Posts Tagged ‘community’

Another post about Ramadan — from a Christian in an interfaith family

August 13, 2012

I wrote a lengthy Post about ramadan, but I think DH accidentally deleted it. So now I have to do it all again. That’s frustrating. But, here we go and know that it will probably be twice as long as the original post.
Honestly, my thoughts and plans, rather fantasy, about celebrating Ramadan was very different than reality. I imagined that my husband and I would listen to Quranic messages together. He would get more generous and more understanding and closer to God as Ramadan progressed And I would take the messages that were most like the Biblical messages and remember to apply them. After all, we could all use some reminding of our fundamentals…. and I must admit, my prayer life could be better. Muslims pray five times a day and I probably could increase my prayer life which is always a good idea. There’s nothing saying a Christian can’t pray five times a day. I would pray my prayers when my husband prayed his prayers. At the end of Ramadan I would cook something special. We would have a meaningful holiday and pass this tradition down to our LO(Smile). We would Celebrate Ramadan in our own special way. We would have wonderful Eid traditions that we handed down to our little baby. Everything would be full of meaning and reflection and family connections. That however is not how it is happening.
I seem to be on the peripheral of Ramadan. We don’t share messages together we rarely talk about any message that is given. And I admit that I am readily willing to listen to any scholarly message in English about the Quran or Ramadan. But I want to do it together. I want to listen and discuss. My husband does not like discussing. I suppose my approach might be a bit American in nature it’s kind of like the Bible study approach. But I thought it would have some value.
There’re many reasons I am on the fringes of Ramadan but I’m going to name one here right now. I don’t go to the mosque much. So, I take my responsibility for that one. I should insist on going to the Mosque with DH, if I want a full meaningful experience. This Ramadan my husband has gone to two specific mosques. one mosque is very diverse. This is the mosque that has the aggressive headscarf policewomen. yes I felt as if they were policing my headscarf which by the way never wanted to obey my commands. However we have went one other time to this mosque and I didn’t find the women nearly as aggressive. The only time my headscarf was pulled into submission by some African women who were sitting next to me, was when a man came into the women’s quarters. — twice… but I am ok with that because I saw it as a way to protect my respectability — or something similar. . the other mosque that my husband goes to periodically especially when I don’t go, is an exclusive Desi mosque, AKA “the men’s Mosque.” Of course, women are not exactly forbidden to come but they are certainly not welcomed and there is no place for them to pray. “After all,” DH reminds me, ” it is not mandatory for women to come at all.” What disturbs me most is that my wonderful husband is okay with this logic. he does not see a problem if women want to go to the mosque, He says, ” they can go to at least seven other ones around the city…” … I think there’s more mosques springing up all of the time, now … the Exclusive Desi one was not even listed on the Google Search. . In any case, DH has no problem with the fact that it is all men. And, they have (according to DH) some awesome food. Which probably means that, women are at home, cooking for the men to go to a mosque that they are not even welcome to attend. And… … DH has no problem with this. He won’t even offer an objection, and this is America(the land of opposition and objections), not Pakistan.
obviously and unfortunately, he doesn’t see us celebrating Ramadan together. My participation is not mandatory. and it seems to make no difference to him whether I go to the Mosque or not. now of course it will make a difference with the baby so for that reason he might want me to go but not for my specific support.
So, I ask him to put the question to his mother: Would she attend “Mosque,” if one gave her a space to pray? his mother and father live in Pindi. This is not a village, but mosques still don’t openly welcome women. His mother said that she would certainly go, if there was a place for her to pray. Her daughter, R, (DH’s youngest sister) goes to the mosque in Lahore with her new husband. His mother asked if I would go with her and I gave her a definite “yes.” I understand that attending a mosque is manditory and this is seen as a gift to the women since they have household duties and/or children to care for. But, there are many women who have neither of these responsibilities. Besides, by “not” giving women a space to pray at a mosque (we haven’t even gotten to the equal space argument) aren’t we saying that women’s spirituality is less important than men’s? furthermore, I wonder if this “men’s mosque,” is so conservative about women’s participation, what else are they conservative on? and: why was it even built? Apparently, it was only built two years ago, yet there were many other mosques quite close in proximity already in full swing.
It strikes me that one of the reasons my husband says it’s not a big deal for women to attend the mosque, is because he says women tend to socialize more than they should. He says they are loud and they tend to want to socialize instead of listening to the message. But I have to point out, it wasn’t two days ago that he was saying to me how wonderful it was that he was making some contacts at the mosque. Hello, socialization. It’s just done in a different way. I also pointed out that if they have a imam right in front of them or have the speaker right in front of them, they probably would be more likely to be more quiet.
And there’s a considerable amount of women who are frustrated with those loud social women and who does want to hear the message. I know because when I was at the mosque there were quite a few African women and American women who voiced their stern opposition to those loud talkers.
I talk about “sex discrimination,” which I am sorry to say doesn’t even seem to touch DH. The men are quite friendly, the prayers and messages are dynamic and the food is awesome!
