Living Islam
September 24, 2009

Nine Muslims, in their own words, reveal a creative convergence of Islamic spirituality and American identity that is unfolding, largely unnoticed, in the United States. A lawyer turned playwright, a teacher who's a lesbian, a retired federal prosecutor — all giving shape to the nature and meaning of Muslim identity, and sharing how tricky it can be to unravel Islamic religious tradition from the many cultural traditions.

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First Person

Expressions of Muslim Identity


The voices in this episode are only a sample of the many thoughtful reflections we received in response to our exploration of the many, varying expressions of Muslim identity. We created a dynamic map that allows you to read each Muslim's essay and see the broader geographical context.

Selected Poems

Poetry by Adnan Onart

Read or listen to Adnan Onart's poem featured in this program, and enjoy three more — including:

» "Ramadan in Dunkin Donuts
» "Ribbon Time: The Moment"
» "Al Miraj"
» "Morning Prayer"

Selected Voices

Voices on the Radio
Ny'Kisha Pettiford
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Ny'Kisha Pettiford

"I walk a line daily between who Muslims are and what they are perceived to be."



» read her story


Reuben Jackson
Washington, D.C.
Reuben Jackson

"I honestly believe that Islam has made me a more patient, less angry man."



» read & listen | » download (mp3, 3:58)


Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

1

A compelling multimedia report on life as a woman in Afghanistan.

1

A glimpse into the lives of two Muslims in Australia.

1

A collection of photos documenting the Islamic holy month.

Recalling Rabbi Heschel's words while fasting for Ramadan.

About the Image

A young boy flies his kite on the Maldive Islands during Ramadan.

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Comments

I grew up in a catholic european country and became interested in Islam through marriage. To me Islam is an extension of christian belief, sort of like an "upgrade". It made everything that I questioned, e.a. Jesus (peace be upon him) being actually God, in the sense of the creator of the universe, fall into place. To me Islam is a protection, it tells me what to strive for and what to avoid. For example, not to overeat, have clean food, not carry a balance on credit cards. The movements of prayer are a daily exercise and one feels connected to the greater universe out there. Unfortunately, for many muslims it is a tradition they are born into and they do not grasp the deeper meaning of the religion. (The same is true for many christians). My advice to people coming into Islam always is:"Focus on the basics, the Quran and Sunnah, do not look around you what other people are doing."

What I find beautiful about Islam is many things: a direct contact between a believer and the One God unencumbered by clergy; the Quran's intense and repetitive emphasis on social justice and strong rights of family and kinship; simplicity and lack of formality of its prescribed ways of worship; the obligation of paying charity (zakat) based on not on your income but your accumulated wealth--which in turn encourages circulation of wealth; beauty of its prophetic traditions that serve as guiding lights in everyday life; its demonstrable commitment to racial equality that goes back a millennium and and half; its utter prohibition of excessive consumption and wasteful ways of living; and the depth of meaning, and the linguistic and literary treasures contained in the Quran.

I find my faith guiding my actions in almost every sphere of my life. Whether its in being a responsible parent and spouse, or trying to do justice to my work obligations, or being a part of community. Of course, it exhibits in practicing of the five pillars of Islam, namely, the profession of faith itself, the five daily prayers, charitable giving, Ramadan fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

I am truly concerned about the contemporary dominance of narrow and
exclusive interpretation of Islamic text and traditions over more universal and expansive understanding of the beauty of its message. Furthermore, the rise of consumer culture in the Muslim world that inhibits contemplation, is likely to further expand this gap by making religious thinking the sole property of the mullahs who tend to favor the more restrictive meaning of Islam.

In the end, I'd like to share one of my favorite verses from the Quran (Chapter 2, Verse 177)

2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.

Being a Muslim is not that big issue to me. I prefer to live in a secular society where everyone is equal, have same rights and obligations. I don't want anyone to impose a way of life on me, I just want to choose whether or not to put hair scarf for instance. In my country, I can't go out without putting on my scarf, and I feel like a stupid woman who can't be herself, though she is highly educated. To live in such a conservative society is to kill the mere thinking to be an independant creature. I have been struggling all my life to prove myself in my country, I am an assistant professor and yet I can't live my life there, everyone has a full right to interfere in my life and to turn my life into waste.

I became a Sufi Muslim almost 6 years ago after following a hindu-christian religious path for more than 30 years. Being a Muslim to me means that I do my best to surrender to God and put God first before anything else. I listen carefully inside my heart and follow the path of peace, love, mercy, justice, and freedom. It is not like what you hear on the news, but it is the way of caring for all people and working for peace and understanding and it is the way of healing for the heart. It is a way of life that requires me to be in service to God every moment of the day and when I forget, to return to God and remember as quickly as I can. It is the most beautiful religion I have ever experienced because of the inner peace and mercy. It does not make separation between Christians and Jews and Muslims like you hear on the news. It honors all the prophets of all times and brings all the religions together. I hope that all the people of the world of all religions will learn the true message of Islam, which literally means peace and that people will understand the common message between their religions, so there can be peace. I pray the salat prayer 5 times a day, I read spiritual books and do spiritual practices 1-4 hours a day. These practices help me to feel God within my heart through out the day.

I had no idea I was a Muslim when I was young and growing up in Kuwait in the 1960's until one day when mom told me we do not have a tree because "we are Muslim and not Christian". I screamed but "Mai and Dina-our Iraqi Christian neighbors- have one and they have toys under the tree, its not fair" . A few months later Mai came to our house asking me to convert her to Islam because we were being giving money for Eid -Muslim holiday- and she was getting nothing. She begged me to recite the Shahadah-witness that there is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God. I was six years and old and I still to this day do not understand why I insisted on not doing it. I just felt that it was wrong and some thing bad could happen to us kids if I did it. Its only after so many years later that I realized that Islam was not about repeating a sentence but was actually a way of life.

I was a semi practicing Muslim and knew a lot about the tenants and articles of the faith but this is about all the knowledge I had of Islam.

I was forced to learn and read about my faith a few years after moving to the USA in 1989. American curiosity and questions about my religion made me realize that Islam was not just about reciting verses from the Quran, fasting and praying. It had a much more intellectual depth that I had no idea it existed. I enjoyed approaching the text of the Quran from a "student's perspective rather than a worshiper. As a worshiper I was reciting a scared text but as a student, I was indulging my self in an exciting search for knowledge.

Living in the USA and being exposed to so many different Muslims from so many different countries and cultures made me realize that there are many faces to Islam.

What I have never imagined while growing up in Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan is that one day I will be asked to speak publicly to Americans in defense of the faith. So being a Muslim in America has simply meant for me to be waiting to answer the next e-mail circulating, which describes how the Christian God is more powerful or more gentler than the Muslim one. Or how an American Muslim can never be a good citizen because Muslims worship the moon God Allah. Or that we have to kill Christians and Jews. The more I received these e-mails the more I learnt about my faith and discovered that it also talks about Embryology and Geology, Geography and Astronomy but I never got a question about such topics. I have lectured to thousands of people and no one has ever asked me a question about science! As if all that Islam has given to humanity is a bunch of nut case terrorists. No questions about the first Cataract surgery performed in the world by a Muslim. Or how Muslims borrowed the concept of Zero from India and gave it to the rest of world. The list is too long here to numerate.

To be an American Muslim means watching my President (former) equating my faith with fascism because of the behavior of a very few people. Yet no where in my lectures I equate Christianity with the atrocities committed by Hitler and Mussolini. To be a Muslim means that I have to watch on TV the so called experts, who have never spoke to a Muslim, talk about my faith. It means to pay for Cable news channels that will almost never give a chance to any of us American Muslims to be the experts on TV. Being Muslim means going to the book store and see endless titles like Why they hate and What is wrong with Islam.

However, as a female Muslim, nothing irritates me more than men and women asking me about my rights in Islam and why some cannot drive and why do I have to cover my hair. Being a female Muslim lecturer means that I will never get a question from the audience on how they can help the homeless American women who live in the woods and my mosque feeds every month. Or about the American woman in my county who could not hide from her abusive husband in our local shelter because it was over flowing with women and children or being asked about Palestinian pregnant women dying at check points or the Bosnian women who were rapped to change demographics in the Balkans.

But being a Muslim in America makes me a better Muslim. A more hopeful one. I have had hundreds of amazing messages of love and support. I have had Americans shake my hands with tears in their eyes asking me to speak more. Just this Saturday morning, I was in the company of a very intellectual group of retired men and women (oldest was 95) who are still wanting to learn about Islam from a Muslim, and for this I am for ever grateful to be a Muslim in America.

To me, Islam is what you make of it. Being Muslim means I have traditions that I choose to follow in my life that makes me feel good and unique such as the purpose of prayers, the fasting, believing that there is a superior being out there, God, and that God is as powerful as kind, that no human can speak on His or Her behalf.

I find beautiful about Islam is that it offers a wide spectrum of interpretation in a way that the bottom line to me is that we must get along and accept one another regardless which end of the spectrum a Muslim may find himself or herself. It is about finding your comfort zone and accepting it is ok for others to be in those other zones and that is the biggest challenge any one person faces, to accept others as they are.

Expressing Islam in my daily life shows at home and office from the way I deal with people to decorating. I like Islamic decoration and people asks questions about it. I translate for Iraqi refugees where I work, and that is how people found out I am a Muslim.

I hope that Muslims eliminate Islamic extremism by making tough choices such as going after terrorists wherever they are and by speaking against extremism. My concern will always be women's rights. I hope someday more Muslim women become judges, lawyers, interpret the Quran by a woman and hopefully stop once for all honor killings and domestic violence.

The future is better if Muslims let the past stay in the past and start moving forward in thinking and in the way they express themselves. I hope hate for the Jews is eliminated in Arab's culture for generations to come and that violence against women stops being shown on Arab television.

My question that I have is when Muslims will start really talking about the rights of women vs. the rights of men in Islam. To this day I can't understand why Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men in today's civilization where Muslims are not running the risk of being exterminated. I believe Muslim women are well capable of raising Muslim children regardless of what husband she chooses. It goes both ways.

What is it?

The Mosquers is a Muslim video contest that encourages young Muslims in Edmonton (and area) to grab a camera and tell their story about life in Canada.

Why?

1. To humanize Muslims and dispel commonly held stereotypes and misconceptions.

2. To encourage young Edmonton Muslims to be creative and showcase this creativity.

About:

j

As an organization whose aim is to eliminate racism, The Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations approached a few Muslim youth to work together and develop a creative tool to help decrease common misunderstandings and stereotypes about Muslims. The Mosquers was created to encourage young Muslims to tell their story about how it feels to be a Muslim living in Canada. The Mosquers is an opportunity for Muslims to showcase their creative side, while at the same time dispel commonly held misconceptions and stereotypes about Muslims.

Greetings,

What follows is a press release just submitted last week by my institution (Fuller Seminary). I am copying it myself below for you. I would certainly be willing to be interviewed or discuss these groundbreaking findings with you. I will be unavailable from July 1 - 10, but otherwise, I would be very willing to discuss this if you have interest. Since I did not write this press release, I do not have permission to let you publish it. If you do wish to do so, I am quite sure I could get permission.
Sincerely,
Jeff Bjorck, Ph.D.
jbjorck@fuller.edu
===============================

“Appeal of Moral Values” Key Factor for U.S. Women Who Convert to Islam

While it is commonly presumed that women in the United States who choose to become Muslims typically do so in order to marry a Muslim spouse, recent research contradicts this assumption. “Marriage was not irrelevant, but it was ranked as one of the least important among nine reasons that were assessed,” says Jeffrey P. Bjorck, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology and study co-author with his former student, Audrey Maslim, Ph.D. The study was just published in the American Psychological Association’s new journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Vol. 1 (Issue 2), pp. 97-111.

Findings were based on a survey linked to an online magazine web site targeting North American Muslim women. Among the 304 women converts to Islam who responded, 93 percent cited the appeal of Muslim moral values in contrast to secular values as a very important reason for their conversion, whereas 79 percent cited dissatisfaction with a former faith (which typically was Christianity). “Given that the vast majority of adults who grew up in the United States were exposed to Christianity,” noted Bjorck, “this latter finding is not surprising.”

What might be surprising to some is that 75 percent cited obtaining an enhanced sense of identity and that 63 percent cited an appreciation of Islam’s cultural views regarding gender roles and ethnic diversity. Bjorck stated, “Islam is often viewed as oppressive to women by those outside the faith, but the women in our sample clearly disagreed. In addition, some researchers have noted that Muslim women view western women’s attire, for example, as encouraging their sexual objectification by men, prompting the question, ‘Which culture respects women more?’ Clearly, this is a complex issue.”

