Posts Tagged ‘interfaith’

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.

Interfaith Watch (What is in the News)

June 22, 2011

i have tried to be low profile about interfaith. sometimes, it feels that interfaith subjects are taking over my life and emotions. … [how much to give, when to give, the boundaries of modesty, rules on cleanliness and eating, …] sometimes we reach for a balance, sometimes we honor the other’s beliefs, and sometimes, we say we will — but we fall short….
Just being real, here!

But, i must admit: differences&compromises in tenaments and expressions of faith do seem to overwhelm me at times!
It is a large part of our existance — Whether DH wants to acknowledge it or not.

anyway, we joined that Naiff (National of Interchurch and Interfaith Families) board as a Muslim/christian couple — a position that “I” (if no one else does) take seriously.
Since our wedding didn’t quite work out like I had planned or hoped (long boring story that I don’t want to rehash — at least, not now) ,
I was thrilled when someone else called looking for an imam to do an interfaith ceremony.
…. … maybe they can have that ceremony that I just couldn’t manage to get together!!!
(how exciting).
So, I sent them a questionnaire to verify exactly what kind of ceremony they were wanting,
[blended, alcohol? pork? kissing? dancing? mehr? and more] went on a search for Imams in their area and generally started looking at Interfaith articles, again.
i have already posted many links to Interfaith resources, so I won’t bore you with that again.
But: Here is an article that got lots of attention.
http://www.northjersey.com/news/123548299_Christian_Muslim_service_prompts_hate_mail_to_pastor.html?c=y&page=1
Now, i ask: What business is it to a person living in New Zealand, if a minister wants to hold an interfaith service? I understand wanting to be “globally aware,” but this is going overboard.
And, the most exciting moment – the hated Pastor admitted that he welcomes “interfaith couples,” at his perish! WOOHOO!
check it out!

Hear the Call of III (International Interfaith Initiative)

