Monday, September 06, 2010

Afraid of Your Neighborhood Mosque?

Are you afraid of what happens at that mosque down the road, or the one across town? Afraid they're training terrorists? Afraid there's a madrasa* teaching kids to be violent? Afraid the imam is teaching men to abuse their wives?

Or maybe you're not afraid; maybe you're concerned because you believe that's actually going on.

But I'm fairly certain that it's not. In fact, that mosque is probably America's best line of defense against terrorism--and that's one of many reasons that a community should support their local mosques. And why, in general, Americans should support the construction of mosques for American Muslims.

Sadly, the efforts of soldiers fighting and dying overseas (and killing Muslims) foster terrorism by increasing hatred from Muslims and further radicalizing them. I say it's sad because people are dying (on both sides) and the efforts only make the situation worse. American mosques combat the radicalism among Muslims. Visit one--listen to what the preachers are saying. Mosques are open, free, just visit and see what they're teaching. What you'll hear is talk about prayer, fasting, charity, kindness to parents.

If a Muslim has been radicalized, he's probably not going to be too regular at the mosque--he won't hear at the mosque the rhetoric he wants to hear; that is, the kind which validates his radicalism, basically. Instead, he'll be told to be patient, to increase in worship, and act in service to his community. But if he does visit the mosque, then perhaps he'll find a community there who can help to guide him aright.

So don't be afraid of the local mosques. Feel free to visit them--encourage a group visit if you don't want to go alone. Take a group from your church or synagogue--or invite a Muslim you know to come speak at your Sunday school class. Open mutual dialogue at interfaith or multi-faith events--ask them what they are doing, subscribe to their newsletter if they have one. And when you see they're not up to any trouble, consider that the faith of Muslims can positively affect the community in which they live. That it can help take care of the poor, and refugees, the hungry, the homeless, the battered women and orphan children. That it can promote positive activities for youth to keep them "off the streets" and out of trouble. And that it can even help keep the country safer.

Please, visit a mosque.

*By the way, madrasa is just the Arabic word for school.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Being Fair About Gender Segregation

I wrote an article that was just published over at (Being Fair About Gender Segregation)

I have heard many complaints from some converts to Islam, even from non-Muslims, about gender separation in Islam—in fact, it was one of my biggest fears after marriage. And the issue of segregation in Islam and Muslim cultures relates to women's rights and the concept of hijab.

But I have come to prefer gender segregation, usually, now that I have a better understanding about what it means and how to apply it...
Instead of posting the entire article here (which I may do later), I've just linked it so you can visit the site, read the article, and vote on the quality. Feel free to leave comments here of improvements I can make to articles in the future.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Taking My Own Advice

A few years ago I posted some thoughts about being a recent convert in Ramadan. In my first few Ramadans, meeting many new people (at iftars, at the masjid, etc.) made a huge impact on me. So I would strongly encourage anyone who can to try and invite new Muslims when hosting iftars. It's a great time to help them learn more about Islam by observing, rather than reading.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to host any iftaars myself for the last few years because of my living arrangements. So this is my first year hosting--and I did take my own advice and host a few this Ramadan. And alhamdulillah, it's been a lot of fun. I announced my own iftars at other events and a mailing list for local sisters, to have a sisters-only iftar. I've had three, the last one tonight, and saw a different crowd each night. I've also seen many of the same sisters at other iftar events.

Alhamdulillah, the sisters in Seattle already recognized the importance of having iftars for converts and singles who wouldn't otherwise have anyone to celebrate with, and already scheduled weekly iftars. These were another opportunity for me to meet even more people.

It's sad that I'll be leaving soon and won't see these sisters again until next Ramadan, but I'm looking forward to it. And now I'm much more optimistic about stabilizing once I get back from Texas inshaaAllaah, since I feel much less like an outsider than I did even a few weeks ago.