Twenty percent of women did note that a potential marriage influenced their decision, but these women also cited the importance of Muslim values and other belief-related reasons. As such, this study’s findings suggest that, for women in the U.S., the choice to become Muslim is a serious decision seen more as an end in itself and less as a merely pragmatic means to the end of a goal like marriage.

Respondents were well educated, with an average of 3 or 4 years of college, and they were obviously internet-savvy. As such, findings might not generalize to women with less education or those without computer access. “Still,” remarks Bjorck, “this is significant preliminary study, and it suggests that choosing Islam for these women is an important, thoughtful decision based on introspection and genuine commitment to their faith.”

being a muslim ...
to me Islam is not just a religion .. it is the religion that i personally hold dear.. it is not just identity it is also my way of life.. i can't imagine my self being anything other than muslim..

with all these emotions, no wonder i feel hurt whenever we are characterized as terrorists, as bohemians, and non humane "creatures"..
can you please tell me.. under what right do those people have in insulting us.. we are humans.. we are people.. we have emotions ... enough... please tell them to shut up.. tell them to leave us alone..

For me, my Muslim identity was always tied to my community. My late father, Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a professor of sociology for 38 years, was one of the original 13 founding members of the Muslim Students' Association of the US & Canada in 1963. He later served as the first President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), in 1982, currently the largest main-stream Muslim organization in North America. The ISNA Annual Convention, this year being held during the July 4th weekend in Washington D.C., has become the single largest gathering of Muslims anywhere in the western hempisphere.

Not only did my father share stories of his travels across the country in his 1957 Buick during the 1960's, going from city to city looking for Muslims, but I also had the opportunity to visit many Muslim communities with him and my mother around the US and Canada. Together, we met, ate, and prayed with Muslim community leaders of various ethnic backgrounds, including generations of African American leaders, Indian/Pakistani, Arab, Bosnian, South East Asian and even caucasian "reverts" or non-Muslims who had converted to Islam and taken leadership roles. I have gotten to know many of our community's scholars and now aging leaders, who are more like "uncles" to me than community leaders commanding respect.

I had a front row seat in watching the formation, growth and progression of the American Muslim community in all of its shapes and forms, from the most liberal/progressive to the most ultra-orthodox. I also had a front row seat in watching the American Muslim community's setbacks, as I stood beside my father watching the horrible events of 9/11 on our television, the day after I celebrated passing the Florida Bar and obtaining my law license. I quickly realized that our American Muslim community would be soon under siege from all sides. My father, I and many other American Muslims have worked extra hard to try and rebuild our community's reputation and good name, and with the help of many other faith communities, have made significant progress, despite the daunting challenges that we still face.

Now I myself have entered the national leadership as a member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of North America, following in my father's footsteps, so-to-speak. I have also taken an active role in local and national politics. I hope to share my future experiences in the growth of the American Muslim community with my wife and [so far two] children.

While I am certainly no scholar of Islam, I am an activist, dedicated to my local, national Muslim and general American community, committed to making our role as American Muslims one that provides a positive and beneficial contribution to our collective American society.

Being Muslim means practicing a faith provides guidance and structure to life; provides me with some insight and new perspectives on areas of life that I may or may not have experienced before. As an African-American professional who was born Muslim, it has provided me with an sense of confidence and distance from the burden of racism in the society I live in today. It has allowed my family to self-reflect and reach for goals thought to be unattainable and kept our family together.

Beautiful about Islam: It's common sense, it's practicality, and it's ability to help people see the good of where they come from and acknoweldgement that just because of your culture, your wealth, or your tragedies one is no better or worse--it's just circumstance, something you have to get through. While peace can come in this life, there is an afterlife to believe in that has more justice and peace than is imaginable on this Earth.

Expression in daily life: I pray five times a day, make sure that I read and understand the Qu'ran daily, always make sure that I am on good terms with my parents and other family members, and don't settle for 'just okay' with regards to my patients at work.

Hopes, questions, concerns: While the majority of the Muslims in the US are African-American--a large percentage native born Muslims, the 'power structure' in many of the mosques and organizations has been left in the hands of those who are first or second generation immigrants to the US (mainly of Indo-Pakistani origin or Arab). This has lead to a 'definition' of Islam in the US as that which reflects their cultural heritage, although we live in the US. As a result, many African-Americans have taken on Indo-Pakistani or Arab cultural norms with regards to what Islam is. Ironically, as I have learned more and more about Islam, it has become very clear that Islam merely takes what is good about one's culture and promotes and that which is not positive or harms someone's rights is discouraged. Meaning, one will see Islam practiced in many different ways all over the world, based on the culture that one lives in. My husband is from Senegal and this has really been illustrated to me as I have met his family.

This year has been a pivotal one for me in many ways, especially with respect to my faith. In September, I started a teaching job at Curie Metro, a Chicago Public School. I was teaching environmental science to grades 9 through 12. This was my first year teaching and admittedly I made some rookie mistakes. My lesson plans were sometimes disorganized and sometimes I came to school a few minutes late. But I was quite surprised, when after only a month of teaching, I was let go. My boss said it was mainly because I didn’t have the proper certification, but when I pressed her, she said that my teaching performance was also a factor. I was out of work for a couple months and it was a really trying time. I signed up to substitute-teach and from time to time, I was called to do that. I started to wonder if I really wanted to keep teaching. In March, I got an interview at Islamic Foundation School (IFS), a private school, for a job as a high school biology and chemistry teacher. I had been hesitant to apply at IFS because my teaching experience had been in public schools. I was afraid that a private school might be more restrictive in curriculum. Also, I had volunteered at a summer camp at IFS and found the group to be very difficult to manage. But when I started working at IFS, I completely changed my mind about the place. The students were respectful and disciplined. The staff was very collegial and helped me get started. I felt very comfortable in the environment because for the first time, being a Pakistani Muslim did not make me a minority. Also, as a teacher, I found I had more freedom to create original lessons and assessments than I had had at Curie. There were some challenges as well. I disliked the textbooks I had to use and I wanted a bigger budget for labs. However, I found the positive aspects to be much more significant than the negative ones. Working in an Islamic environment has deepened my faith in Allah and my faith in Muslims. I think I have more faith in Allah now because my schedule allowed time for prayer and for reflection on the Quran. I have more faith in Muslims now because I have seen evidence that they can actually run organizations in an effective manner.

My name is Omar Aref, I am a Physician in Florida, The bigest highlight in my life in the United states happened on the early hours of 9/11/2001. I was working in NY city and driving to work, while stoped ina stop light, Under the WTC, the events of that day started to unfold, and I had first hand accounts of that day more than most people. Later in the same day I was accused to be responsible for it-being Muslim- and had to defend my cread and my coummunity ever since.

I was born to a Muslim family and lived in a Muslim country most of my life. But I had the privilege of living in England and the US for almost 10 years during the prime years of my life, my twenties.

During the first four years living away from home in England, I strayed away from Islam in many ways. I womanized, skipped my daily prayers, smoked, skipped fasting in Ramadan and spent endless nights from one bar to another and from one nightclub to another.

Superficially, it was fun, it was cool and it was everything. But deep inside I was not happy and I kept feeling that something was terribly wrong. It felt like there was a big gaping hole was permanently present inside my heart, my soul, my very self.

It was funny, because one of my girlfriends who stayed with me the longest time had come to know that when I am feeling really bad and down, that the best medicine was to pray. She would say "why don't do some prayers, it will make you feel good again".

After a short period of self-reflection and assessment, I knew that I was fooling my self. This is not the life I was meant to live. So, I went back to my regular five-times-a-day prayers, I gave up sex (toughest part :) ), I did my Ramadan fasting and read Quran on regular basis. I felt alive again. The gaping hole fully sealed.

It was amazing. It is true what say about not appreciating something until you lose it. I am happy that I did not lose myself as a good Muslim permanently.

That was 14 years ago and to this day, I have been living my life according to the teachings of Islam to the tiniest details. I work, vacation, eat, drink, socialize, raise my kids, invest my money, speak, write, read and just enjoy life to its fullest according to the teachings of Islam. I consider my self a very happy and content family man.

To me Islam is not just a system of believe nor is it just performing acts of worship. It is both and more. It is a way of life in every single detail. From the order of steps you take to walk into the bathroom (left foot first) to the way you invest your life savings.

For example, when I teach my kids not to litter or to be conscious of the environment, I do so with a connection to the teachings of Islam. When I tell them not to use bad language or not to speak badly of other people, I don't only tell them it is bad manners or rude or anti-social. I tell them it's against the teachings of Islam and Allah does not like it. This in my opinion instills these positive traits in them permanently and I hope it will stay with them all of thier lives even when being environmentally friendly is no longer the fad or even when thier parents are not watching what kind of languange they use with thier friends when away from home.

Finally, I would like to point out something that I find very important and wish to share with you. This is something that I discuss with my friends on regular basis and I know that all of them feel the same way (note: most of my friends are Western educated professionals, some of whom are universtiy professors). It really saddens us greatly when we see influential countries and international organization of the West and the East try to push for a so-called "Moderate Islam" and mistakingly end up pushing for Secularism which in our opinion is the Anti-Islam in its purest forms.

If only they would treat the issue in greater depth and genuinely understand Islam and Muslims instead of the superficiality with which it is usually treated, life would be much peacful and tranquil in this tumultuous world of ours.

qil

I am an Muslim American of Jamaican descent. I am a woman who works in corporate America and yet keeps true to my faith and its laws. I walk a line daily between who Muslims are and what they are perceived to be.

I am very proud to be a Muslim and very proud to be a capable woman. I am by no means oppressed and wear my scarf with pride. I make spreading the truth about Islam (by a positive example) as much a part of my life as breathing. The average Muslim American means no harm to their fellow citizens and it is our responsibility to thwart the wrong stereotypes that others have made prevalent.

In my effort to spread the truth and protect the youth from incorrect dogma I teach about Islam to children and lead my own Girl Scout troop. Together we work to showcase ourselves and our positive contribution to American society.

When I am driving, I tend to jumble all the noises in the car as one big mixture of sound. It is almost music to my ears. There is someone talking non-stop, another snoring, one crying and one screaming for no apparent reason. Since I can not keep everyone at peace, I just let them be and focus on the road instead. This is a typical afternoon for me. It may seem as if I am talking about a car full of rowdy, uncontrollable children. However, only two of them are my kids; the other two are my parents.
I am proud to say that I am part of a “sandwich” generation. I am taking care of my kids and parents at the same time. I have a preschooler and a toddler, and my retired parents are in their mid to late sixties. My father has been quite sick for some time now, and my mother needs a good amount of help taking care of him. She has plenty of health issues herself. They live on their own about a half hour south of me. I am there almost every other day running errands for them, taking them on outings, helping them around the house, and just giving them company. My kids are with me the whole time. I do not mind it at all. I consider myself truly blessed. I have been given the opportunity to take care of my parents after all they have done for me. In my faith, parents are highly regarded; we have to honor and respect them unreservedly and treat them with utter kindness.
It can be hard sometimes to balance my time and energy between my kids and my parents. My mom tries to help me out with my kids as much as she can, but most of her time goes to assisting my dad. He needs help showering, getting dressed, walking, and doing simple tasks. Plus, the man absolutely loves food, so she is constantly cooking for him throughout the day. Unfortunately, I can not be much help in that department, because he only prefers my mom’s cooking. Nevertheless, it is this exact selflessness of my mother’s that inspires me to do more for them.
My kids have definitely gotten used to this lifestyle. They enjoy spending time with their grandparents, and they learn so much from them. In the same way, being around the kids keeps my parents content, energized, and distracted from their health issues. For example, my dad can not run around with the kids, so instead he tells stories to them, loves to tickle them, and plays simple games with them. Their favorite game is when he asks for a hug, he pretends to trap them, so the kids have to find a way out of the hug. Another example is if my daughter complains of her legs hurting due to restless leg syndrome, my mom forgets all about her arthritis and massages her granddaughter’s legs for her.
These types of moments are what give me purpose in my daily life. I can honestly say though that I did not learn to value my parents until I became a parent myself. I hope one day my kids will be able to take care of me in my old age as well. They will only learn that by example. It is never too early to instill in my kids these types of family values, which are a huge part of my religion. It is one of the things I find so beautiful about Islam. Trying to be a good person, keeping good relations, and treating people with kindness is what being a Muslim means to me.

being muslim and a lesbian has not been a challenge for me as most people would have assumed. my faith in allah as all encompassing being keeps me strong, knowing that i am not a seperate entity but a wave in his creation gives me peace and joy. my family has disowned me for the sole reason that i am a lesbian and therefore a sinner. i forgive them for sinning by judging me and deciding where i belong in the afterlife, considering me as separate from the One. I pray for them even though they said they did't want my prayers and didn't believe my prayers will be answered. I pray that they can see the beauty in the creation and the perfection of it all.