January 25, 2011

For the last year, I had tried to find interfaith resources and people in interfaith marriages. I found a wonderful group of Muslim/Christian couples. The problem is that their meetings are in Southall, London. Obviously, that is not going to work. I have written on interfaith issues in previous posts and if I was more technically savvy like most of you, I would point you to their links. SORRY! I just don’t know how! And, dh is not interested. (smile)
I even thought about starting a “meetup group” or something similar for
‘intercultural’ couples. This came from a desire for both of us to feel strong in our faith. I wanted a place where we could unabashedly explore and express our faith with others who held similar desires, yet were open to their partner’s faith. But, I had to “find” the couples, first.
There were a few problems with finding interfaith couples that live in Indianapolis or the surrounding areas.
I could not find any interfaith couples at all. Now, I found the Dovetail magazine which talked about interfaith families. But, there was no ‘interfaith family’ in Indiana that I could talk with. And, even if there were: it is most likely one might be catholic or agnostic or atheist. In this case, they don’t have the same challenges as a Muslim and a Christian might have. I have also discovered that
1. just because one is a part of a minority faith, does not necessarily mean that they will accept others from less prominent faiths. Now, I say this, but I know that there are more than six million Muslims (maybe 8 million, my reporting might be off; but at least, six), in the USA. [So, i guess “minority faith status” might be kind of relative], Yet, as I have reported, imran and I have not made lasting connections with either the people at a mosque or at a church. Is some of this disconnectedness due to our status as an “interfaith family?” I don’t have enough experiences with mosque going individuals to make a definitive guess, but I do know that in the case of church going people, the word “interfaith,” is rarely spoken and definitely somehow not applied to Christian/Muslim couples.
2. this is the Midwest, people don’t really like to talk about their faith, unless they are certain that they will be supported. Interfaith is kind of a taboo subject.
3. did I mention that we have trouble with transportation? so searching the state is just not an option for us.
4. ‘faith’ is so subjective. What might be important to me in my faith, might not be as important to you in yours.
5. We are talking about “Muslim” here. At best, his religion is ignored and at worst, it is criticized.
So, here we sit!
And, when Rev Michael and Barb Slater from editors of the “Together magazine and who are CoChairs of the National Association of InterChurch and Interfaith Families
http://www.NAIIFOnline.org
Posted a desire for a Muslim/Christian couple to join the board, I was thrilled.
Now, of course, DH and I are newly married, so I did not suggest us, specifically. But, the thought of another couple bringing their wisdom to bear on such a sensitive subject and the fact that they actually were open to such a Christian/Muslim couple frankly, thrills me to no end. Before now, they had focused more on varying cultures and traditions within more similar faiths. Some will argue that Christianity and Islam are similar, but let’s not get into that debate.
And, to my Hindu, Buddhist and other faith friends (I can’t spell sorry), I realize that, as of yet, Hinduism and other such faiths are not included. I am not sure of the reason, but as of now, the farthest I have seen “interfaith initiatives” go is to Judiism.
So, here’s my Q:
Is there any interfaith couple “Specifically Muslim/Christian,” who would be willing to serve on their board? I have just received information about membership and specifically board membership. We (due to our zealousness concerning interfaith issues and probably because they don’t know any other Muslim/christian couple [passionate or not]), have been extended an invitation to be a board couple. It sounds quite intriguing (to me) and not too burdensome (to DH). yet, I still wonder if “we” are “qualified” to do so.
Whether it be “US” or “SOMEONE ELSE,” , this is an opportunity for the Christian/Muslim couple to be heard. Hey, why not throw a bit of culture (Pakistani) and disability (Blindness) into the mix. I am all for diversity. And it would be a great learning experience and opportunity for us! But, honestly, I admit that another couple might be more qualified for the position and might do a better job at being an effective mouthpiece to show the positive side of an interfaith(Christian/Muslim) marriage, present an objective viewpoint concerning the struggles that an interfaith family faces and give suggestions and tips for those contemplating such an endeavor. They also might be able to dispell the myth of the spiritually stunted confused child; similar to the stereotypes you hear about when people talk about bicultural or multicultural or biracial children. The myth lives on despite the many who can prove its obsurdity!
… …. …
And, just as I was about to post this, DH sends me an email detailing plans from the International Interfaith Initiative to host some seminars at our Indiana Interchurch Center.
What????
We have an Indiana Interchurch Center?
There are five upcoming events in Februrary, alone. Hmmm, maybe February is “interfaith month,” which also happens to be the month in which DH has a birthday. (smile) He received this information from a Muslim email list that he belongs to. It seems that the members of the Muslim Email listserv are a bit more open to interfaith initiatives than their Christian counterparts. Now, I am under no illusions. “interfaith,” does not always mean “interfaith families.” And, I remember how much “interfaith dialog,” and “interfaith celebrating,” went on at the last “interfaith event” that was held close to the Thanksgiving holiday. But, it is a start!

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.

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

Conversion

February 9, 2010

01/10/2010
Ok, so as I am reading blogs like:
Gori Girl,
the Gori Wife Life,
Southern Masala
and Susie’s Big Adventure,
it occurs to me that if their husband is Muslim, the women have converted to Islam.
So, people might ask me why I have not converted to Islam, as my friendly bloggers have done.
Here it is in a nutshell,
my Christianity consists of the following:
Christ was perfect. Even Muslims believe that he was faltless. Of course, they believe what the Quran says about Jesus, not what the Bible says about him, and obviously, the Quran says considerably less than the bible says.
But, nonetheless, Christ was perfect. Now, there is the debate about “sonship” and I have read lengthy discussions and discertations on the subject.
But, what it all comes down to is this:
I want to behave and conduct my life as Christ conducted his life. I want to (as closely as I can) follow in his footsteps. And, I will continue to do so.
I will pray to God and Yes, I do acknowledge that we (The Christians, Muslims and the Jews) pray to the same God.
I will respect my Muslim life partner.
But, I will follow Christ.
And, we will live harmoniously because, Imran (I still will use his name and not an initial) respects my beliefs and supports my choices as well as how I behave and act in certain situations. and, I don’t try to control his beliefs or actions.
if/when we do disagree, I note that for the most part, most of our disagreements could be had between myself and other christians. so, it is not specifically religion that divides us, it is our own personal views.
In fact, I have found many Islamic passages that would support most of my actions. At least, those that are not connected to prayer, communion or church.
To convert would be to betray christ and I won’t do that. This is the bottom line.