Anyway, we did go to the diverse mosque, once. And actually it was a nice gathering. Now of course I couldn’t follow those prayers. No I don’t speak Arabic but it wasn’t just that. Every time I thought the prayer was over because there was a little interlude where people began to discuss and talk then , it would start back again. I didn’t know whether the prayer had ended or just … … took a little break — for some unknown reason. And yes my obstinant headscarf never tends to stay in place. I wonder if there is an elastic version of this headscarf that just encompasses the entire head like a showercap. Ok, that doesn’t sound very attractive, but it would get the job done. Maybe that would be better for me. It doesn’t help that my little guy loves to yank the headscarves off of myself and any other woman in close proximity. Yes, that is exactly what we got when we went to the mosque. He decided that he would be a bit more social than usual and yank women’s headscarves off their heads. This did not amuse the African woman sitting next to me. I think it was the fact that she was dressed in a very colorful outfit and headscarf and he was fascinated by it. Yet they weren’t amused. They were however enamored by my baby because he was so good we ended up staying until 1230 at night. Know that it certainly did mess up my sleeping schedule for the next two days. But my baby was not cranky at all. He wanted to get down and blow bubbles and crawl around on the floor which by the way I restricted his movement because I didn’t want him wondering off without me. Also we know that he has a fascination with people’s iPhones and there were a few women who plugged in their iPhones to be charged while they were praying. I was somehow surprised that women brought their iPhone chargers and plugged in their iPhones while they were playing. OK, I admit that I was a little bit India’s that I hadn’t thought of it myself. I thought somehow it would have been a bit disrespectful to do so. I don’t know why. I just did.
My little guy was very social. Much more social than I thought he would be. He seemed to be quite comfortable there. I think one of the reasons is because everybody was sitting on the floor. He likes people sitting on the floor. and, most women didn’t try to get him to come to them. they just waited until he was comfortable. he likes people sitting on the floor because They are his height and somehow they seem more personable down there. If they’re standing or sitting in a chair they just don’t seem to be as inviting for him.
I think the women like me more if I have a baby. Strangely enough it was unlike our Pakistani picnic experience. I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the mosque. One woman actually remembered me and sat down and talk to me all night.
Now here is one of my dilemmas. I was called sister. I have no problem with this. I am, after all, a person of the book, Which means that I believe in the Bible so I am actually a believer in one of the three Abrahamic faiths. So maybe sister is not out of the realm of possibilities for me. However I don’t want them to think that I am Muslim and feel betrayed when they find out I am not. I don’t want to act as if I’m something I’m not. But I don’t want to brandish the big C on my chest and every time someone says something I retort ” did you know I’m a Christian?” I don’t want to make a big deal about it. But there isn’t anything that distinguishes me as a Christian from them as Muslims. I wear my headscarf. I don’t fast because I’m nursing. I sit in a chair instead of getting down on the floor to pray but that could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I just don’t want the women to think that I have somehow fooled them. That would be counterproductive to what I’m trying to do which is to Forge good relationships between them and myself.
Another thing I did like about Our Mosque experience was the five minute English message that talked about being gentle and kind with your children especially since school is starting and while we certainly want our children to succeed, we also don’t want to make it so difficult that they feel the stress. I thought it was a very good message. And I found out that they’re having a celebration for the children. No my baby will not be able to enjoy the celebration yet. But I think my husband is getting excited just thinking about the time when he will be able to. And I’m glad they’re doing a celebration for eat. And of course we realize that many children won’t get to celebrate Christmas and Easter and that our baby is special in that he will celebrate all the holidays. The be plenty of time to spoil him with gifts and other things. Not that I necessarily want to spoil him but you know what happens. I also remind myself that there are probably a number of children who do celebrate at least Christmas because many families are interfaith now. many times there is a brother or a sister or a cousin or a mother and father who are still Christian after the Muslim converts. Therefore it is likely that they could celebrate Christmas. Maybe. And any case I wanted to give money for the eve celebration. And my husband reflected on how he could be more patient with our baby.
We were invited over to a doctor’s house after E was over to enjoy their hospitality. They also have a son who is about fifteen days older than our baby. Of course I’m certain that there is going to be comparisons made… Etc. But it will be nice to meet another couple. With a baby at the same age. And his wife is from the US, as well. I don’t know if she’s Muslim or not. But I do know she’s from the US.
any case, one thing I have learned this Ramadan, is that if I wanted to be special I have to make it so. My husband is not inclined to make Ramadan a family affair. It just was never done. His mother was just fine with not going to the mosque and hearing the messages. It just was not an option for his mother, so her role was to cook. If I want Ramadan to mean more than just cooking, I need to seek out those meanings for myself. I’m also fully aware that there will come a time, when my baby will not be experiencing Ramadan in the way that I am experiencing Ramadan. He will be with the men and I will be again on my own to experience Ramadan by myself. But hopefully by then I will have lots of women friends.
To top it off, I invited my daughter to the eve celebration. Now I invited her because there’re many Christians to go to eat celebrations. We have an interchurch and interfaith organizations to go to eat celebrations. Not only do they learn about Islam or Ramadan, but, many christians celebrate with Muslim friends. So I didn’t think it was out of the question to invite my daughter, after all her little brother will be experiencing his first eat. However she forcefully declined. She was almost apald that I would invite her to a mosque. Now I understand the fundamentalist Christians who feel very adamant about not stepping foot in the mosque. But this woman in her Christianity will go to a gay karaoke bar, tattoo parlor and redneck tailgating concerts; but, she has a problem with a Muslim place of worship??? So, she is totally comfortable with obssessive drinking, dressing in drag, all types of drama on the stage; but she is not comfortable with a different form of prayer?
Anyway, I am very much disappointed by her close mindedness.
This year it is me and my baby. We will make Ramadan and eid the best we can. And, I’ll have to start early to try to make the next Eid even better for LO.