I am not a Muslim, but I am the managing editor for WFIU's (a NPR member station) Muslim Voices podcast. Our mission is to promote a greater understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim cultures. Speaking of Faith provides us with wonderful insight and is a valuable resource for our project. We'll stay tuned! Best wishes, Megan Meyer

I grew up Seventh Day Adventist. For me cultural diversity, debate and discipline were a big part of my Faith identity. I started to have some questions about Christianity theologically early in life. I vividly remember asking my Pastor pointed questions about Christianity and Ellen White before I decided to get baptized.

I didn't believe. I believed in God, that much I knew, but I wasn't big on this "Seventh Day Adventist thing". I wanted to watch college football on Saturdays, not go to church.

In any case, I had my Obediah moments in college and had been looking into different faith paths as I my questions took me further away from the church. I took some courses on religion and religious history. I read a few books like "GOD", many books on African spirituality and culture like 2000 seasons, etc.

In the end I decided that I needed a God that was familiar in a way to me. Islam seemed to be the liberal but disciplined, familiar yet different and had piqued my interest in a post 9/11 world.

After joining a few Muslim online communities with people my age and engaging in dialogue about Islam, I finally decided to take the train to a local Mosque and convert.

I converted in 2003. I don't practice now. I still believe in Islam in my heart, but after my younger brother died in an accident nearly two years ago and now that my older and last brother is dying right now, I just have the SPIRITUAL strength to believe, if that makes any sense.

You talked about the inability to really FEEL on the piece about the soul during depression. I just feel empty and while salat makes me feel better, it also feels like a betrayal somehow. Even though I don't really BELIEVE this, there is a sentiment deep in my being that says nearly aloud: "what good is God if God can't bring my brother back?"

I talked about Religion, Depression, Islam and achievement with Award winning Author Melody Moezzi. She's an NPR and Huffington Post contributor. You might want to talk to her about that aspect of Islam- of healing. Here's a link to our conversation and her site:

http://abenghorn.podOmatic.com/enclosure/2009-01-24T16_16_41-08_00.mp3
www.melodymoezzi.com

I am an American Muslim originally from Palestine. I work hard as a Muslim to shed light on the plight of Christian Palestinians who are often overlooked. As a founder and member of several interfaith organizations here in DC, including Washington Interfaith Alliance for Peace, Love Thy Neighbor and The AD Hoc Committee for Bethlehem, I often speak at local churches and colleges to highlight the tremendous hardships the Christians of Palestine face- I speak as a Muslim who understands that the well being Christian Palestinians and the physical presence of Christians in the Holy Land is critical to Islam and Palestinians.
I base this on my understanding of my faith and the historical accounts of well noted Muslim leaders who maintained deference and respect to both the Jewish and Christian presence in Palestine.
I take heart in the story of the Second Muslim Khalefa Omar bin Al-Khatab whose respect for Christianity and the Christian belief in Palestine was demonstrated and documented when he refused to pray at the Church of Sepulcher for fear that future Muslims will turn it into a church. As he had predicted Masjid Omar today stands next to the Sepulcher where Omar made his prescribed Maghreb prayed. Omar Bin al-Khatab also was the first among many Muslim leaders who historically were the only leaders of faith who allowed the return of Jews to Jerusalem.
For more than 1400 years Muslims have been the custodians of the two most important holy sites in Palestine- the Sepulcher church and the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The same two families daily open the doors of both churches for the Christian faithful according to to the same agreement devised by Omar Bin al-Khatab and Jerusalem Patriarch Sophronious. This agreement has been enshrined by Ottoman "Status Quo" treaty in 1859 and later ratified by the Berlin agreement.
My faith is central to all that I do- Islam is the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths, and as such is respectful of both Christian and Jewish faithful.

My faith in Islam fills my heart with positivism and strength that I use in good times and hard times. Islam drives me to want to make a difference, to help the venerable and to strive for a better world.

For me being a Muslim comes with a responsibility to think at every step, every action, and every reaction, how I will affect the world around me, the people who reside in that world and my own spirituality and development as a person.

Being a “Muslim” should not only be associated to individuals who believe in Islam. Being a Muslim is one who submits themselves to Allah (the Arabic word for God used by individuals in the Arabic speaking world, whether their faith is Islam, Christianity, Judaism or otherwise). This is just one of the misconceptions surrounding Islam.

I have always seen Islam as a ground breaking faith; there are parts of the Quran which describe facts that are being proved by scientists today. Islam is a faith that pushes us to increase our knowledge and drives us to become better.

The drive for knowledge is so important in Islam it dispels ignorance, hate and archaic attitudes that cause injustice. From a young age Islam made me open my mind and heart to everyone, whether they belonged to the faith or not. To respect yourself and your faith you must strive to understand and respect others.

It scares me that Islam is portrayed so negatively, mainly due to the hard lined politicised Islamists who I believe to have lost the true essence of Islam. It is a faith that should grow with every bit of knowledge we accumulate but there are so many individuals who use the “name” of Islam to push their own agendas of power, inequality towards women and create general anarchy. It concerns me when this is the majority of what the media portrays, and individuals who believe in Islam, are stereotyped.

In my life I am blessed to have friends and family from all over the world and who have differing beliefs. But it is my faith in Islam and the knowledge my faith has given me that has enabled me to be so blessed.

To Whom It May Concern: I am writing on behalf of Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, professor at Yale University and associate research scientist at the Yale Child Study Center. She is currently conducting a study entitled, Mann Ana/Who Am I? Understanding identity formation of Arab Muslim children growing up in the US. This study involves surveying Arab Muslim children, ages of 10 to 14, and their parents (MA, CT, NY, and NJ) in order to gain a better understanding of the issues this population has faced, faces, with respect to issues of identity formation and discrimination, post 9/11. The is a ground breaking study in that it is the first to explore these issues with Arab Muslim children and youth of this age group. The project is about to go into full swing; a website will be launched sometime in July 2009(mannana.yale.edu; whoami.yale.edu) to inform and recruit participants to the study. A publicity campaign is planned to help spread the word of the opportunity for participation in these communities. This website will feature videos, team member audio clips (who they are and why they joined the Mann Ana team), along with an online recruitment form, study description and invitation to participate. Dr. Britto has authored and co-authored papers on these topics that you may find of interest. If you are interested in reading them, please let me know how I may send you the pdf versions. This population is a sensitive one and as Yale's Muslim Chaplain, Omer Bajwa says, it is time to take down the walls of misconception and to build bridges. Dr. Britto will share the outcome of this study with educators and policy makers in the US with the intent to help foster understanding and healthy change. We love your site and follow it regularly. Sincerely, N. Shemrah Fallon Project Coordinator Mann Ana/Who am I? nancy.fallon@yale.edu 203-737-2709

Note: I selected 'no' re permission to share this information publicly as we would rather wait until the Mann Ana website is launched, unless you feel otherwise.

I thank God everyday for being born Muslim. My faith is something that I guard zealously and cherish. To me being a Muslim means leading a life filled with obedience and service to my parents, love and caring towards my family, friends and neighbors. It encourages me to appreciate all the good and pure things that Allah has blessed me with,and thank Him every waking moment for His infinite mercies. It makes it easy for me to avoid harmful situations,since Islam forbids drinking,gambling,dressing immodestly,living a life of waste and extravagance,and indulging in gossip. The Holy Quran warns me that that I will be accountable for my every action, for every wilfullly broken promise, for any kind of vain talk, thus inculcating humility and honesty. I have lived in this country for 27 years now and have discovered the beauty of my faith here. Being an observant Muslim I dress out of choice in the traditional Abaya ( the long outer garment)and wear a hijab,(the head scarf). Whenever I go out in public, I receive the utmost respect and courtesy. Even in the sweltering heat of Dallas, no one thinks I am crazy for dressing the way I do.
A couple of days ago I read and heard about the President of France wanting to ban Muslim women from wearing the "burqa", because he sees it as a symbol of slavery and an insult to the woman's freedom. He could not be more wrong. Why would my freedom be impaired because I choose to dress modestly?
The images of violence from the Middle East, the tendency to identify terrorists as Islamic and the general negative tone of the media when it comes to Muslims, are a cause for concern. Yet, the numbers show that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world - so I know we must be doing something right.

The best way to share my story is to attach my poem, Morning Prayer, a poem I wrote as I was coming out of a deep depression. Morning Prayer has been included in my book The Passport You Asked For, published by The Aeolos Presss, together with Kenneth Rosen’s Cyprus’ Bad Period.

Below is the text; but please look at the PDF attachment to see the proper formatting of the poem.

Morning Prayer

In a poor Istanbul neighborhood,
At the ground floor of our house,
My great-grandmother says:
It is time for morning prayer.

If you pray, she says, pure as a child,
From this corner of the room,
An angel will appear.

I am five years old closing my eyes.
Allahü Ekber.

Essallamü alleyküm ve rahmetullah.
I am fifty opening my eyes.

In Boston, Massachusetts,
In a not so poor neighborhood
At the top floor of our house
Praying my morning prayer.

From that corner of the room,
My great-grandmother appears.

