Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 1

Back from break and fueled up. I made plenty of great contacts in the Korea(n) Muslim community (although most of them are not Korean) and although I can't change my schedule to go to mosque on Fridays, the weekend is also packed with worshipers and services. In fact, the mosque that I'm going to can hold up to six-hundred practitioners. I'll be heading there this Saturday after my Democrats Abroad meeting. They have service in Korean, Arabic and English. Great news.


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. 


  1. I've found that the people who have such a negative view of America tend to read the news too much. The news reports on the whackjobs to the far right or far left of both parties because that gets them the most viewers. Then, the media goes ballistic because there's ten people doing something crazy, even though that's only 10 people out of 300 million. Maybe that's overly simplistic. But, it's caused people like yourself to be so hard line, you truly hate republicans, you can see it. That doesn't do anybody any good. You should try to be more open minded. The park51 debate for example, for the most part, I don't believe people are questioning their fundamental rights as Americans to build such a place. I think its just a matter of awkward placement for a lot of people who have a lot of disturbing memories. I'm not really a good debater and I'm sure you can punch a thousand wholes in it. At the very least, you should try not to be so angry at the GOP for your health, it can't be good for your blood pressure :P


    Obviously the article is a joke, but sadly that is how many Americans think these days (not just about Islam). I can understand the reason that some are against the community center in NYC. I don't agree but I can see their point. However, it is not about the location. This is not just happening in NYC, but all over the country. Fore example, a mosque is being built in Tennessee that is causing an uproar and I believe someone just tried to torch it. So obviously this isn't just about the location, but rather a deeply rooted hatred (misunderstanding) of Islam in general. It really scares me when I see politicians on TV ranting about how mosques are really just terrorist training grounds and how building them will lead to more terrorist attacks. These aren't just crazy Americans saying things like this. These are the leaders of this country. This is nothing more than blatant racism and it’s really shocking how much it has escalated over the last few weeks. I am sure people have felt this way for a long time, but it seems they feel much more comfortable being openly racist when they see people on TV doing the same, especially when that person is their congressman. I think your friends quote about America being miserable is very accurate these days. It seems like we are going backwards and I’m not sure we will come back. It is definitely a low point in this country’s history.

    Sorry to be so negative, but on a lighter not: IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE (korea)!!!

  3. Anon,

    The news doesn't form my opinion. That would be foolish of me. I am angered by the acts and words of leaders in the GOP who are clearly fueling this non-debate with baseless assertions.That is what forms by opinion.

    I don't hate Republicans. I dislike their short-sighted, bigoted and dangerous policies.

    I can agree, however, that my blood pressure could use the break.

  4. Sid,

    It is also football time in Korea. The only difference is that I have to wake up in the middle of the night and watch it online in the dark. I'm following the Vols, Titans and Bengals this season --my final season abroad! Getting pumped for our 2011 Homecoming in Knoxville. I think we should be those pathetic guys that walk around the Fort looking for beer. First stop, 1630!

    In all seriousness, the arson in Tennessee highlights the real issue at hand here. People are not viewing this as a geographical sensitivity issue anymore. Lines have been drawn and, unfortunately, I'm starting to think those lines are not in the sand, but rather in stone.

    And as far as going backwards, I totally agree. The steps that are being taken and suggested by the Right are a retreat to the nostalgic high of a simplistic yesteryear that didn't actually exist.

  5. I am really excited to learn more about Islam byt following your blog. I have no opinion on it, as I have have never experienced in first-hand (unlike Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism). You are right about how polluted our minds have become with regards to Islamic sentiment~ I find myself observing Islamic men (by their dress code) at the airport very suspiciously... witouth realising I am doing it!
    Once again, good luck and enjoy your journey!

  6. Your statement of "the hateful have a forum now" comment hit the nail on the head. Somethings else I heard is that Bush could have turned the world upside down and Fox would have supported it. Someone I know very well said that all of the other news channels are in Obama's camp. Well, I think he is not listening to the news these days...even MSNBC is being honest about concerns of strategy and success of this administration. Fox is a forum for hate, as you said, and a spot to fuel bigotry, racism and untruths whether they be of another faith, nationality, or political party. It is all so crazy!

  7. Great first read for the new month and thumbs up to what Harriet said about Fox news!