It has been a while. I apologize to any who have checked back and wondered about the silence. I could say that life became super busy (which it did) or that work became busy (which it also did) but I know that isn’t the real reason for my absence.
I wasn’t ready to think more deeply.
There, I said it! Whew. Anyhoo…..
It seems it’s time for me to actually sit down and read the Quran, cover to cover, critically. (Thanks to a recent commenter).
So here it goes — this is the version I have chosen because it is a pdf (easy to search terms and make notes).
Here goes nothing!
Brown. Slightly almond shaped. Surrounded by dark lashes and mocha skin.
I am sitting in a corner in a small room, on a loosely coiled orange extension cord (don’t ask). The walls are beige and in need of a new paint job. Electrical wiring is seemingly haphazardly hung along the ceiling and corners where the walls meet. There are flats of iced tea and ramen noodles along the back wall with a microwave perched atop a cabinet. I try to take it all in yet am struck only by the sea of eyes.
I want to go!
I want to go with a film crew and capture its beauty and craziness and see where my brothers lived.
My husband, he simply raises one eyebrow. Oh how I wish I could do that!
But that would be cool, right? Here’s my dream:
Criss cross this great country (America) talking to people about their fears and questions about Pakistan and Islam. The hard politically incorrect questions. You know, like why on Allah’s green earth would an American Muslim do a general media press conference in his pajamas? Oh I know you know what I’m talking about – it may be traditional attire but a pair of slacks and a button down wouldn’t kill ya.
Those kind of questions! Oh yes! Let’s ask the un-PC questions and get answers! And then, let’s film it! Let’s get these conversations on film and start making the culture, not necessarily the religion, a bit more mainstream.
It can be done!
Come on, who’s with me?! I’m game, just let me know when you want start planning…
Where have you been?
This morning, before I head to the ICNYU conference, I went to my temple to listen to my rabbi speak about conversion. I was converted to Judaism as a baby and grew up in the Jewish faith. I became bat mitzvahed (oh yes, i just verb-ed ‘mitzvah’) on Masada in Israel and have a Jewish home. Today it was discussed that if my conversion was not done according to orthodox Jewish traditions than my boys would not be considered Jewish by some Jews.
This begs the question, who has the authority to define who and what we are? I wonder if deep down my Muslim family considers me a ‘lost’ Muslim due to my being born into Islam. Learning about my heritage has caused me to question my faith and basically chosen Judaism. But is choosing enough?
Right now I am on my way back to the conference to learn more about the American Muslim perspective. It will be telling to see what choices this group is making and more importantly, if they realize that they are making the choices themselves after all.
In about two and a half hours I will be surrounded by Muslims. On Shabbat.
Tonight marks the beginning of the third annual ICNYU Conference – The Islamic Center of New York University. From the conference webpage, we learn that:
The Islamic Center at New York University invites you to hear leading American Muslims engage the pressing challenges of our present and the great potentials of our future. Over a course of two days, thinkers, scholars, leaders and artists will debate, discuss and explore our embrace of the mainstream. http://www.icnyuconference.org/
Embrace of the mainstream — this will be fascinating.
In the spirit of full disclosure, part of my professional duties are to attend conferences and analyze every single aspect to discern not only the public messages communicated but the strategies that lead to those messages. For example, it is notable that the conference program is not complete the day of the first event. Not to be tough on the organizers but it’s my profession – can’t help it.
So… here are some questions I have going into this:
Blintzes in the oven — check
Coffee brewed and poured — check
Typo from previous post fixed — check (thanks honey)
Time to get cracking. The topics for reflection were:
:: What is heritage?
:: How is culture different from or inexorably linked to one’s religion?
:: How are Judaism and Islam similar?
:: For how long do I need to cook before my father realizes I’m solid in the kitchen?
Easiest topic first… I think I will need to be cooking for the family for at least 5 more years before my dad believes I can actually cook. Baking — done (anyone who wants the cheesecake recipe that convinced him just let me know.)
Sort of easy or more fact-based topic next… the similarities in Judaism and Islam. There are two ways I can think of at the moment to reflect on this topic: textually and culturally. To understand the textual similarities I need to study both texts – the Old Testament and the Qur’an. That theoretically won’t be too challenging based on my academic history. Reading long texts and having to think critically about them – I think i spent close to ten years doing that. Thanks college & grad school!
But what about the cultural similarities? I don’t know the Muslim culture yet but I do know a bit about Jewish culture. At least enough to know that there are many different types of Jewish culture. There is no “one” culture for this religion. I’m guessing that is the same for Islam as well. This learning — about the cultural similarities that is — is going to take some time.
On to the harder topics…culture as connected to religion and heritage. Why do I care about either? I care because selfishly, I want what is mine. Mine by birth.
What exactly is my heritage?
What is my children’s heritage?
How do I embrace my Pakistani heritage while still being Jewish? Are there even any Pakistani Jews?
A long time ago I was discussing the concept of heritage with a wise friend. Sadly, I cannot for the life of me remember what she said. Here’s to hoping I get to have that conversation again. Until then, let the reflecting and learning begin!
For now though, that initial cup of coffee was not nearly big enough for this post; time for a refill.
“I have two grandchildren… I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” — Newt Gingrich
Really, Newt? WTH! First of all, you sound like an idiot. Second of all, what the hell are “Islamists?”
Now I realize that Wolf on CNN has been using that word for a while as have a gazillion other pundits, but in truth, I don’t really trust the talking heads to accurately characterize anyone. But really, Newt, “radical Islamists?”
All right, before I go all Emily Postal on him, I should get my facts as straight as possible, right? Right.
Step I – look up the word Islamist.
According to Princeton University, an Islamist is a scholar who is knowledgeable in Islamic studies.
So, an Islamist could be ANYONE! As long as he or she is knowledgeable in Islamic studies.
Step II – explore the colloquial use of the word, Islamist.
Not only is there a hotline for the American Muslim ( or anyone else who cares to call) but they have some solid CRM (Customer relationship management)!
Approximately one week after the original call, the same family member received a complete packet containing what seems to be a complete “Getting Started” kit…
:: travel prayer mat with the image of Mecca on it;
:: a Quran;
:: Turning to Islam DVD;
:: The prophets appointed by Allah book;
:: The path to prayer book;
:: Muhammad the messenger of Allah book;
:: Clear your doubts about Islam: 50 answers to common questions book;
:: A guide for the new Muslim book; and
Oh my word! Who is paying for all of these things???
:: A book titled Women in Islam.
Let’s see, a total of six books, one DVD, one Quran, a prayer mat, AND a personalized letter, the pièce de résistance, headlined — “Gaining peace through Islam.”
Wow. Gotta say, the “Jewish hotline” search results from Google seem even worse right about now.
As one in the marketing industry I’m pretty darned impressed. I’m calling and will, of course, report back.
There is an Islamic hotline.
I kid you not. It’s 1.877.ISLAM09. Call it…. I’ll wait.
See. I told you so.
Here’s how I found out. A family member is considering converting to Islam and we were chatting. The family member is telling me about the five pillars and what conversion entails and then suddenly drops “the guy on the hotline said…”
Errrrr, stop — guy on the hotline?????
No matter how the conversation attempted to progress, I could not get past the idea of a hotline for a religion.
When you type in “Jewish Hotline” into Google, here’s what comes up:
— Red Hot Jewish Sex Line
— Jewish Help Hotline Jewish Frum Staff
Feeling proud of my tribe right about now.
Back to the Islam hotline. I wonder who answers? An Imam? A regular Muslim individual? Are there women who answer or only men? The person from this particular call was male.
What about my end of the line? What would I ask?
What would you ask?