Adnan Adam Onart
Boston MA, 1997

I am an American Muslim. When I took my citizenship oath, I asked myself: are the American ideals contradictory to my belief? I think not. In fact, Islam liberates me from all false gods, as America – in principle – grants people life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The founding fathers said that these rights are not gifts from government but from the creator himself. So, I am an American who believes in god, the one god, the creator (the same one the founding fathers refer to) and sustainer of life, the most compassionate and merciful. When the question involves sin and sinners, mercy is Allah’s overriding character. America is my home, and the home of my two children. They also believe Allah is the creator, the one and only god (Quran:112-1). Mohammad, Jesus and Abraham are his messengers, none of whom claimed to be god, but all of whom had revelations from god. In my life, as well as other Muslim’s lives, Allah is most visible in the universe because his presence is overwhelming and cannot be denied. I see Allah in a baby’s birth, in an elderly passing away, surrounded by family, in acts of human kindness that come with suffering from war disease and poverty, in a school of fish so harmonious, in a flock of birds so perfectly flying in tandem (Quran: 67-19) and changing directions; both the school of fish and the flock of birds look like beautiful, well rehearsed ballet dancers. But Allah is the most invisible as well. That is, despite his overwhelming presence, you cannot contain him in a laboratory of science; you cannot talk to him or see him directly. Allah is everywhere, yet you cannot pinpoint him. But wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah (Quran: 2-142) God has sent us many messages through selected human beings: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and thousands of others the Quran did not reveal their names and stories. God’s words can be found in the scriptures and also seen and heard in cloud formations, ocean waves and mountain summits all over the universe around us. When I watch Hollywood productions about Jesus and Moses, I am reminded that Allah rescued Moses and the Israelites and freed them from bondage in Egypt, away from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Allah saved Jesus from the crucifix. But many followers of Jesus were tortured and crucified for decades after Jesus left the earth. He will return to remind us once more of the fundamentals he himself once taught: peace, love and forgiveness. I grew up with the Quran. My father read it to me when I was little. I know it relatively well, but it may be difficult to read for some because they try, like any other book, to read it in a day or a week or two. That does not work. The Quran is a book of universal signs (Arabic: Ayat), signals, and treasures of wisdom. Read a paragraph or two every day. The Quran was revealed over 23 years of Mohammad’s life, because it answered questions about life as it happens in the Arabian desert, day after day, little by little. For twenty three years, the Quran provided a context for the passages of a book that would be read by billions for centuries. It would not be easy to comprehend, to read in just a few days. It is a book that takes a serious look at life and history. Even though Islam grants us freedom of choice and urges us to think for ourselves, it is a very specific book about what to do in important matters that will remain critical in human history, among them government, war, race and gender relations, banking, and poverty. I give my friends copies of the Quran, but tell them to pace themselves while reading it. I tell them that the Quran was revealed, in Arabic, to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel. English and other translations will suffice but they are just that: somebody’s translations. Some are better than others but none capture the beauty and the eloquence of the original Arabic text. That is partially why all Muslims read their prayers in Arabic, although only 10 or 15% are Arabic-speakers. We do not want to lose the Arabic text over the hundreds of years and multiple generations of translations. When I got married, my wife introduced me to camping. Camping near the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, or lake Champlain in Vermont was when I began to understand, for the first time, many of the universal signs in the Quran I thought I knew. There are chapters and paragraphs on fish in the ocean, bird formations, ant colonies, beehives and spider webs. The Quran is a substantial book. It mentions about everything in life, from men and women, marriage and divorce to business and trade, poverty and wealth. The Quran also talks about government and people, tyranny and oppression, leadership and democracy (Shura-chapter 42). As a Muslim, I know the history of Islam. However there are people in my life I consider to be significant: Khadija: Mohammad’s first wife and the woman he loved the most. If she lived with us today, she would be called progressive. She had her own successful large scale export-import business. She hired Mohammad, and then she – the boss - proposed to him. So much for the stereotypical submissive Arab woman! Mohammad was devastated when she died and married Aisha only after Khadija’s death. Mohammad never forgot Khadija for the rest of his life to the extent that Aisha expressed jealousy of her. Aisha was Jealous of a dead woman because Mohammad never stopped talking about her. Aisha is another outstanding character. She was a legal authority with recognized scholarship to the extent that Mohammad ordered his friends to study with her. She led a political rebellion after his death against the established authority, or Khalifa. In a well-documented rebellion, Aisha led the rebels into the seat of government in Iraq. Ali, the fourth caliph, could not silence her. Both opponents and their supporters respected her so much that they called her “our mother Aisha- the mother of the believers. I think the educated elite in the west should begin looking beyond the Hijab’s false symbolism that they created. The intellectuals and the media have manufactured this stereotype of millions of Muslim women being forced into it, when the reality is that Hijab is a sign of dignity, respect and expression of how Islam holds women in high regard. Hundreds of millions of Muslim women choose Hijab when they go out each morning, and in many cases, against the will of their husbands and the government. Another great inspiration in my life comes from Hussein, the grandson of Mohammad. He taught us something about courage, nobility, and selflessness when one stands up to tyranny. He answered the call to lead when people asked him to take a stand. He was killed in a brutal massacre by the illegitimate government along with his family – the women, kids all witnessing his murder. His place in Islam, especially in Shia Islam, is very much comparable to the place of Jesus in Christianity: The ultimate sacrifice, the principled and noble choices, taking a stand against the powerful establishment, making a sacrifice the world will forever remember. Hussein still inspires passion for justice, charisma and determination that is rare in human history. Islam liberates us from many false gods: people in power, material possessions, power, sex, and greed. Happiness comes from being with god, being in synch with the universe: the mercy and the beauty. But Islam is not passive and should not be confined to mosques. Muslims are called upon to take a stand for the oppressed, the weak and the poor, not to accept oppression or tyranny or injustice they are told to fight for their rights. Every legitimate act in support of social justice is considered worship. Every word you say to defend the weak, the poor and the oppressed is jihad. Jihad is a fundamental principle – a concept so demonized by well-intended and ill-intended people in today’s world. My father took me to Sufi circles of meditation in Cairo. They are magical, mysterious, and mystical. Sufi Islam is the spiritual, mystical face of Islam. You love Allah and the universe, and serve people, humbly and selflessly. Sufis saw the world as a magnificent art exhibit. The best love poems were written by Sufis. Beautiful music, songs, spiritual dances still take place in India and Pakistan. Sufis practiced meditation and love. They traveled to see the world and serve others in need. In the US, I miss that aspect of Islam. I think people in the US are hungry for spiritualism after being bombarded with materialistic messages for a long time. Islam commands me to be gentle with women. Taliban and the Media have partnered together to persuade the world otherwise. Mohammad said that he best among us are those most gentle with their women. When Aisha was asked how this man behaved at home, she said he was doing everything she did in the house - cooking and cleaning and taking care of children. Mohammad died in her lap. Her narration of that moment is truly moving. I worry about the world. I worry about Muslims. Many of them are so emotional, so easily led, so uneducated, that their leaders take advantage of them and exploit them. Islam is at a very low point in its 1500-year history, suffering from all kinds of political, social and economic ills- tyranny, oppression torture, human rights abuse, and abuse towards women, racism and anti-Semitism. All exist in Muslim societies. But we cannot forget that they exist everywhere as well, in some places more than others. What bothers me most is that Islam is misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to communicate what I know and hold dearly about my faith.

I was an exchange student in Berwyn, IL on 1993-1994. My host Mom is a minister at a local church there, while I am a muslim. This is the first time when I truly learned about understanding differences.

Being a Muslim to me is like anyone else being whatever they are: Christians, Hindus, atheists. It's a part of our identity and it is what we believe in. As we are growing up, there are times when we question about our identity, so was I questioning about my faith. I am not saying that I am a devoted muslim, but yes, it is soemthing that I believe in.

Muslim world (if you want to call it) is not complex at all. It is a part of identity that connects us with Allah, as God. It is people's cultures that make things complicated and complex. I strongly dissagree to generalize all muslims. People generalize Iranians, Palestinians, poeple of Aghanistan as Muslims, while not all of them are muslims. People should not see other people only from what religion they follow. For instance, we see Americans as Americans, not Christians. We see Europeans as Europenas, not necessarily as Christians. That is why, I think it is ridiculous if Americans wants to embrace the muslim world. Which muslims? Indonesian? Egyptian? Arabian? Don't you have muslims also in your country and don't you want to learn from them first? Or is it the reason behind the hatred from the Iraqis, the Iranian and so on that you want to learn?

I am an Indonesian as well as a Muslim. Islam is my religion, it is about me and God. As an Indonesian, I also have Indonesian culture that runs in my blood. Islam, as well as Indonesian culture, really value harmonious life. Which I believe, the same thing is also valued in other religions. To me there is no muslim/Islamic culture. There are only Indonesian, Arabian or American cultures and some or most of the people happen to be muslims.

Religion is like love. You can't really describe why it is beautiful. You just drawn to it and surrender your life to it.

So, to me, being a Muslim is just like any other people. We breathe, we eat, we go to work. We valued different things because of our different cultures, but we pray the same way.

I walk every morning and listen to SOF podcasts. This morning I heard the one on "play" and experienced many things personally. As a 52 year old parent of a 20 and 23 year old, I have been one of those parents who were uncomfortable with the play that felt as though it was teetering on the edge of violence. My 20 year old son and I have had many talks about how he and his sister were never allowed to yell or play in any way that was risky or made ME feel uncomfortable.

Luckily, my son resisted that control and is now teaching me the importance of "being playful and light on my feet" as he puts it. After starting college in Chicago, he joined the Chicago Parkour Club. If you are unaware of Parkour, please watch the four part video on youtube called "The Nature of Challenge". (This video has been an inpiration for me in every aspect of my day...doing chores to gardening to going to work.) I have been constantly amazed at how this involvement in Parkour has influenced my son's entire approach to life, even when he is working or going to class. For the first time, I believe my son has found spirituality and a mindfulness that takes him beyond "happiness though consuming" to a physical and mental happiness and peace.

The people Tucker (my son) has met through Parkour are almost evangelical about non-competitive "play" and have created a worldwide family with couches to sleep on in almost every country on Earth. They have jams in various cities and train together in the most supportive environment I have ever witnessed. Taking care of themselves and each other is the theme.

Thanks for the wonderful show...I have all the SOF podcasts on my Nano and continuously listen to them over and over again while walking, doing chores or art in my studio. I am also adicted to "This American Life".

Elizabeth Nance

I met recently with Archbishop Weakland, still living in Milwaukee. He is ready to talk about the economy.

Not only is he out with a new book---A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop (Eerdmans)---but he has played a vital role in advising the Vatican (and of course the pope) on the encyclical just released last Wednesday (July 8)---Veritate in Caritate (Truth in Charity).

The encyclical is on the global and American ecenomy and questions the arguably negataive role of gred and excessive capitalism in producing some of the world's prevailingly brutal dysfunctions seemingly everywhere.

It ought to be noted that Archbishop Weakland was the chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Commission in the early 80's that released an interfaith-in-approach pastoral letter on: The American Economy and Catholic Social Teaching. Thus he is expert over many years on capitalism and needed new frameworks of economic thought that can take better care of the most fragile and vulnerable.

You are free to contact him on your own. The contact information is below after signoff.

Should you pursue this or something related, good luck. Always do I want Speaking of Faith to continue its good work and word. In particular Weakland may help bring greater spiritual and social clarity to today's economic problems---and possible long-term solutions. Maybe talk that out with him personally?

This communique is not for publication in any way. Merely I am trying to be helpful in a thoughtful way.

Thank you. Jim Boushay
708-524-8387

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, OSB
4140 S. Sonata Circle
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53221
414-282-8333
Rgeow@aol.com

Thank you speaking of faith for letting us the muslim nation to reflect and share with the rest of this mankind. As it may be the natural response to globalization of everything we do and effected by. Islam is a moderate religion in every aspect of it no matter what it seems to look or made look by some. Why not as it is the regulator and complete book with rules of the game for living in this earth. Moderation in its social teaching and economics teachings is among its corner stones of Islamic house. Islam does not prohibit its believers to be rich, nor it encourage to be poor. As a matter of fact when it directs its speech, the language is to spend to help the poor and how can we spend if we do not have the ability to do so. As the world is going though the economic crisis, Muslims should not be so much worried as what had been used to be was a life of greed and "what is it for me" mentality. While the rest is a secondary matter. All should have the right of owning as many deeds are through money beside a genuine smile. Interest has been considered to be a big sin since the infancy of islam, and that was not a coincident, as interest is slavery, a source of feud among members of society. And if one thinks carefully, todays main reason for the economic crisis is the fundamental principle of modern economics are based on monitory interests. With todays lifestyle, children grow with mindset that they should be rich to be able to live happy life. During the golden days of islam, Zakat (alms), the name of what a believer returns out of his or her wealth to the neediest of Muslims for the sake of the Almighty Allah, was collected and could not find a poor who deserve it. If we muslims continue to do the same, we will not find a poor in among our societies to feel empathy towards. I pray to God as the Ramadan is approaching that we all get cleansed from greediness and raise with our spirituality for the sake of ourselves and humanity

Thank you for trying to understand about the religion of Islam. I am actually a revert to Islam from Greek orthodox christianity. I have been muslim now for 2 years. Inshallah (God willing ) let me dive to your questions below. 1. What does "being Muslim" mean to you? Being muslim to me is about being submissive and obedient to the lord of the heavens and earth and everything in between. Being a Muslim i have to obey and follow the will of the most high. Worshipping him alone with out any partners is at the top of the list. This is the first of five pillars of Islam. The other four include fasting in the month of Ramadan, giving donation to the needy, praying 5 times a day and making the pilgrimage to Mecca if financially and physically able. So being a muslim I do all of the five pillars except the pilgrimage and my wish is to do that asap. Being a muslim also means to me to follow the teachings and way of life of our prophet Mohammed (peace be with him). Being modest, respecting parents, joining others in a cause of good work regardless of their faith, forbidding evil works, adopting an orphan, being kind to animals, serving fellow men, being a good husband and father, seeking knowledge and always remembering the creator are some of the duties. In conclusion being a muslim means to me is about achieving peace and success in this life and here after by submitting to Allah. 2. What do you find beautiful about Islam, and how does it find expression in your daily life? I found Islam to be the most logical and exotic religion. Islam is a way of life so it encompasses our daily life in every way. The way we keep ourselves clean, the way eat, what we eat, how we talk, even how we should sleep regulated by Islam. Just like a car manual informs the car owner about the car, Islam informs us how we should live our life. The five prayers a day helps me counter balance and fine tune my self regularly. It amazes me how people maintain peace with in themselves without talking to Allah on regular bases. Islam encourages me to be successful and reminds me that death is not that far. It is gives me hope through Allah's message in Quran and warns me not to be an evil person. Islam helps me see things in perspective of priority. As a muslim my job is to prepare myself for a judgment day while I am on this earth for a short time. Once this goal is realized the hassle of this world become less stressful. 3.What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition? I believe there is a bright future for Islam. Islam is very popular now due to publicity after 9-11. In show business there is a saying "There is no such thing as bad publicity". People are curious and ask a lot of questions. Since Islam is very logical and gives people more rights and responsibilities many are embracing it. Islam has the answer for key social problems which we all can benefit from. I don't have any worries or concern because Allah in Quran promised that he will maintain and protect the book (Quran). Because truth is truth and it is clear from error. I hope to see the world united under islamic umbrella where the poor and needy is cared for, greed and crime is eliminated, justice is prevailed, elders are respected, the environment is cared for, knowledge is shared, human rights respected and Allah the most merciful the most kind worshipped as he should be worshipped. I hope in the future, after this life to make it the top level of paradise. That is my hope and wish as it is all muslim's.

Recently on Twitter, someone asked, “what is the first thing you do in the morning?” An odd question, but I thought so interesting. I cannot answer the question in the 140 characters that Twitter demands. That first waking moment defines me not only for the day, but for eternity. It is who I am from before creation, when God asked “Am I not your Lord?” and we answered “Yes, we bear witness.” (Qur’an 7:172).