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Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.

August 30, 2011

There are many complex variables to worship. Of course, worship should be a time when you do, say or sing to get closer to God/Allah. But, there is a communal part to worship and somehow, (and I think that most people have this expectation or hope) you also want to develop relationships with those who share your spiritual beliefs and are worshipping along side of you. I’ll admit, I was never one for “collective prayer,” it seemed so conscribed. Yet, I do understand the sense of communal oneness in such an act.
I wonder, did I fool myself or is it a myth somewhere: the thought that Muslims are, somehow, quite close knit in their communities and relationships – almost as close as those Amish. (smile) We have attended two different mosques on a regular basis. I wish that I could tell you that I was openly greeted and embraced. I can’t. Now, I need to admit here that I always feel a bit timid and shy and vulnerable when going to the mosque. Sure, you wonderfully assertive people will tell me to get over it and stop being so emotional. Quit whining, you will say. Bla bla bla: it has went through my mind several times. But, it is really a combination of a few things which makes me feel vulnerable.
1. It is still taking me some time to get use to this male/female segregation worship. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of women. I am “sisterhood,” all the way! It is that I feel that my guide is leaving me at a crucial moment. In churches, I can take his hand, lean over and whisper something in his ear, ask “Tum Theek ho” to gage his comfort level. All this is missing at the mosque. When we have Muslim taxi drivers, they drop me off at the “women’s entrance,” and DH at the Men’s entrance. So, I have to enter alone.
2. All mosques are a bit different and it is hard as a blind person to understand what is expected of me. Where do my shoes actually go? (If I have not taken them off yet, it is not because I am unaware of the rule, it is just that I am not sure where the shoes are being put); I think that the headscarf knows that I am not Muslim, thus, resists my efforts to keep it on; how conservative is the dress of other women in this mosque; during Ramadan, some people are strict about only eating dates and drinking water between the call to prayer and the actual prayer and some include fruit and snacks; someone has to help me with the food because I don’t know “what” is there or “where” it is (consequently, someone always has to serve me which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable);
3. I am not Muslim. I don’t want the sisters to think that I am “playing Muslim” when I am not. Yet, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and/or disrespect anyone in the process. There are some discussions – some acts – that I am precluded from because of my religious affiliation. Yet, I am never quite sure where the line is. And, I wonder, does my Non-muslim-ness make it more difficult for sisters to bond with me? This is not an ethnographic study and I am not an observationist – or at least, I don’t want to be or to be seen that way. There is a certain objectivity that an observationist gives to the experience and I would rather be more participatory than that. Yet, obviously, there is a line to my participation.
4. I have a guide dog. I don’t take him to the mosque, but if the same friends take us places or want to expand our relationship, they have to be comfortable with the dog — — which many are not. Actually, we rarely get that far. But, I know that many are not comfortable with my dog and this causes all of us some discomfort. There is a limit to how much I can leave him at home and honestly, if I leave him at home too much, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one. However, when we have to depend on rides, I have to put their comfort first.
My hope was that we could knit together a community of brothers and sisters (both from the church and the mosque), as well as some work colleagues — maybe — to be like close family. What church, you ask. And, I must agree, because I have not made much headway there, either. While I admit that the mosque is a bit more accepting than most churches that I have attended, there still feels like a disconnect. Sure, men at the mosque are more willing (than men at a church) to drive us to and from the mosque. They do seem to be “more helpful.” But, I was not just looking for “help” I was looking for a community to belong to – a community of interaction and the sharing of ideas and ultimately ourselves.
[side note: I think that is also what my daughter is looking for and one of the reasons (certainly not the only one, because he seems to be a much better guy than the others), that she wants to marry her ex-morman boyfriend who has tons of sibs and cousins]. The “Ex” is on the “mormon” part, not on the “boyfriend” part.
Anyway, at first, We began attending a very small mosque. The Imam would drive us to and from the mosque. Sometimes, I would talk to his wife. I thought that we wre developing a relationship with the couple. The man went off to study Arabic for three months in DC. I called the wife a couple of times to see if she needed anything. I got no response. The imam did not even call us when he returned. We had expressed excitement about his trip and were generally interested in his progress & experiences. Since we were one of the main families who would worship (and I use that term loosely in my case) at the mosque where he gave lectures, I kind of expected a closer relationship with the members. The second mosque is quite a bit larger. The one thing that I do like about this mosque is that there are lots of different nationalities present. We know men from Somalia, Gambia, Senegal, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some American born&raised Muslims. The men of the mosque are willing to pick up DH and I and return us to our homes. Our Gambian friend has a Christian wife, but she never comes to the Mosque. There is one bright spot. One Auntie, Shaaesta, does sit and talk with me. I realize that she could very well sit and pray/talk with the other Aunties. But, this pashton woman will sit and talk with me every time I see her at the Mosque. Sure, sometimes, she can be opinionated and she usually worries that I will fall down and/or trip over something on the floor. I wonder how much more intense this preoccupation with my falling will become when I have the baby and need to carry him around. ? Yet, she is kind and when we sit and talk, she really listens to what I have to say. I have not seen her outside the Mosque, however. It is a promising start. And, I must understand that *one* person can make a difference.
Now, DH is celebrating Eid with our Gambian friend and his Christian wife. That is where he was invited. And, I am stuck here at work. Dh has many more personal days than I do. When he works over, he gets comp time and he has been working at the company longer. Besides, whenever we have doctor appointments, I have to take off 30mins before my work day ends. He does not because his work starts 30mins before mine does and ends 30mins before mine does. So, He had the time to take off and still get paid. I don’t. and, frankly, I am a bit emotional about not getting to celebrate Eid with him. So, I’ll stop here with the future hope that next year, we all will celebrate Eid together.

adjusting expectations

November 27, 2010

When I heard: “interfaith celebration,” I was excited. Imran had gotten a message from a Muslim email mailing list and when he passed it on to me, I was definitely thrilled that such an opportunity was happening righht here in our city. My mind was swirling with possible scenarios.
I wondered if there would be a good mixture of Muslims and
Christians(of varying faiths) and Jewish people and Hindus ….etc? Would the dinner have meat and if so, would it be Halal? Would the people be open and want to meet others of differing faiths? Would the speeches be interwoven together? Would the clergy support one another? What type of music would be presented? Would the prayers be
“interfaith,” as well? … … Just too many questions!

