“You must feel great to be outta there.” That was said to me tonight. Not even a question. It was the pure assumption that America trumps, that living in Middle Eastern or African countries has no value, that I am safer on American ground. You are wrong. I don’t feel great. I feel good sometimes, yes, but it is tug-of-war.

Pro: Being out of a country with the promise of revolution now wriggling inside the grip of hero-worship, corruption, a military-driven economy, and autocracy.

Con: Ann Coulter at a Trump rally.

Pro: I can wear shorts in public with anonymity.

Con: The “Brazilian Butt Lift” infomercial comes on and I am unconsciously concerned about the lack of lift in my butt.

 

Pro: The freedom to say what I want.

 

Con: Rejoining another military-obsessed culture where police become abusive more often than tolerable.

Pro: Fresh air and more tolerable temperatures.

Con: The amount of air time spent on celebrity news.

Pro: Being around family.

Con: Being around family.

 

“Is he radical?” That is an actual question asked by one of my great aunts regarding my Egyptian husband. The inquiry was about his religion, not his artistry. She was asking my mother, who promptly replied in the negative and ended the conversation.

My great aunt is white and in her 80’s. I love her. I try to never disrespect her. She is a matriarch. And then she says things that I understand to be completely racist when watching Hurricane Katrina coverage ten years ago. And then she worries for the morals of the family choosing to watch a baseball game instead of Fox News. And then she asks my mom if my husband is into radical Islam.

And there is to be no comeback, no challenge to this generation of the family. She is coming from a place of protection. She is a momma bear. She is solid, unchanging. Secure in her wisdom.

There are second cousins of younger ages who also hold her views. They post things on Facebook with comments that include, “I want the women-hating and children raping political cult called Islam banned in America!” I cannot hold my tongue in these cases and have decided to unfriend them for my own wellbeing.

The following is dedicated to this section of the family. This is a list of things they might not know about their liberal cousin:

1. I agree with prayer in schooltime.

2. I agree that America should never forget 9/11.

3. To me, Islam does not have an Arab face.

4. I think many Muslims are wrong.

 

I Agree With Prayer in Schooltime

Law says public schools can “accommodate their schedules to a program of outside religious instruction.”

  • Classes must not be held on public school property,
  • Religious instruction may not be financed by public funds,
  • Students must have parental permission to be released from public school for the purpose of attending religious instruction.

“Across America today, about a quarter-million public school students from kindergarten through high school are enrolled in religious education through released time programs, according to The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries. Christian instruction is the most common, but there are Jewish programs in New York, Mormon programs in the West and several Muslim programs across the country.”

I find this to be an awesome option. In my hometown school in Hemlock, Michigan, kids can opt to attend bible study for two hours per month. When/If I have a child, I would love to have him/her in public school and able to access a dose religious education monthly. Ideally, this education would include all three Abrahamic (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) faiths equally as well as exposure to and general respect/knowledge of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Mormonism, and Agnosticism.

A post from 2004 puts it well, “Whatever the approach, school districts have a civic duty to look for a solution. In the current climate of anti-Muslim rhetoric, how schools — and all sectors of American society — respond to the growth of Islam in this country is a real test of our national character. Let’s not forget that many Americans failed this test in the 19th century when the Protestant majority greeted waves of Catholic and Jewish immigration with widespread nativism and discrimination in schools and elsewhere. This time around, let’s do better. If at all possible, no Muslim American — and no American of any faith — should have to choose between following conscience and enjoying the benefits of a public education.”

 

America Should Never Forget 9/11

I think the most beautiful response to that terror of 9/11 is to build more mosques and support our Muslim neighbors. Respect in the face of hate. This September 11th, in 2015, as ISIS is threatening people and cultures around the world, we should learn about real Islam and its incredible value. Education in the face of ignorance.

America cannot stay stupid on Islam.

 

I have never had a Muslim at my doorstep, only the Church of Latter Day Saints. I wish they could, though. Imagine our Muslim neighbors going door-to-door providing information and resources on Islam. Many people need that education. Building more mosques in America is one alternative. Islamic Centers provide community, charity, outreach, education and more.

Islamic Center of Saginaw (Michigan)
Islamic Center of Saginaw (Michigan)

One study of mosques in America was created by Ihsan Bagby, Ph.D. from University of Michigan, professor at University of Kentucky. His research says that there were 897 more mosques in 2011 than in 2000. The establishment of new mosques could be attributed to the increased number of Muslim refugees and immigrant groups (Somalis, Iraqis, West Africans and Bosnians) establishing “their own mosques where they can feel more comfortable in their own language and cultural environment.” In 2011, 28% of mosques were located in suburbs.