family bonds

February 8, 2010

Family:
OK, family has a difficult time with our relationship. My oldest son is quite opposed and some of his opposition is for religious reasons. I had drilled it into his head that he should marry a Christian girl and my actions seem quite hipocritical. They are. But, maybe we should be more flexible on this point. Afterall, I know too many people who are married to “Christians” and their “Christianity” is not the same. They still don’t believe in the same things or exactly practice their faith together or in the same ways. And, I know too many christians that are just that, in name only. They say that they are Christian, but I don’t see the love anywhere.
I also realized that I tend to have different values than many of the so-called Christians that I meet.
They are more tolerant when it comes to war, capitalism and other worldly things.
I need to say that I feel like I am a
Democratic socialist Christian.
I have said it and any of my Christian friends who know me — they know that my actions fall in line with this.
I have even been called a “communist,” but just in the sense that I adhere to communal living and equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity. I feel a sense of community and tend to shun materialism and capitalism.
In fact, I don’t believe that Jesus practiced capitalism and neither did the Church in Acts:
so I would be happy with a more equitable distribution of wealth, etc.
If anyone wants to discuss scripture on this point, please leave a comment. I have thoroughly researched it.
(Sorry, I got off topic)
Many people (I find) say that they are Christian, but they hold on to envy, favoritism or their material goods. They support some sins and reject others. They justify the ones that they support. For example: let’s take abortion or even the death penalty. If God says not to kill, why are we engaging in these acts of baby killing, revenge killing or enemy killing? How can we love our enemies and kill them at the same time? So, are they really “Christian” in practice? There is a difference between
sinning unknowingly,
sinning and attempting to turn from temptation
and
sinning and justifying the sin or at least not turning from it.
I am sure that there are many scholars that have written on the subject and when I find such, I will try to insert these scholarly articles into my blog as a link.

In any case, I seemed to be a hipocrit and any attempt would be a justification of that stance unless I admit that my previous stance was wrong.
Here is my admission!
Although, I am not sure if it sounds more like justification.
In any case, we are together and we will proceed from there and if I am/was a hipocrit in this, I pray that the Lord make it totally clear to me and give me similar tests until I cease being someone who puts my desires before his will.
I am certain that he will continue to mold me!

His family has a problem because of my age. I am past (for the most part) the child bearing years. I feel some guilt about this because I want to give him a child and the chances are slim.
But, he has assured me that he can live with this fact and if he wants children, we have also talked about adopting.
I am inclined to adopt (at least four — but he would have other ideas) blind children: you know, disabled children are seen as unworthy of adoption. We would take them to live in America. I’d like to adopt a few blind children. No, I don’t have a hero complex. I know many adoptive parents who have this:
“I saved them from a fate worse than death — so many applause for my good deeds) kind of attitude.
I just want to find children that are in need of parents and opportunities and give them what they desire. And, we could bond as a family because I also know what it is like to be blind and in that way, we will have a connection.
But, that is my tangent.
I must admit, most people stay on topic when they are blogging.
I don’t. Sorry to anyone who is reading it, although probably it is just for my blogging benefit, alone.
His family does have serious concerns.
As far as his family, they would have rather arranged his wonderful marriage to a sighted Pakistani girl.
His father sent me a very polite letter asking me to discontinue the relationship.
Sure, there were a few stereotypes about American Women sprinkled about. But, I think that he thought that he was being quite polite.
It will be an uphill battle. Sometimes I think that I am not ready for such a thing.
There are other times when I feel that we will manage to overcome such obstacles.