The Interfaith celebration was Wednesday, the day before
Thanksgiving. We did not get much information. We found a Pakistani family who said that they would take us. Their daughter had come down with food poisoning, so they would not be able to bring us home. Now, I was worried about going. But, Imran said that we would find someone to take us home, so it would be ok. Still, I was apprehensive. But, Imran knows me well. Had we not gone, I would still be wondering what we missed and my imagination would run wild.
The night was wet and a bit cold. It had been raining for a good while. Thanks to the Muslim family that took us, We finally got there. We missed the call to prayer, the reading from the Quran and the Rabbi’s message. When we came in, there were a couple of speakers intermingled with a few songs. But, Imran and I had no program. We did not know who was speaking and which faiths they represented. The person who drove us had to leave because her daughter was sick. The person who helped us find a seat was an usher/greeter, so he was not able to sit with us.
We listened to the music. Unfortunately, I did not know any of the hymns being sung. That also was disappointing. I noted that Imran took my hand during the songs and prayer. This is always a source of comfort and reassurance. I remembered that I thought that had he been closer in the Mosque, I might have wanted to reach for the same comfort. There was a call for money, as the presbyterian church that held this celebration, also supports interfaith hunger initiatives/ both in Kenya and here in Indianapolis. I gave some change. I had to jingle some change and kind of display it to make sure that the collection plate is passed to me. That is our way (a blind person’s way) of letting people know that you do intend to put something in the collection plate. Otherwise, people will not pass you the plate. There are two reasons:
1. They may just assume that WE, as blind persons, have nothing to contribute. 2. They may not want to make us feel uncomfortable by passing us the plate, if we truly have nothing to give. It does put one on the spot. Usually, a sighted person can wave it away if they have nothing to contribute. But, with a blind person, there has to be some conversation.
After the service, I had to strike up a conversation with a woman behind me. She was polite, but not too personable. (Was it the blind thing; or the obvious intercultural couple thing)? There was a small reception afterwords while they served cookies and drinks. We met the pastor of the church briefly.
we did find someone to take us home. It was raining when we got home. The conversation did not go past the stage of small talk and it took our drivers (a father and son) a while to get warmed up. But, I am glad that I went. I realize that this is only their second attempt at such an event. I have some suggestions, though. And, if they don’t listen, maybe I will pitch them to the mosque who has hopes of hosting something similar when they get the space.
Suggestions for planning an interfaith event:
1. provide a united front. All of the clergy should join together both at the beginning and end of the service to show unity and genuine companionship.
2. Allow each faith to have an important part of the planning and time in the service.
3. Whenever a speaker gets up to speak, announce again who you are, where you are from, and give a small welcome/introduction message. It would also be polite to thank the speaker who spoke before you.
4. Whenever the choir gets up to do a song, announce who they are, where they are from and the selections that they will be singing. (It was not very disability friendly). The songs were in a hymnbook, but I did not know the words or who was speaking. They didn’t even tell us when to kneel, sit or stand. So, sometimes, we felt quite odd because we weren’t sure what people were doing…. and, we did not want to get into someone else’s space by standing/sitting too close as to know what their body was doing. Sighted people [not trying to generalize, here] seem to not have a problem with being the only few people in a row and seem to require lots of space between them and the next group; especially if that next group is a group of strangers.
5. Imran and I had to find people to help us. People did not come up to us and introduce themselves. It was obvious that we were new. But, all around us, we heard people greeting old friends and talking with people about: “/What are you going to do tomorrow? Want to come over?”
6,. Share a meal together. If you can’t share a meal or don’t feel comfortable consuming so much food when you are trying to fund raise for people who are hungry: then, have snacks, but let each church/mosque/synagogue/temple bring some snacks from people in their congregation. And, have them help serve it. this would also give people a chance to mingle with other faiths, more.
7. The Imam did not stay for long. Imran wanted to talk with him. It really did not seem like people were that desirous of forming new friendships or getting to know those outside of their own clique. To be honest, it felt as “interfaith” was just something to talk about. It did not seem that people really wanted to “mingle” with those of other faiths. When I mentioned to the family behind me that we were in an Interfaith marriage, the response was to change the subject.
Yet, the eternal optimist says that it is a start. And: I did hear some good prayers and some good songs and, at least we got out and were introduced to more of the community. We had a pleasant
conversation with the Pakistani family who took us to the celebration. And, just before we were dropped off, the atmosphere began to warm up. Who knows. And, now, at least, I know what this celebration is and can give suggestions on how to make it better.
We went to see my father on Saturday. My father, was at first, kind of chilly. And, I was a bit disgusted. The meat was ham. I think that my father was a bit put off because Imran did not eat Turkey, either. The first time, he did eat the turkey out of politeness. But, he just is not a fan of turkey. I keep saying,” Chicken or fish!”
But, I thought ahead and made some chicken patties. My father even let me cook on his stove without any hastle which is not normal because he usually is a bit nervous when I cook on a gas stove(blind thing). And, no one put up the three small barking dogs. Actually, they did at first, but as the evening wore on, the rules became less strengent until the little dogs and puppy were sitting on the kitchen chairs. I couldn’t believe that they kept letting them out of the room and just roam around. I felt as if I had to be a shield to make sure that they did not get to Imran. And, I shouldn’t have had to do this. They should have been more respectful. I kept mentioning it, but it fell on deaf ears.
My older sister’s children argue incessantly. I kept thinking: “At this rate, Imran will never want children.”
The eternal optimist says that things went well. My older sister opened up a bit more (she had virtually no one else to talk to) and he says that things will get better and better as we continue to see family. Besides, the optimist had some conversations concerning insurance and was able to engage my sister and father in a few topics. And, I got to see Kyler. I often feel like I don’t see him enough. So, all in all, I was glad that we went.