I begin reciting the first chapter of the Qur’an, al-Fatiha, the Opening. The seven lines that compromise this chapter are universally known amongst Muslims. It is the longest sustained prayer of the Qur’an, beginning liturgical and extra-liturgical prayers. The seven lines are:

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise to the Lord of the worlds
The Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
The Lord of the Day of Judgement
You alone we worship. You alone we seek for help.
Guide us to the right path, the path of the blessed ones,
not the path of the lost ones, nor the path of the cursed ones.

I am reminded of God’s generosity, compassion, and forgiving nature. However, that mercy is not license, but is coupled to personal responsibility, for God also judges. We are entrusted with an intellect, to be able to tell right from wrong, and to act for the good. We pray that we be guided to do the right thing. People have erred in the past, they err now, and they will err in the future. We are not perfect.

I emphasize the unicity (tawhid) of God. The Muslim declaration of faith comes after the recitation of al-Fatiha: “There is no deity but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God; Ali is the friend of God.” We know of God’s message because of the Messenger, Muhammad, and we are guided by the Prophet’s family descended from Fatima and Ali. The continual guidance is something that we are thankful for, so the salwat, a prayer for the Prophet and his family commanded in the Qur’an (33:56), ends the morning “spiritual stretch:” “O God! Bestow peace on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.”

This rhythm is mine. It is not formal, but it reminds of my relationship with my Lord. The power of the Arabic words resonates in mind, body, and spirit. It does not matter when I rise, this is what I do. In the middle of the night, after a nap, from good night’s sleep, from a restless sleep, the name of God is there. When my children come into my bed in the middle of the night, they come to me to hear the “bismillah” first, “in the name of God,” before going to their mother for comfort. They know then they are safe and everything is normal.

Of course, if God is First and Last, how does one end the day, but in the same way? The rhythm of the day is punctuated by these two moments, but in the middle, God is never forgotten.

I am a white male anglo saxon Protestant preemie Baby Boomer West Texas Blue Dog Democrat. I support active bridges of connection with mainstream Muslim friends and colleagues at home and abroad. Allowing a small fraction of extremists who capture an inordinate amount of press to dictate my relationships with others is unacceptable. I am currently writing a feature article for Perspective Journal on Muslims and the YMCA. If you Google this connection, all you see is negative and it is a very unfair characterization of Muslims and their relationship at home and abroad with a mainstream institution in our society. Christian zionist press have exaggerated beyond fact. In fact, we in the YMCA movement have attributes and values in common with mainstream Muslims. (1) Service to others is a value upheld by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Muslims serve on YMCA boards around the world. Forson Hussein, a Palestinian Muslim, was just appointed Director General of the Jerusalem international YMCA, by a diverse Board of Directors including Christians, Jews and Muslims. (2) Regard for family and the nurturing of children is a shared virtue. (3) A belief in the wholeness of the spirit, mind and body is shared in the teachings of Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. There is a wonderful story of observant men of faith who shared a single path up the mountain together. One was a Christian, another a Jew and the other a Muslim. They lived in support of their families in the same village below in the valley. It was only when they reached the top of the mountain that they parted ways. On return, they once again joined together on the path down the mountain. On the way they shared their mutual concerns about the welfare of the blessed community, the welfare of their family and children and their own quest to seek wholeness of integrity in their personal lives. Norris D. Lineweaver Director General (Retired) Jerusalem International YMCA Now living in Indianapolis 317-568-1699 norris.lineweaver@gmail.com

I grew up in a fairly secular Muslim home in India, and actually didn't have more than one or two Muslim friends growing up! It was only when I moved to the United States after marriage, at age 22, that I actually got to know Muslims and learn about Islam as a religion ( through friends of my husband). Earlier, we celebrated Eid and being Muslim was more a cultural identity than a religious one.
I was interviewed by Chicago's WTTW/PBS on my views as a Muslim, on the topic of body image, and Chicago Tribune on our volunteer work.

Now as a parent, passing on our Islamic heritage to my kids is very important to me. In Islam, leaving the world a better place is very, very important - whether it's making sure your neighbor doesn't ever go to bed hungry or greeting someone with a smile or teaching a refugee English. My children and I are involved in various community service projects and, with me, they've been doing their bit for the world since they were little. They are now 7 and 11. As my seven year old son wrote in a school project, when asked, "What would you do if you were given $100?", wrote "I'd give it to the poor children in Palestine who are injured and have no doctors." They are very aware of how our faith requires that we have compassion for others and do our best to serve humanity, besides praying and reading the Quran.

Secondly, Faith isn't something we relegate to one day of the week, Friday in the case of Muslims. It's an integral part of our daily conversations - when we talk world affairs, or give thanks for our many blessings. Infact, when Obama won, I gave a prayer of thanks! When we pass by a road accident, the children and I pray that the injured person be helped by God and have health / car insurance !

The coolest thing about Islam is that every deed, as long as we make the intention that we are doing it for the pleasure of God, is considered a good deed and will be amply rewarded. So for instance, if I cook and make the intention that I am doing so to fulfill my duty as to God by being a good mom, I get rewarded for that. If I clean my home, with the intention that I am doing it for God, because "cleanliness is half of one's faith" according to religious tradition or hadith, then I'm earning good deeds.

My kids, today, read the Quran in Arabic much more fluently than I and they know more prayers than I do. They are my teachers in some ways.

This year, we've begun looking at Islamic architecture so the children realize that Islam isn't just about rules and praying, it's also about art and architecture and beauty.

I don't wear the hijab, or head covering, while I do think it's important, I feel that Muslims are part of a rainbow, a spectrum. We are anything but cookie cutter. If a religion is for all time, it has allow for some variations within acceptable boundaries to survive.

Moving to America, I moved away from family and relatives and friends I'd known all my life. But I gained friends who were more active in their practice of their faith and brought the doors of Islam, closer to me. For that alone, the adjustments and upheaval involved in moving here, became well worth it.

The muslim world is diverse in language,culture, and even in understanding and practices of Islam. Such diversity is enlightening to all. But this diversity also exists between individuals. I think muslims live in the world.
Being a muslim means expressing my faith in God through the muslims practice and understanding.
The beautiful thing about Islam is its depth and unbounded approach to god. Total immersion by seeing god every where is another point.
God is a friend whom I see everywhere, in everything and in all. the depth make me seek life as I seek him, as he seek me.
I have no worries about Islam as it has contributed positively to faith in general. Traditions are frequently changed hopefully for better

Although I was born a Muslim here in America more than 65 years ago, I did not stress that fact in my life as a child. My goal was to fit into a world that did not understand and accept me as a person of color who was not a Christian and whose parents were seeking to have him learn a strange language. Those things only made me more of an outcast. In short, I had three strikes against me before I came to bat. I did not reject my faith. I kept it hidden and sought to be like the white students in my class. At that early time in my life, my white classmates in public school were released on Tuesday afternoons to attend religious services and I remained behind with my teacher. I was given the job of washing the blackboard as she babysat me while her colleagues were relaxing in the teacher's lounge. So you see there was not a large incentive for a black child to be proud of the fact he was a Muslim. As an adult, I acknowledged my faith but I did not think it was an important aspect of my life as I pursued the American dream and acceptance. I was wrong.

The events of September 11, 2001 forced me to confront my faith in a way I had not anticipated. First,I heard and read the awful things people said about Muslims and my faith. I became angry at them in their ignorance. My response was to become more observant as a member of my faith. I focused on my holy book and made an effort to study the faith of others. Over the years I had approached my faith from two perspectives: my spirituality was the acknowledgment that there is something in this universe that is so much more than me. My religion was my effort to know that something better. Islam served that end for me. Recently,when I was attending the mosque I noticed young people learning to recite the 114 Suras of the Quran. Those who have accomplished that effort have truly taken on and succeeded at a wonderful task. But I could not help but think that understanding is as important as reciting. For my understanding allows me to recite the whole of the Quran in under five minuets. It is simply "I am the Lord thy God and I am a jealousy God. Worship me and me alone." The rest is footnotes. I say that because I see man as pursued by the four horsemen of destruction: arrogance, ignorance, greed, and jealousy. As I look at man's history I can assign all the wars, human abuses, and man's indifference to suffering to one or more of these horsemen. It is only when we "worship" the one God as my holy book instructs that we remain humble. The sad tragedy is that so many of my brothers and sisters in the Muslim world who have had this wonderful book fail to understand its meaning. Often the leaders who can recite the 114 Suras are the greatest abusers as witnessed in Iran's recent election. Sadly, I look at all the Muslim countries and I am unable to find one that I consider to have values that I would trade for. The leaders of those countries fear the West and they have a right to do so. For it is the Western world Mu`slims who love their holy book and value the freedoms they experience that present the greatest threat to those who have found other "gods" to worship.

To me the Muslim world is not that complex or diverse, but rather is rich and thorough. As Muslims we believe that all humans are equal before God and that there is no power or will other than God's power and God's will; that all is according to God's plan.
Personally, I was not always able to see things in this manner. Growing up as a Muslim I encountered many questions and very little answers. But now as an adult, being a Muslim is being the best that I can be. The beauty of Islam is how achievable this goal is for the Muslim. It is a guidance that has no match, shining a light to the truth with every passing moment; constantly showing The Way to all who ask.
Every single day Muslims must remember their Lord, it is the true definition of the word. A 'Muslim' is one who has submitted, and as the root of the word implies; one who has submitted seeking peace. Muslims stand in worship at least five times a day, and while Islam teaches that worship is important, it is the constant consciousness of our Lord that is greater. Every single day, every single moment is a chance- rather, a responsibility to remember our Lord with our actions and our hearts.
For a Muslim and his future there should not be hope but rather faith. And in my heart that is all there is when I look to my future and the future of Islam, faith in what I believe, faith that all my questions shall be answered, and above all faith that the will of Allah is most supreme. I will continue on my path, striving to be the best that I can for the sake of God; being the best example I can for those around me, Muslims and non alike so that the Muslim world and the world as a whole can also be the best that it can be.

Krista: I enjoyed your dialogue with Mr. Parker Palmer. (July 25, 2009)
I was the radiology manager at Belvis NFCC (large clinic under health and hospital corporation, New York City 1998). The radiology center was fully staffed. Mr. Kevin Peel was the tech, and we had a Part Time mammogram tech and another PT Ultrasound tech. Since I was bored, I decided to use the computer in my office to enter the mammogram date and the recomented follow up date. Belvis is located near Mott heaven, a very poor neighborhood. Almost 95% never showed up for follow up studies. I was puzzled and print out the data base and put it in a binder. The next day, I met the medical director and gave him a copy. My only goal was to have follow up as per ACR/ FDA guidelines. He wanted to know, I have a copy for my reference. I said, No. He said, don't worry that he will take care. In addition to regular follow up, some of them were positive and some of them need biopsey or ultrasound.

The following week, I was asked to see Maria Agguria, Assistant Administrator. Mr. Gillbert was the administrator. Dr. Estaves was the previous medical director. I don't remember, the name of the Medical Director. (A tall black doctor).

Maria asked me" who told you to collect the data. If the results leaked /released, the center will be sued for poor patient care. The Administrator and the Medical Director want me to resign. The HR director and Maria promised that I will get a better job elsewhere with my background.

Put in a nut shell, they were afraid the information is sensitive and it could affect their reputation. It is very similar to Mr. Palmer's argument, people were afraid to disclose the financial collapse, just because they knew very well it cold annoy their boss and possibly their job.