Mosques By State (2011)not including Muslim Student Association centers on college campuses and interfaith prayer rooms

Alabama . . . . . . . . . .31

Alaska . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Arkansas . . . . . . . . . .13

Arizona . . . . . . . . . . .29

California . . . . . . . .246

Colorado . . . . . . . . . .17

Connecticut . . . . . . . .36

District of Columbia . . .7

Delaware . . . . . . . . . . .5

Florida . . . . . . . . . .118

Georgia . . . . . . . . . .69

Hawaii . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Idaho . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Illinois . . . . . . . . . . .109

Indiana . . . . . . . . . . .33

Iowa . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Kansas . . . . . . . . . . .21

Kentucky . . . . . . . . . .27

Louisiana . . . . . . . . .27

Massachusetts . . . . . .39

Maine . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Maryland . . . . . . . . . .54

Michigan . . . . . . . . . .77

Minnesota . . . . . . . . .45

Missouri . . . . . . . . . .39

Mississippi . . . . . . . . .16

Montana . . . . . . . . . . .2

Nebraska . . . . . . . . . . .8

New Hampshire . . . . . .3

New Jersey . . . . . . .109

New Mexico . . . . . . .10

Nevada . . . . . . . . . . . .7

New York . . . . . . . .257

North Carolina . . . . .50

North Dakota . . . . . . .3

Ohio . . . . . . . . . . . . .60

Oklahoma . . . . . . . . .17

Oregon . . . . . . . . . . .12

Pennsylvania . . . . . . .99

Rhode Island . . . . . . . .6

South Carolina . . . . .21

South Dakota . . . . . . .5

Tennessee . . . . . . . . .38

Texas . . . . . . . . . . .166

Utah . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Vermont . . . . . . . . . . .1

Virginia . . . . . . . . . . .62

Washington . . . . . . . .37

West Virginia . . . . . . . .7

Wisconsin . . . . . . . . .23

Wyoming . . . . . . . . . .3

This is how we never forget 9/11. Welcoming more mosques and inter-faith centers. Continuing pursuance of respect, empathy and knowledge.

 

To Me, Islam Does Not Have an Arab Face 

According to Pew Research Center, “While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa. Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. In four countries – Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq – Shia Muslims make up a majority of the total population. There also are a few Muslim groups that are difficult to classify as either Sunni or Shia. These include the Nation of Islam movement in the United States…”

According to PBS, “Estimates range that between five to 12 million Muslims live in the United States. About one-third of them are African-Americans. Another third are originally from the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.”

Mosques in the U.S. by Racial/Ethic Identity or Majority (Bagby)

South Asian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33%

Arab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27%

African-American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24%

African (sub-Saharan) . . . . . . . . . . . . .9%

European (Bosnians, etc) . . . . . . . . . . .2%

Iranian (Persian) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2%

Caribbean, Southeast Asian, Latino, Turkish, White-American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1% each

 

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, “There are 1,697,570 Arab Americans in the United States. The largest subgroup is by far are Lebanese Americans followed by Egyptian Americans, Syrian Americans, Iraqi Americans, Palestinian Americans, Moroccan Americans, then Jordanian Americans. A number of people from predominantly Arab countries living in the United States are not classified as Arabs, including; Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Iranians, and Roma.” A large percentage of Arab Americans (and Americans from Arab countries) are actually Christian, Jewish, or Non-Religious.

Arab-Americans live in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C. – and 94% reside in the metropolitan areas of major cities. They are legally considered white, but many Arabs reject the U.S. Census classification, arguing that they are not perceived or treated as white by non-Arab Americans.

 

Some Muslims Have it Wrong

Muslims, Jews and Christians are monotheistic, believing in one God. They are all children of Abraham. They all tell of the prophet Moses. Muslims and Christians celebrate the birth of the prophet Jesus/Isa. Jews and Muslims agree on the oneness of God. Christians, on the other hand, believe in a holy trinity. All believe their beliefs and practices are right.

Yet, I think some Muslims, Christians and Jews are very wrong, especially in their persecution of homosexuals and trans people, even homosexuals and trans people of deep faith. I think they are wrong when they shut their ears and shut their doors, when they discriminate. I think some Muslims, Christians and Jews are wrong in the practice of genital mutilation. I think all three can be very wrong in their fundamentalism, corruption, fear-mongering, political or legal interference, and terrorism. I think Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all wrong when they say God blesses certain nationalities and borders over others.

I believe in a God of love and of full human experience including science, critical thought, sexual pleasure, intimacy, family, faith, progress, choice and artistry.

 

This September 11th, I am trying to bridge the family. This is where I start.

 

One thought to “It’s Almost 9/11. The Liberal of the Family is Reaching Out.”

  1. It can be so challenging to negotiate family dynamics when you’re in an interfaith/intercultural relationship during these heady times. Thank you for writing this…

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