So what do the two visits have in common? Well, if everything is not planned out in advance, sometimes, I am a bit apprehensive. But, the Optimist (usually, not all the time) finds the good, the hope, the things that make outings worth while. And, I must admit that he is a bit more flexible than I am. He finds something to eat and does not say a word when family is so obviously pork centered. (two types of cheeseball with ham, as well as a whole cooked ham and sometimes even bacon in the veggies). And, he had to put up with barking growling territorial yappers. I have to admit that my father’s dogs are…. …. Well, …. …. Not well behaved! We have not even discussed how their political views are different than ours, etc. Yet, Imran goes and finds the good. This reminds me that I should not complain if someone has a problem taking my dog in their car. I need to be more flexible, sometimes!

I want to say that it is not that I don’t like going places. In fact, I want to go and to socialize. But, I do get upset when people don’t observe and respect other people’s differences. But, the Optimist just seems to forget the offense quite easily.
Hmm, I could be a bit less rigid and relax. Point taken.

Interfaith (continued)

April 29, 2010

Hello,
It is time to begin to unravel the Interfaith questions that I have had, yet have been hesitant to blog about.
This “interfaith” discussion has plagued my existance for months.
I have not written about it because, frankly, it is too raw and I wanted a bit of prospective on it before writing.
sometimes, I am not sure if I have any prospective at all — and this is after months, yet, I must write and hopefully, in that way, process some of the
thoughts and questions that I have.
since not many are reading anyway, I am not likely to encounter opposition — although that means that I won’t encounter wise thought either.
And, I must admit that it is helpful for me to see my writing posted and then analyze it again.
For better or worse, here are some thoughts.
Today, I’ll focus on the view of Muslims in the USA and how Church folk see them.
I will try to untangle that stereotype from the actual character of Muslims that I know. 
Portions of a letter that I sent to a friend:
“intertwining politics and religion.” 
Hi Hannah,
(the name has been changed because although it is my letter, it is to my friend and I wanted to protect her identity)
You talked about each side projecting anxious messages about the other: especially when it seems that they might be reaching for a more peaceful dialog.
Yes, I agree. It is certainly prevalent here in the USA.
I know that Christians are afraid that if they are “too peaceful,” or “too understanding,” they will be friends of the world and Satan, in particular. Someone
or something must be the force of opposition that we struggle against. The bible does say that the world will be against us and that we need not fellowship
with Believers.(I will find the biblical quotes in a later post)
It seems, though that there must always be two groups of people: the good and Evil. So, for many reasons,
Muslims have been chosen as that evil group. And, it worked/works for many reasons:
1. it use to be that “Muslim,” also meant “those of different less progressive countries, those of different colors and so the “them,” was easy to oppose
because the “they” were not any of “us” —  not in color and/or  nationality. 
2. Politics and oil fueled the fire
3. we are big “freedom fighters,” (now, no one knows why we have not taken up the cause for liberation in Zimbabwe as Robert Mugabe rules– I guess no oil
or diamonds in Zimbabwe — ), but since cultural ideas (the oppression of women) are mixed with religion, we feel it necessary to fight for those women
which also puts us at odds with Muslim men.  
    For me, it is easy to stand against these. Most people can’t distinguish between cultural practice and Quranic commands. There are now many White American
Muslims, so the “enemy” that they think that they are fighting is harder to recognize: not to mention that there are Arab Christians. Yes, I do believe
that the majority of people who claim to be Christians (sorry to say) are listening to political preachers and fundamentalist evangelists who are guided
by greed and propelled by certain political groups. Some are guided by scripture and their interpretation of it.  Most people that I know either do not
know muslims or don’t interact with
them on a regular basis. And, why would they? they don’t want to be seen as befriending the world.
{James 4:4
You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s
friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.}
 So, if they must interact with Muslims, they are cordial at best.   
Strangely, though, those who have no faith at all, seem to be much more friendly and accepting of Muslims.
In some sense, they empathize with the Muslim because the Muslim, much like themselves have been judged and deemed without or even Anti  God. thus,   they
negate faith altogether and become supportive.    
I moved to a larger City. This means: more diversity, more access to pub transportation, more feeling like a number, yet more ability to connect with likeminded
invividuals. That “connecting with likeminded individuals” is a myth because I have yet to find them. Admittedly, I have not visited a mosque, where Muslims
worship, but I was looking among my own faith.  I either find those who are so rigid that the concept of an interfaith relationship is unthinkable: or
those who
believe that “Faith” is unimportant to a relationship. These extremes have harpooned me.
Actually, I never believed that Islam was a violent religion or one that oppressed women. I continue to remind people of the christian Crusades, puritans,
Salem witch trials, American Slavery and even how we use our weapons today. Islam has nothing on us: so to speak.     
____________
Personal trials with faith and the world,
I have a dear friend — she use to be a dear friend and I called her my sister.
When I told her about Imran and I, she was supportive. Yet, over time, she has told me that God dictates that she is honest with me.  Which means that she
is quite uncomfortable with the fact that I am going to marry a Muslim. In fact, she seems to become more rigid by the day.
First, she was concerned,
then uncomfortable,
then oppositional.
So, I wonder: Where is this coming from?
Well, I don’t think that this is solely her interpretation of the bible. I don’t think that she is only standing on biblical principle.
Yet, let’s assume for a moment that she is.
The scriptures that she quotes include:
(From the Amplified bible)
2Corinthians 6:14-17
14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your
faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness? 
15What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?   
16What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and
among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17So, come out from among [unbelievers], and separate (sever) yourselves from them, says the Lord, and touch not [any] unclean thing; then I will receive
you kindly and treat you with favor,
&
2John 1:7-11
7 For many imposters (seducers, deceivers, and false leaders) have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge (confess, admit) the coming of
Jesus
Christ (the Messiah) in bodily form. Such a one is the imposter (the seducer, the deceiver, the false leader, the antagonist of Christ) and the antichrist.   
8Look to yourselves (take care) that you may not lose (throw away or destroy) all that we and you have labored for, but that you may [persevere until you]
win and receive back a perfect reward [in full].   
9Anyone who runs on ahead [of God] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [who is not content with what He taught] does not have God; but he who continues
to live in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ [does have God], he has both the Father and the Son.   
10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine [is disloyal to what Jesus Christ taught], do not receive him [do not accept him, do not welcome
or admit him] into [your] house or bid him Godspeed or give him any encouragement.   
11For he who wishes him success [who encourages him, wishing him Godspeed] is a partaker in his evil doings.   
____
Ok, now, it seems to me that John is telling the members of the Church of Syria not to accept those who were taught about christ and now deceive people
by teaching something different.
In any case, I find many more scriptures concerning our acting in love and kindness. Of course, this brings up the  question:
“is there actually inconsistencies in the bible?”
I will discuss this also further in a following post.
Just know that these are the scriptures that she condemns me with .
So, I would be marrying an unbeliever.
This is true.
But, that exact group of people that we are not to “socialize or fellowship with,”  is debateable. 
The first quoted verse, the one in 2Corinthians is the one most often quoted.
But, I continue to look for a deeper, more clear meaning of these bible scriptures.
Maybe I just don’t want to admit that  this is the true meaning and I am looking for justification.
Yet, when I remember how the bible was used to steel land, condone slavery, oppress wives,  depict dark-skinned people  as inferior, blame the disabled
for their disabilities and justify the killing of those in far off  lands, it leaves me questioning popular interpretation and compels me to search for
something more substantial.  