Note: I am a retired licensed radiology technologist with graduate level education in health care administration. I have over 30 years experience in radiology administration in large and small hospitals. ospital

I am a clinical psychologist, not a Muslim, but it was a Jewish neuropsychologist researcher (Robert Ornstein of UCLA-Langley Porter Institute) on hemisphericity and consciousness, who turned me on to the works of Idries Shah, a Sufi, whose writing synergistically deeply influenced my work and understanding of my own faith and that of others around me.
Best regards and luckon this project,
Tyler Carpenter, Ph.D., FAACP

My Story: Reading the Cosmic Glyphs

“Thomas Young and John Francois Champillion deciphered from an ancient Egyptian stone, found in 1799 near Rosetta (Rashid), how to interpret hieroglyphic writing. The code of the evolving universe, a scripture more ancient and complex than hieroglyphs, energetically writes quantum-electric resonance into all cosmic embodiment. The embodiment of energetic resonance is the mechanism and purpose of communication, consciousness and conscience. “One’s personal life may be compelled by the immediate necessities of survival, which may prevent one individually from reflecting on the grand scheme of things, never-theless, such reflection is wholesome and necessary, for deeper knowledge of cosmic processing may enlighten the symbiotic reconciliation of intentional human purpose with intensional quantum-electric necessity. In sum, this is the underlying assumption and insight of the Second Enlightenment Trilogy. “The date I associate with my professional foray into the complexity of the science-religion connection is February / March 1957. By this time my studies of philosophy and theology brought me to positions that seemed logically compelling. The first position pertains to God’s essential connection in creation: if highest perfection is in God, God’s work must reflect the continuity of highest perfection; the perfection of continuity requires the absence of disconnection, for a disconnected work is a less perfect work. “The second position arises from the first: cosmic rationality must reflect divine rationality; divine rationality cannot frustrate cosmic rationality, namely, in its expectation of realized participation in divinity. Consistent with Albert Einstein’s equation of Special Relativity, embodied consciousness, material and spiritual, is unity. So says cosmic continuity. “The compulsion to investigate these conclusions pushed me to a sense of need to give equal time to scientific study as I had given to theological. My perceived need to pursue science professionally was a compelling factor in my decision to discontinue my pursuit of the Catholic priesthood. “Postgraduate studies in science began for me in the summer of 1957 with a first course in genetics at DePaul University, Chicago. I returned to Iowa in September of that year and some months later matriculated in a graduate program of studies (Botany) at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. I graduated in May of 1960 with a Master of Science degree in Plant Physiology. “Marriage in June 1959 and the birth of our first daughter in April 1960 took precedence over my avocation of pursuing the science-religion-connection, though it always occupied a stratum of my conscious interest. "By the early 1980s, life circumstances allowed me to redirect more attention to the submersed stratum of interest. I began reading and writing on the subjects of science and religion. My first manuscript (c.1983) was titled, “EARTHEOLOGY: The Phenomenon of God”. In trying to write publishable material I came to realize that my expertise was too shallow to produce a convincing product. The subject matter was so multi-faceted and complexly related that I soon realized I lacked background for making connections. Realizing this from the outset, I plunged ahead open to wherever the plunge might take me. "In keeping with spiritual advice I trusted my insights and prayed constantly that the cosmic voice within would lead me in some purposeful direction. I read and read. I did not try to write from the constraint of some preconceived logic, only by the logic of openness to invention. As pertinent insights came together I put my pen to paper. After accumulating stacks of hand-written material I began to think how forbiddingly heavy it all was. It occurred to me that breaking the material down into manageable bites could make it more interesting and intelligible, so, “poetry”, I thought, “is the way to go”. Poetry would make the material more immediate. “By 1985 I had rewritten EARTHEOLOGY; what was new about it were additions of quotes from other authors at the beginnings of chapters, and at chapter endings, a pertinent poem. By 1992 I had enough poems written that I believed they might be publishable on their own merit, so I self-published them under the title “New Genesis Poems”. This publication was trilogy-like, that is, it was divided into three parts under the headings Communication, Consciousness and Conscience. “I had come to a sense of the working of human rationality through history and the ascendancy of consciousness by the process of communication, and of coming to conscience by the interactive processes of communication and consciousness. It occurred to me that the rational processing of these three constituted the cosmic rationality of evolved ascendancy, which bore directly on “Creation Theology”. Because this sense had become so compelling to me, all my subsequent writings came together in the tri-logic form by which my thinking was beginning to evolve and have continuity of its own. “Social scientists have, as a group, I suspect, come to a consensus that consciousness is evolutionary and that the direction of civil ascendancy is generally upward even if history documents serious regression along with grudging progress. A critical question to be asked in the face of modern predicaments is what strategy does nature model that sustains ascendancy and mitigates frictions that frustrate civility, such things as war, disease, waste, pollution and self-aggrandizing obsession? For as post-modernity witnesses, compulsion to obsessive consumerism frustrates civility and destabilizes future sustainability. “Allow me to suggest that the cosmos has etched in stone and flesh the dialogic forms and processes of quantum relativity that structure the continuity and clarify the logic of intentional living consistent with the intensional necessity of cosmic-electric rationality and its reliable search of resonance for workable, sustainable outcomes —“purposeful” objectives. “From the beginnings of cosmic evolution after the big bang the unified ascendancy of energy/ matter began a journey that continues in our own persons. It seems apparent that each of us individually, and humankind globally, can advance religiously and civilly only by conforming intentional life to nature’s intensional, symbiotic, paradigmatic processes of communication, consciousness, and conscience. Globally, people act rightly when they model intentional fidelity to the necessities of cosmic evolution, and when they engage reflectively the processes of 'trimorphic resonance' in all relationships, whether with people, plants, animals, water, soil or sky. “The lessons of cosmic religion are lessons of relationships encoded in primary scripture. The rising consciousness of rationality is by way of quantum religion. Personal conscience is the continuing and faithful means of religion & civility. 'Trimorphic resonance' is the “Rosetta Code”. Trimorphic resonance is cosmic rationality’s process of continual enlightenment; human intention (purpose) can either advance in fidelity to it or frustrate it. The choice is personal and collective, not one or the other, but both. Ignorance fixated in arrogance always has outcomes of disaster; and until we honestly admit the fact of our ignorance we will continue to act arrogantly. Will we ever learn to test our personal ignorance against life’s evolutionary wisdom and conform personal codes of conduct to nature’s proven codes of evolutionary success? Yes, if we can be faithful to cosmic rationality. “Why dredge up now the Counter-Reformation history of the Catholic Church? Because it seems very clear that lines are now drawn for a new cultural war within Roman Catholicism between the ecclesiologies of Vatican I and Vatican II. That this is true, is documented in a new book Evolving Visions of the Priesthood by Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger, Liturgical Press, ISBN 0814628052, reviewed by Katarina Schuth in AMERICA, A Jesuit Magazine, Vol. 190 No 4, Whole No. 4639, February 9, 2004, Pp 26-27. “Reviewer Schuth quotes Jesuit John A. Coleman to the effect “that seminaries have the responsibility to provide proper theological formation in order to prevent future priests from adopting a pre-Vatican II posture: rigid, clerical and close-minded.” The disjunction between younger priests and older priests clearly exists, and it is persistent, destructive and unacceptable. The reviewer quotes the book as to the contrasting views of younger priests for older priests and of older priests for younger priests: “Younger priests called the older priests liberals, leftist fringe, secularized, anti-establishment, a ‘lost generation,’ and priests with a social work model.” “Older priests referred to the young men as inflexible, divisive, liturgically conservative, institutional, hierarchical, and believers in cultic priesthood.” The catholic priesthood is already in crisis and a new clerical war within the church between conflicting ecclesiologies can only deepen the crises, aggravate lay distrust and render the priesthood more irrelevant than it already is. "The crisis caused by the seventeenth century Counter-Reformation is a cautionary tale that young priests and old, and all people need to understand and take seriously. This threatening new war, like the old, roots in conflicting worldviews and in incorrigible attitudes. Vatican II, in view of modern evolutionary consciousness, rightly calls for new theological analysis and synthesis that get beyond the problems of the dead and destructive absolutisms of centrism and staticism. http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=24059

Dear Speaking of Faith,

First of all, I was ecstatic that your program wanted to outreach to Muslims to get their first hand perspective about their faith. So many times other people speak for Islam and it's about time that Muslims are able to speak for themselves about their own faith.

Being Muslim means everything to me. Immigrating to the US at the age of 7 from Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion had a great impact on my family and I. We had to leave everything behind and start all over in a new land, with a new language and a new culture. In order to assimilate into the new life, my family and I began to lose our religious identity. Growing up in California in the 80's and early 90's, I had no Muslim friends at school and had very little knowledge about Islam besides some of the basic rituals such as the 5 prayers, fasting and the Eid celebration. When I was in junior high school, my sister was diagnosed with severe depression. Her illness and subsequent behaviors made me start searching for answers to life's major questions at an early age in life. I had this ardent desire to find a meaning to life and search for the path to happiness in order to help my sister find happiness and peace in her own life.

My search was accelerated when I went away for college.I was living away from home for the first time and had to establish my own individual identity. Furthermore, I had to face some moral dilemmas. I knew alcohol was forbidden in Islam. Yet it was so rampant in college life that not drinking would make you an outcast. I also knew that having sexual relations before marriage was forbidden, but I was ashamed to tell my college mates that I never had a boyfriend and was still a virgin at the age of 17. I was so torn between my American identity (and trying to fit in with my peers) and my religious identity (which I knew little about but yet wanted to still uphold). This identity crisis became more accute when certain friends would ask me why Islam forbids this and that which I had no answers for.

So my own personal spiritual quest as well as the questions I was getting from classmates pushed me to research Islam further. In my search, I was amazed at how wholistic the religion was and how Islam was a way and philosophy of life rather than some random set of rituals and edicts. During this time, I was taking classes on other world religions and I saw the similarities in the messages and universal values that these religions shared. Fasting was not unique to Islam, but also practiced by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Jews. Alcohol was also discouraged in other religious traditions and for the same reasons; while it may have some benefits, the evil that it causes is far worse than its benefits. I knew this from personal experience as my brother in law suffers from alcoholism and has made the life of my sister and nephew very miserable. Chasity and modesty was also a univeral value, and the headcover was part of Christian and Jewish traditions very similar to Islam. While many may have argued against need for chastity and modesty, I saw that it provided real value in the life of women because so many times I had friends who suffered from broken hearts from guys who had their fun and moved on to other girls when they became bored of this one. I also felt that the specialness between a husband and wife was completely eradicated because sex was not something new to either of them. It just became a physical act like eating and drinking rather than a romatic or spiritual union which I always imagined it to be.

Holding these views made me very different from the majority of my peers and I felt very lonely until I finally met like-minded Muslims at the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at my college. It was this group of Muslim boys and girls that made me realize and appreciate the beauty of the Muslim sisterhood and brotherhood. I finally had a sense of belonging, of not being backward and "weird". The more I learned about Islam, the more I wanted to incorporate it to my daily life. I began to attend a masjid (mosque) for the first time in my life. There, I met Muslims from all walks of life, with different cultures and languages, but yet the same desire to follow the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). My friends were Palestinian, Bosnian, Afghan, Sudanese, Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian, American, Turkish, Egyptian, Chinese, Russian, German. Suddenly that loneliness that I had felt for so many years dissipated when I knew Muslims spanned the entire globe and that we all shared this common faith in God. Also, during my last year of undergraduate, I had the chance to study abroad in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. It was the first time that I felt what it's like to be in a majority group. The Indonesian people were very welcoming, especially when they found out that I was a Muslim from America.

In the 1990s, I witnessed a more openness towards Muslims in California; people were becoming accostomed to seeing women with headscarves and men with beards. However, while my faith was growing, I was still a "closet" Muslim and only shared my faith with people I knew and trusted since so few Americans knew about the religion and had their own misconceptions of it. But after 9/11, the fury of right-wingers and neo-conservatives against Islam became mainstream. It was not just Pat Robertson saying derogatory things about Islam and Muslims, but now anything to do with Islam and Muslims was connected to some form of terrorism, oppression or abuse. Somehow 9/11 gave everyone the right to bash on Muslims, even though what they were saying was either an outright lie or twisting of the truth. Surviving the Soviet Invasion and witnessing how the 13 year war destroyed the country, killing 2 million of my people, and leaving behind millions of starving widows and orphaned children, I was amazed at how suddenly everything wrong with Afghanistan was the fault of the "Islamists". While I never defended the extremist views and actions of the Taliban, I felt the media, the neo-cons, the right winged Christian fundamentalists were using the Taliban as an excuse to debase and attack the entire religion of Islam. I became fed up with the stereotypes about Muslim women, and tired of the fear mongering put out against the peaceful Muslim American community. I wanted to counter these misconceptions and prejudices by showing that Muslims are not some fanatic crazy minded group of people. So on March 23rd 2003 I decided to put on the headscarf and come out of the closet and be proud of my religious identity. I had just finished my MBA program and had started my doctorate degree in Islamic Studies. So this was my way of saying that a highly educated, independent, free-minded, moderate woman would out of her own personal belief and free will practice the beautiful religion of Islam without apologies. The Islam that I have for years studied and practiced and seen being practiced by the Muslim communities in all the places I have traveled is nothing like the Islam that the media portrays. There is no inherent conflict or clash of cultures between the Christian west and the Muslim world. On the contrary, many Muslim Americana initially voted for Bush because we felt that the Christian values and Muslims values of community, of helping the poor, of belief in a higher power and higher purpose were so similar.

