I was born to Black American Muslim parents in Manhattan. At two years old we moved to New Mexico to get away from all the negatives of the big city. I lived in New Mexico, mostly Santa Fe until I turned 14 after which I moved to Michigan and have pretty much resided here ever since, with the occasional year in Arizona or Colorado.
I didn't realize that Islam meant anything in particular to me until I was working at Schlotsky's Deli in college and one day at rush a regular said to me," You know I come here every day at lunch and it is always crazy busy and you are always smiling and happy. Even when customers are rude and annoying and everyone else is scowling. Why are you always so smiley?"I stumbled a bit and thanked him for his compliment and then replied, "Uh, I'm Muslim..."He was puzzled, but not nearly as puzzled as I was.
I went home that night and seriously thought about why Islam was the thing that really kept me smiling when all others seemed to scowl. I think that that was when I began to realize that most of us are Muslims because we love Islam and want to strive to be what Allah asks of us (loosely, brothers and sisters of humanity), whereas others are Muslim because that's what their "culture" is or because that's what saved them when they were going through their worst time and those people could have just as easily been Christian or Jewish or Buddhist. Unfortunately the latter two are also usually the crazy freaks who get the most publicity and make Islam seem to be so different from it's grandfather religions, Judaism and Christianity when it really isn't.
I love the fact that Islam is so all encompassing. In the second chapter of the Qur'an it states many times that the closest to us are "the people of the book", that would be Jews and Christians because those are the other two monotheistic religions who use a holy book whose wisdom was brought to the people through prophets Musa (Moses) and Issa (Jesus) respectively.
Islam is a deep, complex religion but it is also very easy and all encompassing and it's all about moderation. I find it sadly disgusting how a small amount of people who call themselves Muslims continuously disregard the moderation that Islam is all about. It's usually the people that the media likes to refer to as Orthodox Muslims (although there is no such thing) who are the ones who try and force Islam down the throats of their friends and neighbors when Islam clearly states "there is no compulsion in religion".
My story is too long to tell and the things that I love about Islam are too numerous to calculate but I must say that I dislike many Muslims and while that seems to be an oxymoron it is not. It's the same sentiment that comes from me when I walk down the streets of Detroit and see my black brothers and sisters making excuse after excuse for why they are not trying to better their situation. It disgusts me and shames me and used to make me wish I wasn't black the way that certain Muslims used to make me feel like I would certainly not be Muslim when I grew up. But I am black and I love being black and I am Muslim and I love Islam and I had to recognize that though the "bad apples" of my two minorities are what the media chooses to focus on, that is certainly NOT the norm for blacks or for Muslims!!
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