peeling off the label

April 28, 2010

Anyone would tell you that I dislike labels for a plethora of reasons. I feel that they are constrictive, misleading and one way that we as a society limit and impersonalize people. Furthermore, rarely, can we escape the stigma of a bad one, yet we can easily be excluded from a supposedly positive label. While “blind,” might tell you that I am unable to see, it does not necessarily mean that I count my steps, am a good musician, feel faces of others to understand what they look like, am mentally incapable of understanding complex thought and/or wear sunglasses to hide my eyes. In fact, “Blind,” (unless one uses the adjective [totally]) does not mean that one has “no sight.” It means that one has less sight than the normal and probably due to this limitation has to make some modification in the way that they view the world. I know blind people who are able to drive in certain circumstances. So, for this reason, and many others, I find myself rejecting labels and the people that feel it necessary to use them.

Yet, I have a need to find a lable to describe my specific brand of christianity. I find myself searching for a label that will fit: not because I want a box to fit into, but because I want to find likeminded people to fit into the box with me. Sometimes, not having a specific label, means not having somewhere to belong. It means, not being able to proudly proclaim something and having others affirm you in your stance. Yes, the thing about labels is that many have been put into the category that you are placed into. It is easy to suggest that I create my own space and my own definition of what I am and what I believe. Yes, that is forward thinking and a good suggestion, as far as it goes. But, within that creation and definition, one stands alone and is many times misunderstood. What that suggestion is really saying is “Do your own thing and don’t be afraid to stand alone until someone else finds themselves in a similar situation and joins you — in which case, you will be creating your own label for you and others to fit into and inversely reject.” People don’t like a fluid concept of belonging. They feel much more comfortable understanding “who” belongs and “who does not. And, there are certain criteria for one to “belong” anywhere. I must be “blind,” to be integrated into the blind community. I must adhere to certain idiologies, if I am going to claim to support a specific political party. So, where does this new brand of faith leave me?

I have searched for a church from the time that I arrived in Indianapolis. Actually, the last thing that I did on my computer before I packed it up was to search for churches. One of the first things that I did when I arrived in this city was to start calling churches. Because of my interfaith connections, I had lots of questions to ask them about interfaith issues, as well as issues pertaining to disability, transportation, beliefs and so on. I left many messages. No church seemed to have a secretary and the ones that did, took a message and promised to give me a return call. The calls never came. An amazing thing is that Imran came down to see me one week later and found a Muslim taxi driver to drive him to my house for a small visit. He, with one call, found a Muslim man to help him, yet, my calling all week yielded nothing.

What is that saying?

I must admit to being a bit fearful of churches. Most are fundamentalist and know nothing about Islam and would certainly condemn me for dating a Muslim. It does not matter that there is other points of sin within the church that they do not deal with. And, who really cares, accept for the point that any mention of “Islam,” or “Muslim,” yields such a strong reaction that it is overkill. But, honestly, there is just too much for most people to accept. First, I am blind. Imran is blind. He is a Muslim. I have friends of many different cultures and am open to learning new languages, cultural customs, etc. I believe in the sanctity of life. I adhere to a more “socialist” brand of Christianity than most Americans are comfortable with. I need transportation to participate in worship and church functions. Oh, I am unemployed, so am not of the socioeconomic background that would allow me to lavish gifts of gratitude on those who assist me. That is more than enough for me not to fit into their religious community. So, I look online. And, I find myself trying to craft a new label for myself: one that adequately explains my spiritual beliefs and one that I can comfortably live by.

Check out my written articles and comment at:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/487125/jan_wright.html
“Bonds of the Heart should never be broken!”
“Dil kay rishton kay bandhan kabhi naheen tootnay chahiay hain!” — Urdu translation

serving the community

February 23, 2010

I am a volunteer. I enjoy volunteering. I don’t do it for recognition. I do it because I believe that it is each community members responsibility to give back a bit to their community. I do it because it says: “I don’t have to get paid to give something in return.” Yes, I  I also put together an article about volunteers for those who are thinking about doing so.