Fighting the misconceptions, distortions, prejudice, and outright hatred of some people in America will always be a challenge for Muslim Americans. It's a challenge that Muslims need to rise up to. We can do this best by embodying in our own lives the beautiful message of Islam by helping our neighbors and those in need, educating ourselves and others, defending the rights of those being oppressed anywhere in the world, being able to look critically at ourselves and correct the flaws that ail our communities, particularly by distinguishing and separating what is cultural practice with what's religious practice. The most important step we need to take is to engage with the broader American society rather than isolating ourselves from it. Participating in programs like Speaking of Faith is a terrific way to share the real Islam--the Islam which teaches that one has not attained real faith when one sleeps with a full stomach while his/her neighbor sleeps with an empty stomach; the Islam that teaches that women are twin halves of men and that paradise lies at the mother's feet; the Islam that teaches tolerance, love, patience, perserverance, justice, fairness, charity, discipline, moderation, modesty, kindness, cleanliness, and the virtue of hard work. This is the Islam I have come to love, to believe in and to practice. It defines me and what I aspire to be.

Thank you for your time and opportunity to share my story of faith.

Umm Zaheen

Dear SOP,
I am an associate dean of International Relations at IE University in Spain and a big fan of the show. Here is the english version of an OPED I wrote for a Turkish Paper on the 5th anniversary of 9 11 that discusses the issue of being a Muslim living in the West.
yours Ibrahim

Wars of Three Words

During the end of January 2002, I was having lunch with an Iranian friend in a restaurant in my hometown in California. Our waitress overheard us speaking in Persian and asked, “Where are you guys from?”
I looked up at the blonde waitress and said in a proud voice, “I am from Iraq and he is from Iran.”
“Oh, all you need is a North Korean friend and you can have an Axis of Evil luncheon,” the waitress responded, proud of her knowledge of global politics. I think she expected us to laugh or at least smile at her clever quip but neither one of us was amused. The night before, Bush had coined the term “Axis of Evil” during his January 25, 2002, State of the Union speech to refer to Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
I came to a few realizations after her comment. First, I would only give her a ten percent tip rather than the customary fifteen in the US, and I would do so begrudgingly and unwillingly.
Second, the US I had grown up in had changed for the worse after September the 11 for Muslims like myself.
Third, as much as I hated to admit, these catchy titles worked. Bush or whichever speech writer came up with the title of the “Axis of Evil” hoped to alienate the parties named, to set them apart from the rest of the “good” countries in the world. When the waitress grouped us into the unfavorable classification, I felt the marginalization the title was intended to inflict.
Not only did the title succeed in creating an identifiable enemy bloc, it also succeeded in working an entire political agenda into its listeners’ memories. After Bush’s speech, that waitress could still remember what the Axis of Evil was and who belonged to it. I then began to realize that most US government initiatives, wars and villains could be summarized in catchy two to three-word titles. For as long as I can remember Americans have been throwing around terms like “Cold War,” “Red Scare,” “New World Order,” “Axis of Evil” and “War on Terror.”
The problem with those concise, catchy titles is that they repackage complex global phenomena into deceivingly simple components. A “War on Terror” implies that terror is something that can be targeted, fought, and defeated when in reality such a title is so broad and so ill-defined that it becomes essentially meaningless. Terror is a world-wide problem that under-represented parties have resorted to for ages in their struggle for agency. The Bush administration could have more aptly declared “War on Usama bin Ladin,” or even a “War on UBL” to fit into the three word formula. Or better yet, “A War on Al-Qaida.” However, it was clear that such a broad name was intentional. There were those in the Bush administration who wanted to target not just on Al-Qaida but Iraq and Iran, and a “War on Terror” gave them free reign to justify any military action in the name of seeking out terrorists wherever they may be. Once Bush had created the villain of the Axis of Evil, I felt he would be compelled to act against them, otherwise he would lose face in front of his constituencies.
Indeed, Bush did act out against Iraq, a member of that “Axis of Evil” and justified “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as a continuation in the “War on Terror.” A war against my native Iraq was justified by merely stringing together 3 three-word titles. In March 2003, as the Iraq war was being waged, I gave a guest lecture at Koc University in Istanbul. As a 29 year old doctoral student then, it struck me as I looked out at a class room filled of only young faces that my entire audience, with myself included, probably spanned the entire range of ages in the twenties. As a group we had only managed to live through two decades, yet in the span of our lifetime the entire nature of world politics had changed.
I thought about the Cold War. The name itself was an oxymoron. It was assigned to describe the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union after World War Two, but it also masked the fact that these two countries did actually fight each other with “hot” weapons. More than a million Vietnamese and Afghanis died as proxies of the US-USSR conflict, and yet it was still called it a Cold War. Was it only worth being called a Hot War when your own citizens were on the frontlines?
In this new Holy War era, as Samuel Huntington argues, the battle is between Christian, Judaic and Islamic civilizations. I, on the other hand see the battle as a conflict where multiple Islams fight each other for the loyalties of the Muslims worldwide. The conflict within Islam has been described in the West as a battle between “radical, fundamentalist Islam” and “moderate Islam.” How does one measure if a Muslim is “radical” or “moderate?” A Muslim is not a mobile phone with a battery symbol indicating the strength of his or her charge.
I found that a better description for this dichotomy as “static Islam” versus “dynamic Islam.” Those who are called fundamentalists and radicals have one unifying factor. They believe that Islam should be interpreted as it was centuries ago in the deserts of Arabia, keeping the faith static. Some of its adherents support the use of violence to destroy any countries, entities or ideologies who challenge their views. When US troops first entered Saudi Arabia in the Nineties, Bin Ladin feared the influence of Americanism on Saudi Arabia’s Islamic values and hence eventually revived the group he founded in Afghanistan in the Eighties – what is known as Al-Qaida today. Those Muslims who see Islam as fluid believe that their religion can evolve without losing its original nature. They have managed to accommodate their beliefs within a modernizing world. Yet in doing so, they have also become the target of static Muslim groups.
Even as Usama is on the run, probably moving from one mountain hideout in Pakistan to the other, he was strengthening his position. He is the epitome of the new state of world affairs; a leader of a group of “static” Muslims who advocate apocalyptic violence, a non-state actor capable of challenging the strongest power in a unipolar world. As the man who the all-powerful US could not capture, he had defied the odds, a feat that granted him an almost mythical power. Al-Qaida worked as a “start up company;” it provided the model that new groups imitated. The exploits of Bin Ladin himself and his supporters sparked other disenchanted Muslims to act on its behalf. Once Bin Ladin became a source of inspiration and other groups began to conduct terrorist attacks without even orders from him, Usama had scored the ultimate victory.
What I wanted those students at the University to appreciate more than anything in March of 2003 that the war against terrorism and the Iraq War that followed might never achieve its goal of eradicating terror. On the contrary, it has fueled even more terrorist activity. The War on Terror made Usama bin Ladin, a renegade, an adversary worthy of the attention of the world’s greatest superpower. It told a world of malcontents that one disgruntled man can orchestrate a series of events that could mobilize a super power. It also provided a myriad of causes for those malcontents to rally against.
Exactly five years ago from today, I had returned from a three month journey around the Mediterranean by bus, train and boat to finally arrive in the UK, whereupon I stayed in my uncle’s house in London. During previous visits to his house, I had sat in front of his wide screen TV, watching hours of the latest action movies that had just been released on DVD. I could have never imagined the scene I was about to witness on that very same TV screen. I rested in one of the reclining chairs and stared at the TV in front of me, as I watched footage of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers and their subsequent collapse.
I was so fixated on the TV screen I had failed to realize that my two year old cousin wobbled into the room. She walked in front of the TV, her blonde curls obstructing the screen. I got up from the chair and hugged her, looked into her round crystal blue eyes and kissed one of her chubby cheeks.
I went back to the sofa, waiting for the latest developments on which Muslim group could be responsible for the attack. During one of the commercial breaks, I looked in the direction of my little cousin, sitting on the floor, playing with her toys. While my uncle is Iraqi, his wife is Greek Cypriot. My cousin herself was a product of Muslim and Christian cultures, and it was precisely because of that that she was so beautiful. I had just come back from a journey to Turkey convincing myself of the possibility of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity’s coexistence, and I was sitting in a living room, actually looking at a three year-old living proof of that very same fact. Watching the TV screen on September the 11th 2001, I realized that even though I had declared the war over between these religions, the rest of the world was just barely gearing up for the fight - a fight that continues unabated five years later.

Like many people my identity is diverse, being a reflection of the main influences in my life: my family; neighbourhood; home region; religious affiliations; education; and my communities of interest. These influences have had a clear effect on how I express myself, view the world and interact with it. Unsurprisingly, my world outlook is greatly influenced by my faith. Islamic culture plays a significant part in my life now and is expressed in many forms with Arabic being central. I recite and read this inspirational, poetic language every day of my life, during my daily prayers, in the lessons I give to my children, or when I socialise with friends and family. It is also often a means of accurately expressing my deepest thoughts and feelings. And yet, my faith does not require me to shun the best of the other cultural influences that are important to my life. So, as an ex-Christian I can rejoice in the friendships I made in my early years at my family church. Indeed, I return year after year to take part in one service or another: a wedding; the Christening of my God Daughter; or presenting the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral. At this church, my large Muslim family is always welcome, valued as Muslims, recognised as people with faith in God. Over the years I have learnt that converts are often effective at bridging the gap between friends and communities of different faiths. Many of us have developed bi and even multi cultural insights and empathy that help to bring understanding and trust between the people around us. At home I am surrounded and influenced by a number of different national and cultural identities. Though my wife was born and raised in Manchester my mother and father-in-law were born in East Africa, where they were raised speaking three languages: Swahili; Urdu and English. Their parents came from the villages of pre-partition India in an effort to improve their lives in British ruled Kenya. It is their cultural influences: Indian; African; Arab and English that infuse great colour and interest into our lives. It is their beauty and multiple identies that give my young sons their handsome features, multi-lingual skills (English, Arabic and Punjabi) and the confidence to express both their Anglo-Asian and Islamic heritage. As a born and bread Mancunian, I have been greatly influenced by the city’s proud non-conformist history and culture. Manchester was at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries. From the sweat, toil and tears of this powerhouse rose some of the most influential social movements the world has ever seen. It was in Greater Manchester that the Co-operative Movement was established and rolled out its successful model of social enterprise and fair trade that has been copied and adapted the world over. It was the early 19th Century hell holes of the city’s cotton factories that gave birth to the Chartist Movement, the pre-cursor to the Trade Union movement and the fight for workers’ rights. These movements led Mancunians to support international liberation movements around the world, like the anti-slavery movement led by Abraham Lincoln in the American Civil War and the World Zionist movement. As a Mancunian, I have a strong, personal sense of this heritage, hard won by earlier generations to value non-conformity, creativity, solidarity and human rights. Becoming a Muslim has not been easy - I didn't expect it to be. The Quran emphasisis, "the long uphill struggle (jihad) of the self". There were times when I have felt utterly rejected and at my wits end as a Muslim, particularly after 9/11 - but mostly, over the last 19 years, I have been at peace, fascinated and aware that as a British Muslim I'm probably one of the most priveleged people in the world today. Today I can honestly say that I am relaxed about my multiple identies: Muslim, English, British and Mancunian (and God knows what else!?) and know that in the 21st Century such 'complexity' isn't anything special. We're human - we're complex! Furthermore, I've been lucky (or blessed depending on your perspective). In 1998 my father discovered that my great, great, great grandfather convered to Islam 92 years before me, in 1898 to be precise, at the age of 70. From them on he was known as Robert Reschid Longden. Raised in the Christian Israelite sect he rose to be Mayor of Stalybridge in 1875. In the 1850's he became interested in the affairs of the Ottomoan Empire, an interest that, no doubt, led him on the path to Islam. In 1901 he became the right hand man of the religious head of the Muslims in the UK, Shaykh Abdullah Quilliam and got involved in some of the first inter faith dialogue even to take place in Manchester. This surprise discovery put my conversion into perspective and has has become a source of pride and comfort for my family (both the Muslims and the non Muslims) and wider society. Indeed, it won't be a surprise to you that my first son is named after him. Note: I have other photos if you need them.

Hi,

I was a Catholic until the age of 27 when I met my future husband and his brothers while teaching ESL at a local community college. I had always wanted to follow a religion closely but found myself slippin in the traditional sense of being a Catholic...when I met my future husband and his brothers, they treated me with a new and different kind of respect I had never experienced before. He told me about Islam over coffee one evening and from that point I was hooked... I went out in search of the truth and after several months decided to convert. A month later I was engaged. After another month, we married, in North Carolina. A month later, I left the country heading to Dubai and spent an exhausting year teaching, paying off college loans, and learning about Islam. Upon returning, my husband and I started our family and we had moved several times to and from the USA to the UAE...we returned to the States in 2007 and have been in Chicago for about 2 years now, with 5 children.

