Before I really get started, I want to get the whole Park51 mess out of the way. This past month I have watched and listened to my compatriots spit on the faith of over a billion people on this earth. I have coasted between embarrassment, anger, fear, pity and full-blown astonishment. It is clear that the debate has nothing to do with sensitivity or location. It's about two things: 1) petty election season politics and 2) xenophobia. The worst part of the whole thing is that the GOP and the conservative punditry out there has married the two and it has created a disgusting environment for Americans to exist in.
A new teacher arrived at my school this morning. He's a nice fellow from Hanover, PA. I asked him about how it was being back in America, expecting the typical answer that returning expats give which ranges from "I loved it" to "Man, Americans are fat." I did not get that response today, though. What I got was more grim.
"America is miserable. It's sick and only getting worse."I don't doubt that current economic woes coupled with the midterm absurdity has made for a climate that is less savory than The Wonder Years, but what really concerns me is that this side of America has been hiding in plain sight for decades. The only difference is that the hateful have a forum now. Is America waking up from a dream or are they just in a nightmare?
I am certain that this topic will come up before, during or after my time in the mosque and I will not defend my fellow Americans who have chosen to turn their backs on the most important aspect of our nation's founding. I know how my wife, my family and my friends feel about this situation and all of them are lined up with me. So, unless any new developments occur in regards to this issue, I plan on putting it aside this month.
I woke up this morning before sunrise and pulled out my paper detailing how to do my daily prayers of which must be done five times a day in the direction of Mecca. I was blown away by the time it took me to read the romanized Arabic. Luckily, the online Quran that I'm reading (as well as the hard copy I'm picking up this weekend after Mosque) has a nice English translation. There will be plenty more to come on that front. You know, the first day always takes some getting used to.
What I have discovered so far is that while reading the Quran, I can't separate the words from the followers. Generally speaking, Muslims hail from a certain geographical region and with each e-page that I e-turn I can't help but visualize them. I think about their clothes, their faces, their history and, yes, even some of the violence that a minority of them have committed against their fellow man. This is really wrong and intellectually I would never say or do anything that casts a negative shadow on the religion, but I'm starting to wonder if, perhaps, they have also been poisoned against others in the same fashion. Is there a "typical" Jew or Christian?
Allah said, "there is a disease in their hearts" --still learning the proper ways to quote the Quran-- and while he was talking about those who try to deceive Him, I can use it here.
It's hard to live a life that is free from cultural perception and self-deception. In fact, it's impossible. We are scholars of the senses. Recognizing that, however, is only the first step. The "disease" seeps much deeper than what we see and hear and it poisons our hearts and eventually soils our souls. For someone to claim one thing like, "I support Park51 because Islam didn't attack us on 911, a few extremists did" and then visualize the negative physical manifestations of some Muslims while reading the Quran is a signal that maybe the heart has been polluted.
I don't know what it is, but it's sure to be an interesting journey and I'm thrilled to see what wonderful treasures Islam has to offer.