Tips for volunteers

 I feel that it is required of me as one who has been given gifts from God and should use them from time to time to benefit the community without gaining anything in return.
Imran says that I volunteer too much and don’t get paid.
I agree that I want to get paid.
But, first:
it was hard for me to even volunteer as a disabled person. People were (still aren’t) sure what I can do. They are skeptical. They are more likely to accept me as a volunteer than a worker. This does not make me feel appreciated. But, it is a start.
Secondly, I feel that it is my responsibility to give of my gifts and time to benefit the community without receiving any gain in return. This, I feel, is an emotionally and spiritually healthy act and should be performed with some regularity.

So: what do I do to volunteer.
First let me say that I am moving because I still have no employment.
I have a four year degree in social work with a minor in sociology. I have had tons of family experience. But, jobs seem to elude me.
I would feel quite unproductive if I just sat around, so I volunteer in the meantime.
I do the following:
1. 2 mondays a month I volunteer my time/energy at our local soup kitchen. I help prepare food. This lasts from four to five hours per day.
2. two days a week, I perform data entry for our local animal shelter. I intake animals, answer phones, process animals out and make appointments. I spend about 11-14 hours per week.
3. I volunteer on livemocha and any other site to help people with their English. I use to make up lessons on the yahoo group: “The English Workshop Of Volunteers – 1a, 2a and 3a.” But, I also critique exercises and give instructions and feedback. I have not tallied up time because I am at home on the computer and lose track of time. But, it does take up a large portion of my time, also.

These don’t sound like much when they are written down, but they are significant.
when I move, I won’t be volunteering at the first two.
I don’t think that he likes me volunteering at the animal shelter. He feels that it does take up lots of my time and they do rely on me when they go on vacation.
When someone does go on vacation, I usually step up my commitment to every day because I know that they are short staffed.
they say that they would love to hire me, but the county won’t let them.
Imran is not an animal person, anyway.
But, he feels like they are taking advantage of me.
I concede that they might be using my skills quite a bit – especially when they are on vacation and they need help.
But, at least I have something to do and can put it on my resume for later.

interfaith discussions (Part I)

January 14, 2010

I must admit that I had many challenges to grapple with when it comes to Interfaith. In this regard, Imran has always been more optumistic than I. After hearing all of the crying Christians who married a madman Muslim and were perpetually the victims of abuse and unfair treatment, I was on the search for couples that had overcome their challenges in the context of religion. There were resources for christians (Prodistants) and Catholics, Christians&Jews, but hardly any between Christians and Muslims. Note:
Do’t read “Not without my daughter,” by Betty Mahmoody or “Inside the Kingdom,” by Carmen Bin Laden. I did not read the latter, former manage to finish the latter. Here is part of the resource packet at http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.co.uk and it began to express all of the things that I had thought about in my mind. There are not many interfaith email groups or listservs out there.
I found a site, but it is based in the uk, so even their meetings are not open to me.
The site is:
http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.co.uk
and it was quite helpful.
They offer a free resource packet as well as some online discussion forums.

Here are some of the questions that were posed.
**discussion questions:
(Each person should fill these out and be as specific as possible.
1. What do you believe about God? Is God one person or many? Is God categorized more by love or punishment? What is God’s function: to condemn, to spread love, to punish sinners, etc?
What does God command us to do: How can we share and witness without trying to convert, or are we suppose to convert?
2. What role does God play in your life? How often do you pray? What symbols of God do you have around your house? How many programs do you listen to that are about God? How much of your time, money and thoughts are given to spiritual things?
3. In your everyday life, how many of your friends are of the same faith? Would you welcome close friends of another faith?
4. do you pray? How? When? What are the parameters of prayer? Is that the only way to pray? Would you be open to other ways of praying?
5. What celebrations are important to you? describe them in detail.
6. How has God shaped your beliefs about marriage? Specifically, what do you believe that God tells you about Marriage? Do you believe that he says that interfaith marriages are wrong?
7. What roles has he ascribed for marriage partners?
8. When is it ok to divorce?
9. What does God expect of you as a person, marriage partner and member of a faith community?
10. What do you believe that god expects of your marriage partner?
11. How does your Holy Book instruct you to raise children?
12. Name some things that are abominable in a marriage.
13 How does God tell us to handle our struggles and/or those things that we find unacceptable?

more thoughts:
some important subjects might be:
Do you feel that you are torn between your family and your fiancee or
is it more between your desire and what you believe is “right according to God?”
If you inherently feel that it is wrong….. … BUT, I love him/her anyway, then, you are always going to be at odds with your faith.
The roles in marriage acording to God — men’s duty, women’s duty, power and submission.
What (that your partner might do in his/her faith) Would be unlawful to you acording to your religion?
In what ways might you support your partner in his/her faith without compromising your own?
How might you handle those overzealous people from your own religion who try to convert your partner?
How might you handle those who are from your partner’s religion? How might you like your partner to address such issues?

***Questions to ask yourself:
Do you like to work out your journey through life for yourself or do you enjoy being a
member of your faith group and family?
Are you generally comfortable ‘living outside the box’ and not being typical? Or do you like to know that you fit in and that you are absolutely at the heart of what’s going on in your community?
If approval of community matters a lot to you, it’s likely to affect a range of choices you make –
from where you feel most comfortable living, to how you see your marriage and your
partner.
Do you like your partner’s identity to back up your own?
How do you react in circumstances where your marriage and the compromises you have to make for your partner are seen as shameful?
Might you keep quiet about it, or would you be happy
presenting your difference positively?