Many people have misconceptions about this way of life...I advise everybody to actually read and study for themselves without taking any knowledge from other people...or better yet, go to your local mosque and listen to the Friday prayers, see how the muslims pray and what they say during these prayers, as well as reading the Quran (Noble Quran is the best translation, although the original Arabic can never really be explained in such detail as is the original.)

May Allah, the Almighty, lead everybody to Islam, the way of life which is one of peace and submission to the One True God.

Hilarie
Um Youcef bint David
Chicago

As a Muslim, I believe one of the greatest lessons that Islam teaches is the intrisic value and dignity of each human being. One of my favorite teachings in this regard comes from the words of the Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.), who said:

" If you desire I will tell you about Jesus (AS) son of Mary. He used a stone for his pillow, put on coarse clothes and ate rough food. His condiment was hunger. His lamp at night was the moon. His shade during the winter was just the expanse of earth eastward and westward. His fruits and flowers were only what grow from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to allure him, nor any son to give grief, nor wealth to deviate (his attention), nor greed to disgrace him. His two feet were his conveyance and his two hands his servant."

Today we would call Nabbi Isa (a.s.) (Prophet Jesus, peach be upon him) a "homeless person", and yet he was one of the crown jewels of humanity. This should give us pause, and demonstrate for us how far we have deviated from his teachings.

Islam teaches us the value of a person is God given. Another saying of Imam Ali (a.s.) in this regard is that every person a Muslim meets is either "Your brother (or sister) in faith or your brother (sister) in humanity". Islam teaches us that we should not judge others based on their outward appearance or their worldly accomplishments, but based on their inward beauty and the truthfulness of their words and actions.

Dear Krista, My name is Wajahat Ali, author of The Domestic Crusaders [www.domesticcrusaders.com] one of the first major American Muslim plays which is premiering in New York on 9-11-09. Pleasure to make your acquaintance and thank you for launching such a timely and exceptional endeavor. Undoubtedly, the "Muslim world" is a wonderfully diverse and endlessly fascinating network of communities with a myriad of unique stories divided at times by race, language, politics and geography but united by faith. In recent times, Muslims have emerged as an "exotic" community that is often discussed but rarely been given the "conch" to speak in our own voices about our own experiences. As a Muslim American writer of Pakistani descent, I've tried to encapsulate the tensions and divides that exist within the community but are rarely aired - either due to hesitation by those who fear "airing dirty laundry" or a media that not afforded them opportunities to speak outside of sensationalist stories focusing on terrorism or the burqa. It has been a herculean and rewarding effort to stage one of the first major Muslim American plays. I'd love to talk to you about our experience and the new wave of Muslim American art that is enriching our culture with trailblazing contributions to theater, art, cinema, novels, and spoken word. Sincerely, Wajahat Ali wajahatmali@gmail.com www.domesticcrusaders.com

December 2006

Chance meetings in the City of the Prophet

Sahar Ullah
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I used to prefer sitting with the elderly pilgrims when I would sit in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina for hours. I'm not sure why, but part of it is that I felt they had a special mercy for me as a young pilgrim. I could see prayers in their eyes without understanding the words they said; part of it is that they would not engage me in conversation and were usually in intense supplication of God with pleas informed by all the years of their lived experiences.

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One day, after having shawarma sandwiches in the Prophet's Illuminated City, I returned with Mom, my cousin, and little sister to the Prophet's mosque, (sallallahu 'alayhi wa alihi sallam). We found a place by a pillar underneath one of the domes that opens every now and then, exposing the sky and letting the birds and winter breeze in and out. My cousin and sister sat on my mother's left side and I sat on her right between her and an elderly Turkish woman who was by herself reading a book of prayers. (I assumed she was Turkish by the way she was dressed.) She gestured for me to sit there indicating there was room for me.

After noticing my interaction with my mother—we were jokingly poking each other— she asked me (or so I think she did) if that was my mother. I said yes. I asked her with the little Arabic I had learned over the years, "Anti min Turkiye?" She said yes. It made me happy that my guess was correct. Then I said, "Istanbul?" She said "Konye." Trying to impress her that I knew something about Konye, I said, "Mevlana Rumi?" Then she began to speak. A lot of Turkish. I thought to myself, “Good work, Sahar. Try impressing her now.”

After that, another elderly woman sat next to her. She informed us she was from Tunisia. Not too long after we returned to our individual prayers, the Tunisian woman began coughing. Mom offered both her and the Turkish woman cough drops. Mom always carried cough drops; she said giving cough drops was one of the best techniques to get people to pray for you sincerely.

We prayed the late afternoon prayer and returned to our individual prayers and recitations. I began reciting some Qur'an when the Turkish woman turned to me and said, "Ya Sin? Ya Sin? " I looked at her and asked, "You want me to read Ya Sin?" I turned to the chapter and recalled a similar moment in Mecca when an Iranian woman asked me to recite the same chapter for her. Not sure if she wanted me to show her the chapter or read it, I pointed to it and she nodded her head and said, "Iqra'i, Iqra'i." At that moment, I was not sure if the Turkish word for "read" was the same as Arabic (I learned later that it is not), but I knew what the word meant in Arabic and began to recite the chapter. When I ended, she seemed very happy, patted me gently, and returned to reading her book of litanies again.

Then, she again stopped a few moments later. She pointed to a verse in the Chapter of Ya Sin and tried to pronounce it indicating to me that I should read it for her. So I read it to her and she nodded her head and repeated the verse.

When the call for the Sunset Prayer began, the Tunisian woman began unwrapping something. They were dates. She was fasting. I noticed the Turkish woman reach for some snacks in her bag and I told mom that the other woman was fasting. Mom quickly took out some cookies for her from her bottomless purse of cough drops and everything else useful. Everyone wanted to get the blessings of giving food to a fasting woman.

After the final prayer of the night, we all stood up to leave. The Turkish woman and Tunisian woman turned to me and my mother and embraced us warmly. They then said a few words in Arabic and Turkish. I could not understand all the words that passed among us, but I understood both of them when they looked up, and then looked at us saying with strong emotion, "Janna; janna, insha-Allah” (Paradise; paradise, God-willing.)

From their faces, I knew they were saying, "We do not have a very long time here" and I knew they were saying "We may never see each other in this world again" but we are all here as pilgrims, we were together in our primordial states, so we hope we will be together again.

My eyes began to tear and my heart ached. I felt as if I was leaving dear friends...although we sat with each other for a few hours, barely speaking.

It then occurred to me how special our meetings with strangers were in that city of pilgrims and the small kindnesses they offered. They had no other reason to befriend a stranger for a few moments other than for the love of God and the love of another guest of the Prophet, in his city, in his house.

May we be in each other's company in Paradise.

My story begins in April 2007. In the last months of my Junior year of my undergraduate career studying media at the University of Arizona, I set out to tell make a documentary about my experience as a Muslim American and an Iranian.

The film's focus was on my personal experience as an Iranian American in a world where the US and Iran are in what feels like an impending war with one another. As someone who calls both places home, I felt a responsibility to bridge the gap in any way I could.

I chose to communicate my message in the way I knew best and that was through break dancing. After discovering a young bboy in Tehran through an internet video, I began corresponding with him by email. Within 6 months I was in Iran practicing with him and his friends and discovering their insight on bboying, life in Iran, and Iran's tense relationship with the US.

Upon returning to the US, I was met outside of the airplane in Atlanta, where I was detained by Homeland Security under suspicion of terrorist activities. After being interviewed for over 5 hours, my documentary footage was confiscated and I was sent home empty handed.

I had never felt like such a foreigner in my life in my own place of birth. I had been singled out for being a Muslim and being an Iranian. With the help of an attorney I was able to retrieve my footage from federal authorities but I am still left with a tarnished record which comes to haunt me every time I re enter the US.

For me, being a Muslim defines my path and gives purpose to my life to reach my God given potential as a human, to serve my fellow creation and to combat ignorance with knowledge and understanding. I hope to continue on this path, even though there are many obstacles ahead of me in Iran and the US.

Well, First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity for muslims in USA to express their views about islam. First of all I thank Allah for giving me the knowledge and truth about life so I can protect myself from selfdestruction. I consider my self lucky.After 53 years and last 35 years of search I reach the conclusion for my self that the only way I can survive in this world is to hold on Islamic faith. I went through trials and tribulations in my struggling years from being very poor to Allhamdu Llah(Thank Allah) living comfortable. I shall explain why islam protect me. I am not allowed to drink Alcohol. Well now we know problems with alcohol. Over 1400 years ago Prophet Muhamed (PBUH)recieved revelation (Quran) to prohibit Alcohol. There are more than 16000 death because of alcohol in USA. I am not allowed to have intimate relationship with females without marriage. Research showed impact of early non-marrital sexual intercourse on man behavioure which lead to high divorce rate. Not only that but we see now Sexually transmitted diseases are very high among teenagers and impact of this we see every day on females and males is tremendouse cost to person and economy. We have very high rates of female organ cancer at young age (cervical cancer) which cause high rates of hystrectomy in very young age in addition to suferring and economical costs. Children born without father. The impact of this on mother and society is countless. I am not allowed to do recreational drugs. we know the effect of drugs on health, life and society.
In addition to all of above the peace and tranquility my heart feels and no place for depressions in my heart. If I have a problem I return to my creator for help and support. Now there are evidence that when you pray and prostrate and your head touch the ground there are positive charges in our brain and our body neutralized by negative charges of earth and gravity and cause calm and relaxation in body. I do experience this everytime I pray (Islamic prayer).

I am not allowed to lie, steal, cheat or take any body else rights. I enjoy these in this beautiful country USA. I thank USA and all citizen of USA who understand the freedom Allah gives us to practice our religion and the respect from the Majority of my fellow US citizen to me. I ask Allah to help all of us to be the best person and help each other.

Thank you
May Allah bless all of us and USA.

I can go on and on for pages.

I was born and raised as a Presbyterian. My maternal grandfather was a circuit preacher in rural Mississippi. He had seven tiny churches in seven tiny communities and he rotated between them every seven Sundays. Both sets of grandparents were Presbyterian tea-totalers and their lives revolved around their churches. My parents however became urban, northeastern, leftist, intellectuals. Over the years we all became increasingly secular, until religion played no role in our lives whatsoever.
My husband, who was from Somalia, met when we were working on our Masters degrees in California. When we decided to get married I decided to convert to Islam for the sake of his family and for the sake of our children. I was honest with my husband that I was not going to be any more religious as a 'Muslim' than I had been as a 'Christian'. We married and went to Somalia, where our children were born and where we worked for the United Nations (this was before the war). My father-in-law was a Sufi of the Qadiriya brotherhood. While my husband is a moderate secular Muslim, my father-in-law was a widely respected religious leader. People came from all over southern Somalia for his prayers, healing, and mediation services. I came to love him deeply and through him I came to love Islam deeply.
We stayed in Kenya during the first half of the 1990', again working for the United Nations, and working to resettle my husband's family, first in Kenya, and then in the United States. We all moved to Virginia in 1995, where our children began elementary school, we helped my husband's family get apartments and jobs, I began and eventually finished a Ph.D. and my husband and I both worked. We raised our children as Muslims and we lived a hybrid lifestyle - part Somali, part American. These were frenetic years and I had little time or energy to attend to my spiritual life. My children on the other hand were actively exploring what it meant to be Muslims in America and both emerged as reformist Muslims.
About the time my children went to college I embraced Islam as my own.
I consider myself a student of Islam. I am studying Islamic philosophy and theology and I am practicing. I am deeply attracted to Sufism and wish that I had found the time to be my father-in-law's student while he was alive. He would have loved to have taught me everything he knew. While I have befriended numerous individuals who are also reformist Muslims - mainly in the context of my work - I have not yet found a community of Muslims with whom to study and practice. I am still searching for that community.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me and Christianity was my pedifile grandfather. He sexually abused his daughters and his grand daughters, including me at the age of 2. When he died, my minister brother wrote a glowing obituary of his great witness for Christ, of how he was the kind of christian every should want to be, That was when I decided I wanted no part of a religon who's heros were men like my grandfather or with followers who allowed his behavior to continue for decades.

I went on with my life with no desire to find my higher power, I wasn't looking for Islam, Islam came looking for me. In 1998, I started dating again after a divorse. One of the men I dated suggested that I educate myself on the Black experience in America. Being an avid reader, I went for it. The more I read, the more I read about the Civil Rights movement, which lead me to read about Malcom X. The more I read about Malcom X, the more I read about Islam. The more I read about Islam, the more I liked it. That lead me to accept Islam.

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Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Managing Producer: Kate Moos

Producer: Colleen Scheck

Associate Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

Associate Producer: Marc Sanchez

Online Editor/Producer: Trent Gilliss

Associate Web Producer: Andrew Dayton

Senior Producer: Mitch Hanley

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