And, I can’t say that my family is accepting either. It is just that I am the matriarch of my family — (my four children and I) and so although my children (especially DJ) will have a problem with the marriage, there is not much that he — or they can do but accept it.
If they choose to disengage with me — (which I seriously doubt that they will) then, I must accept this.
Actually, while I am relatively certain that they will not, I think that there still will be a period of disengagement and/or adjustment. I abhore family drama. I want our family to continue to be bonded and close. I fear that I am putting a strain on that bond.
Yet, I know that many life choices will put strains on family bonds, like a move, other decisions and so on.
Besides, DJ has been in Japan since May, 2009, so “disengagement” would mean, not answering emails and calls. He has already proven to be supportive, even when he does not agree or finds it hurtful.
He is afraid that I am replacing him. This is common for the oldest male in a single parent household. He is quite protective.
He is in Japan and in the navy. This, in itself, has put a bit of a strain on our relationship. I have another whole blog about my feelings as a military mother.
Now, I am not cold when it comes to family.
My family is quite important to me: especially my immediate family.
I yearn to belong and bond with a group of people and for me, that was my family.
My children and I have quite a strong bond and I don’t want that to change.
Imran knows this and supports it.
And, if ever his family comes to the USA, I will support his strong family bond, as well!
This means, in tangible terms: I will want them to stay with us, cook and clean for them and do my best to make them feel comfortable.
I know that there are many Americans that love their space and would not do this for their in-laws.
But, as he understands my infinite bond with my children, I will understand his with his parents.

more thoughts about beginnings and trials

February 8, 2010

Actually, I do wish that Imran would write on this blog. His memory is quite superior to mine and he would be able to add so much more.
But, he won’t and my memory will have to do.
In october of 2006, I went to get my first dog. I know, Imran and H. find dogs unclean. But, it was going to help me and we were only “friends,” and I could respect his desire not to touch the dog. My BFF/Sister (not biologically, but spiritually) was afraid of dogs and I would never try to get her to touch something that she was afraid of.
It was during that time away that I realized many things about myself.
For example:
I am sorry to say: I do not like California. It seemed that Californians had their own brand of sarcastic humor that I found quite offensive. They were quite politically correct with substantial minority groups, but that did not include people who lived in rural areas. I might be willing to reconsider my statements about Californians, but we (Imran and I) would have to be invited. (smile) [That is only because I will never turn down the invitation to travel, as long as I have a home to go back to].
I do have a blog about my guide dog experience.
janmily5.livejournal.com
One of the things that happened on that trip is that We, Imran and I, shared many intimate feelings with each other.
this, actually, did leave me in a quandry because I knew what my feelings were:
yet, I had children at home and could not understand how we might fuse our lives together.
Elephants:
*I was Christian, Imran Muslim!
This particular challenge would haunt me for months/more than a year to come.
*I was in my late 30’s and Imran in his early 20’s.
*I had four teenaged children and Imran was in college.

I asked myself:
Was I just lonely and needing to bond with a male?
I am not a model and I know that I have many flaws – But, there were other males who did try to get my attention. I dismissed them.
Was I needing emotional support because my children would soon be leaving the house and I was feeling volnerable? In fact, they had already started to test out the waters.
No, — ok, maybe that does leave me more available and more volnerable.
I’ll admit that. But, if it were just “needing something to occupy my mind and day” I could become more involved with the nfb(National Federation of the Blind) or do my volunteer work or move — which we will later find out is a source of both excitement and anxiety for me.
Was it that I was swept off my feet from the attitudes and behaviors from someone of a different culture? Was he being sincere? Was he actually as mature as he seemed?
The answer to the first was “yes.”
The answer to the second was “yes,”
and the answer to the third would prove to be both “yes,” and “no.”
And, to the thought that I just wanted someone to “need” me, I say: “imphatically not.” Just because I might soon be an “Empty nester,” does not mean that I would want another child. While it might serve to make me feel needed, it would kill any intimate feelings that I would have for him. You…. …. at least, I… … can’t mix the two emotions. That is, if I was with Imran because I wanted him to fill my desire to be needed, then, I would not want him as a husband. And, honestly, I don’t want my husband to be like a child. I don’t want to be his mother and I don’t want him to soon rebell against his wife/mother in such a fashion.
I **want** and always have, a companion most of all.
Imran, would hate this term.
I tried to explain that friendship was the most important.
But, he took this as a rejection of his feelings.
I must admit that I put off our relationship for quite some time.
I said that we should remain friends because:
1. I had teen children who would not warm to the idea
2. his parents would be similar to my children in nature
3. I did not know what to do with the religious parodies
4. I was unsure about the age gap and what that might mean for us.

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!