Some people are like explorers, drawn to the unfamiliar and curious to
experience different cultures. If this describes you, the choice of an interfaith marriage
may feel natural. Sometimes a restless person can gain a real sense of ‘coming home
at last’ by immersing themselves in the new world of their partner’s culture. If you
approach religious difference like a spiritual explorer, swapping conformity in one
culture for conformity in another may not be a viable long-term option for you. This is
something you might want to consider as you plan your future, especially if your
partner’s approach to change and exploration is different. People in interfaith
relationships are not necessarily rebels, leaders, bridge-builders or explorers, but you
may sometimes find yourself playing some of these roles some of the time.

Some groups to help:
Support groups for interfaith and culturally mixed couples: Groups like these
offer emotional support, affirmation, and provide a sense of normality – showing that
other people face these issues and respond in similar ways.

Inter Faith Marriage Network http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.uk
Muslim Christian marriage support group: http://www.mcmarriage.org.uk
People in Harmony http://www.pih.org.uk/
MixTogether http://www.mixtogether.org

The resource package at the interfaith Marriage network is a comprehensive document and I recommend it for anyone who is thinking about being in an interfaith relationship.
note: women are more likely and willing to read and process the information.
Guys don’t as a rule, like to talk about such things for long.
But, if you are a clever woman, you can find small ways to discuss these issues with your mate.
Again, go slowly!

The first Entry

January 13, 2010

Disclaimor:
I have tried blogging before and (while I journal quite often) I stopped submitting it on the internet. I will try to do better. I am directly motivated by communication; so respond often!

    ***MY LIFE WITH A PAKISTANI:

There are several things that I enjoy thinking about and have made my attempts to blog about.
I have grown children and can talk about the joys and disappointment of motherhood.
I am blind and can talk about living with a disability, blindness specifically. I could elaborate on the National Federation Of the blind.
I have a social work degree with a sociology minor and could talk about societal constructs as well as the act of service.
My children are half white and half black (African American)and I  can blog about racism  and raising intercultural children.
I have been unmarried for many years and raised my children on my own. I could blog about being a single parent.
I can talk about the effects of infidelity, a manipulative x and divorce
Oh, and I am a Christian and he is a muslim. I could have endless discussions on faith, spirituality, Christ’s teaching and interfaith dialog.
Did I mention that I am significantly older than he is, so I could talk about the culture of Age Gap relationships.
But, this part of my blog is about Imran and while I touch on all of these things and then some; this part of my blog will focus on our relationship and life together.
I do reserve the right to expand my subject matter when I become too lazy to post different blogs on different topics or when they effect our present relationship.
I only mention his name because there are many who have the name “Imran,” and frankly, for you to understand my blog, I feel the need to be transparent. I realize that this brings with it many hazards, but I want everyone to know that I am a real person and this is a real journey. I am not embarrassed by what I write and stand firm to tell it as I view it.
I will be posting my story “Before Imran” either in a different blog, or at least give a link to anyone who cares to read it.
This is me: authentic and I don’t want to hide under any cloak of secrecy.
 
This journey: the interfaith, the intercultural one has already been quite trying, but we both hang in there.
With our particular relationship, there are just too many variables to keep quiet.
Maybe someone else reading this blog will take solace.
I will speak to the various issues that we face and I will try to be honest.
The only thing that I dislike about 
the blogs of many women in similar situations  is that they rarely mention conflict or difficulties or challenges.
I understand her desire not to be that open in an internet venue.
first, no one (she might feel) needs to know such things.
And, people might just criticize her for those challenges.
And, she might feel too volnerable to do so.
It seems that many people do.
But, for anyone who has been in a relationship with a Pakistani,
is blind with a blind spouse,
is in an intercultural, interfaith or age gap relationship,
needs for me to be quite honest about my struggles and defeats.
I will try to be honest and forthcoming with each and every emotion and experience.
I will be honest about my short comings, while in this intercultural/interfaith relationship.
I do this because I think that maybe someone reading this will take comfort.
There will be things that I suggest that won’t work for you and some things that I have a particularly difficult time with that my readers will not.
You will feel comforted: “At least I don’t have that challenge.” Then, there will be things that I find quite easy that you don’t.
But, this is one woman’s story.
There is just too much of my life that has passed and too much that I have yet to blog about.
***HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!!
I ENJOY COMMUNICATION! Please email me and leave any comments. I want you to understand my life and I welcome any thoughtful opinions.
 While polite and encouraging comments are certainly welcome and appreciated, a dialog of discussion, shared views, etc is preferable.
Not only do I want you to get to know me, but I want to know anyone who decides to read my blog and enjoys hearing about my life.
My blog is not meant to be lecturous dribble: but my attempt at communicating with everyone on the internet.
I will answer all messages — unless they are spurious or exhibit distasteful motives.
I would like Imran to post with me so that you hear his perspective, but frankly, he is much too private and that ‘ain’t gonna happen.’
So, I will try to give an accurate account of his side, etc.
I must admit now that there are things that I don’t want to mention and there are probably some things that I will leave out because out of respect for Imran, they are just much too personal to mention.
I will not hold back, however, when I am discussing my personal challenges and thoughts on most subject matter.

Any personal contact (email me) will yield direct communication.
Maybe my journey can help others. Maybe we can share our lives and tips to make our journeys more bearable. Maybe you can feel joy at my happy moments and derive pleasure from the things that I write.
I understand that many are more wise than I and I would benefit greatly from your counsel, suggestions and never shy away from opinions, no matter how unlike mine they are.
Please, however, always be respectful when sharing.
I am not technologically savvy, so if you want me to link to your blog or tag you or whatever, you will have to explain it step by step.
And, leave your blog address so I can stop by.

about me:
I am a blind woman, now in my 40’s. I have grown children.  I have a social work degree. I have many hobbies. I live in a small town, but will migrate to a larger city, soon.
That is just too many “I statements” and makes me feel quite shallow.