinating experience! It sounds like you handled yourself well even though at times you felt uncomfortable.

I wish I was as brave, I love to learn and experience new things but I'm chicken!

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

What a beautiful posting. Although the fake smile moment would have made my hair stand on end a bit.

Blicky Kitty said...

What a bunch of jerks! Ronda you totally rock! Here's an Oprah overview of the show 30 days that Tiffany mentioned:
http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/oprahshow1_ss_20050908/8
The thing they said on the show that made such an impact on me is that American Muslims have been the most loyal to their country throughout this whole mess. Nobody has noticed that none of the Muslims being recruited for violent acts have come from the US. The other point that stuck with me was when asked why moderate muslims weren't speaking out in defense of their faith, one guy responded that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian and a terrorist, but nobody is questioning the Christian faith because of it.

I know it's obnoxious when they're preachy. One of my Mom's tenants was really preachie and he ticked me off. I just wanted to shake him and say "listen you arrogant homophobic jerk..." :). Our friend Akmed is amazing though. He just adores my 75 yr. old mom and he's so solicitous. He also really really respects Christians for their faith.

I think when you find someone who has embraced the best of their faith in a really beautiful way it's inspiring. I think there are jerks that get it all wrong in any faith. I love that you are strong enough in your own beliefs to respect those of others and I hope you find someone who can return that respect!