Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hospitality -- A Report from an Iftar Dinner

There is a problem in our midst.  The problem is that fear is running rampant and this fear is clouding our better judgment.  Our fear is causing us to stereotype Muslims, implicating all Muslims in the militant activities of a few.  The only real way of overcoming this problem is for non-Muslims in America to get to know Muslims.  Unfortunately, there aren't that many Muslims living in America, which makes it difficult to get to know Muslim people as people.  There are only about 2.5 million Muslims living in America -- about 1% of the population. 

A recent Time Magazine cover story highlights this problem.  Only about 37% of Americans have met or know a Muslim.  And if you don't know people, that leads to fear.  It also leads you to embrace stereotypes.  It also allows you to become susceptible to demagogues who use something like the Cordoba House/Park51 Islamic Center as a political tool.  The author of the Time article notes:

Islamophobia in the U.S. doesn't approach levels seen in other countries where Muslims are in a minority. But to be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country's most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery. In France and Britain, politicians from fringe parties say appalling things about Muslims, but there's no one in Europe of the stature of a former House Speaker who would, as Newt Gingrich did, equate Islam with Nazism. 
All of this leads me to my report on the Iftar Dinner held last night at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit mosque and community center last night.  I along with others who are active in the local interfaith networks were present, invited to share in the breaking of the Ramadan fast.  We were treated to an informative program by the Imam, Aly Lela, that explained Ramadan and the fast, we broke the fast with dates and other fruits, observed the evening prayer, and then at about 8:45 had a wonderful dinner.  Now one of the things to note about the American Muslim community is that it is composed of people and cultures from around the world.  There are Arabs, Iranians, Afghanis, Bosnians, Albanians, Africans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Indians, and more.  And so, when dinner is served it is always a representation of these various cultures.  And then of course, we ended with a variety of sweets.  

Hospitality is inherent in the Muslim faith tradition, especially during the time of Ramadan.  During Ramadan one is supposed to open one's house to share meals with one's neighbors.  We were welcomed with much grace.  I appreciate my friends Asad and Amin who gave me the gentle push during a busy week to join them.  It was a treat, not to miss.  If you're invited to dine with a local Islamic community, by all means join them.  The food will be wonderful and the fellowship even better.

How are we going to overcome the fear that pervades our society?  We must get to know our neighbors!  As a Christian, I have heard it said -- love your neighbor.  In fact, in case you believe that Muslims are the enemy, I think I've heard Jesus say something that is relevant:  

 43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 6:43-48).
As for me and my house, Muslims aren't the enemy.   The enemy is those who would try to create fear and profit from it.  Even they deserve love -- whether they are Muslim or Christian.   

12 comments:

Brian said...

This post is a meaningful reflection on this week's gospel reading from the lectionary.

Especially Luke 14:12-14. Unfortunately, I'm using this text for mid-week services, so I've already committed to a course. But this post of yours fits perfectly for a sermon on this text.

Gary said...

Cornwall,

In all of your interaction with the Muslims, have you ever told them that their religion is contrary to the Bible, and that if they want to have their sins forgiven and have peace with God, they should forsake their religion and convert to Christianity? If you have not told them that, then
how can you claim that you love them?

Doug Sloan said...

Gary,

...because the Good News and living The Way and being the Kingdom of God is not about being rude, insulting, or abusive - or being discourteous or being a bad guest.

...because the Bible, while it is instructional and inspirational and worthy of study and contemplation and discussion, it is not controlling and it does not grant or confer authority on anyone or justification for anyone to be militant or holier-than-thou or a theological absolutist.

...because the the radical and the defiant message and the transformational spirit of the universal and timeless Good News and living The Way and being the Kingdom of God is:
* To have a loving intimate relationship with God
* To serve others by practicing generosity and hospitality
* To seek justice as restoration, healing, rehabilitation, and reconciliation
* To invite and welcome and include without exception or qualification
* To live non-violently without vengeance and with a cheerful fearlessness of death and worldly powers.

RECLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS - an epistle

http://dmergent.org/2010/08/05/reclaiming-the-good-news-an-epistle/

David Mc said...

I'll second that! Ask us again and we'll tell you the same.

Gary said...

Doug,

You can present the gospel and show people why their religious beliefs are in error without being rude. They still might take offense at being told that their religion is contrary to God, and given their current beliefs, they are damned and without hope. That's a message that people often reject, but it is something they need to hear. Granted, a Muslim dinner might be an awkward time to do it, and you might want to choose another time. But if you really love them, you should tell them the truth.

Doug Sloan said...

...or we might sit and discuss what we have in common and what we have to offer to and learn from each other.

...or we might agree to disagree or just simply not discuss post-mortal existence because it is a useless conversation because it will be what it will be regardless of what we believe. Talking about heaven, hell, salvation, damnation does not accomplish anything.

...or we might find unity in working to make this life better and more peaceful:
* To have a loving intimate relationship with God
* To serve others by practicing generosity and hospitality
* To seek justice as restoration, healing, rehabilitation, and reconciliation
* To invite and welcome and include without exception or qualification
* To live non-violently without vengeance and with a cheerful fearlessness of death and worldly powers.

Gary said...

Sloan,

Your theology is unBiblical, which makes it untrue. It would be a good idea if you didn't talk to anyone about religion because you might influence them to also believe things that are false.

Glenn said...

Doug,

Great posts. The old saying about being unable to see for the forest through the trees comes to mind, but what are you going to do?? Gary is what Gary is. I checked out your link and loved your blog. I now have a new one to follow. Thanks.

David Mc said...

Is this more to your liking Gary. Do witch trials make you nostalgic?

Christian fascism has no appeal for me.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/08/25/nigeria.child.witches/?hpt=C2#fbid=fWm_HeBp4xU&wom=false

David Mc said...

They use prejudice as a practical method to cripple the nation. People are not born with prejudices... someone is going to get something out of it, and it isn't going to be you.

Are you going to be a pawn? The oldest in the book?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w03tJ3IkrM

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget, as John 14:6 cuts to the chase: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Marvin said...

I think that's Matthew 5 not 6 you are quoting in this post - love your post & the comment dialog is very reflective of the diversity of opinion & approaches that sometimes give Christians a bad name - I found it when looking for related posts for my post on referenced blog post about "Love Your Enemy..." on my blog - see link to blog in name in this comment...

And a BIG WOW on Gary, you do know Gary that when Muslims are shown the love of Christ in the US, an open society where they can make religious choices, they sometimes (more likely) convert to Christianity & then all of this banter becomes folley...