As I read on (the Qur'an), I learned many things like God is One, fighting is only ordained in self-defense against oppression, respect for others religions and places of worship, Muslims believed in the Prophets of the Bible and in Jesus albeit a little differently, but heh there were Christians that believed the same things about Jesus too! In other words I found none of what I expected, I found no smoking gun, what little so-called violence I did find was nothing more than historical happenings; that didn’t shape the larger context of the Book calling for patience, prayer, and balance. It didn’t read purely as a historical book although there was history in it, it didn’t read purely as a book of dogma, although there was dogma in it, to me the most remarkable thing to me was that the author seemed to be speaking directly to me and not through 3rd and 4th parties. For every question I asked there was an answer, for every answer given, the text itself asked me a question. The Book forced me to think; challenged me, and reasoned with me. This was a book of reason, this was a Book of discussion, this Book made me stronger in my desire for God. Any book that could do that in of itself, without the aid of a person reading it to me had to have divine Origins!
Of course, this began to baffle me. Emotions began to be confounded at times, I didn’t know what to think, but I knew one think, I believed in this text and I wanted to be part of those who did. Obviously those murders couldn’t have read the same book! We must be reading two different things.
I began to care less and less about the murderers and what they got out of the text and more and more about what I got out of the text. Somehow they got murder and intolerance; I got love for God, man, and peace. No more did I have to believe that those who didn’t believe as I did were bound to hell, now I could believe in the unity of faith, I could believe that all of mankind was destined to God and God loved everyone not just an elect group!
Naturally, all of this shook me at my foundation my core, so the best I could do was share these thoughts with my mentor and pastor, my grandfather. I expected him to chastise me and tell me satan was confusing me, but instead, he said he believes Islam to be on the same path as Judaism and Christianity, he believed that they all have a central Origin and a central destination. He believed that while the family of Abraham (peace be upon him) didn’t always agree on many points, they are still family nonetheless. At that point, slack jawed, I realized that my new ways weren’t a hindrance or some kind of satanic confusion, but another path and journey God had put me on, He knows what he is up to.
This all happened within weeks of 9/11. Imagine the surprise to all those I knew when I told them I was converting to Islam. Imagine the surprise when I had my dog tags and records changed from “Christian” to “Muslim.” Many didn’t take it well, and many don’t today. But faith is like that. We don’t often have as much control as we would like to believe. If we truly believe then we will be able to carry our cross no matter what.
And talk about a cross to carry! I have been called it all: Naive, traitor, fake, etc. I have been told that I never was a Christian or good Christian to begin with and that’s how I left so “easily” as if they know! I have been asked how I could change to the enemies' religion while my country was under attack, my service has been questioned, my loyalty, etc. etc.
The problem is many can’t or won’t separate the religion from the people, unless of course the religion is Christianity or Judaism!
Never mind that I served another 3 years honorably in the Marine Corps as a Muslim. Never mind that I have worked for this nation's highest office as a Muslim, never mind that since the Marine Corps I have worked and served in agencies many other Americans only dream about, can only see on the outside, and in many instances don’t even know where they exist! All this as a Muslim.
But I digress…All these years, not much has changed. Many still hate Islam and Muslims, many Muslims still defend their faith and themselves, and many Muslims still commit the actions that help fuel the flames of this hate. I just pray on this day of reflection, that we as Americans, that we as humanity begin to reflect more on our similarities then our differences. I pray that we overcome our prejudices and ignorance and learn to work together. I pray that we come together to destroy radicalism and extremism in all it’s forms. I pray that we realize that it is our differences that not only make God Great, but give us a reason and drive to want to get to know one another.
“O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” [Qur'an, 49:13]