Monday, November 16, 2009

The Muslims are Coming...

On November 15th, our congregation was given the opportunity to hear a brief lecture on the Muslim religion. Four members from the Bilal Musjid Mosque in Toms River visited our church in an effort to foster good will and open communications between people joined by faith through two remarkably similar religions.

First and foremost, I should point out that there are still an overwhelming number of people, poor of spirit and ignorant in their understanding that view the Muslims in an extremely dim light. The stark reality they avoid facing is that for every terrorist act perpetrated by a radical Muslim group in history there have been an abundance of terrorist activities and violence under the direction of the non-Muslim groups like the IRA, American Militia movements and various religious sects grounded in the Protestant faith.

If you believe that an entire religion, ethnic group or faith-based community should be treated as if their most violent elements typify the behavior and attitudes of the larger collective, then I should be seeing more anti-Irish emails or "Let's lynch the local SDA fellowship leaders" messages circulating in editorials. It seems that it is much easier to hate an entire group because of the acts of a few extremists if they are not directly from the mixed gene pool containing the average Caucasian American. When the Oklahoma City bombing took place, we (as a society) did not seem to look past the fact that the planners and perpetrators were a small group of US Militia sympathizers angry at gun control laws and the FBI-led debacle that was the Waco firestorm.

The first speaker, Dr. Hamza, began the lecture by thanking us for inviting a delegation from the mosque to our congregation. Apparently, after the events of 9/11, many in the Muslim community thought it best to keep a low profile and not make their presence an obvious element in a suspicious society looking for an outlet for their anger and frustration. This tact, said Dr. Hamza, probably served to make the local Muslim communities look a bit like separatists desiring to be kept in the shadows, though I can't blame the philosophies that fueled this decision.

What would have happened if the presence of local mosques was advertised or if the mob mentality of the ignorant masses latched onto the idea that a religious group tenuously linked to Muslim extremists through misunderstanding and miscommunication was practicing their services in our back yards? I can only imagine that there would have been some sanctioned hate crimes peppering the police blotters labeled as innocuous instances of destruction of private property in a best case scenario. The worst case possibilities are chilling to imagine when there were so many instances of people with any resemblance to Middle Eastern heritage suffering verbal abuse and harassment.

What would you have done in their place? Faced with possible harsh retaliatory reactions from angry locals upon taking on a more public approach to practicing your religion, or suffering a prolonged suspicion after taking your faith to a quiet simmer just below the level of local public consciousness, which would you choose?

How were Dr. Hamza, Brother Imam Alaa Ahmed, Sister Halla and Sister Valerie received and what message did they bring? How did their children fare?

Find out the answers to these questions when the second part of this post is published. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Philosophy of the Progressive Human

There are times in our lives when we feel that we are obligated to speak out against injustice, ignorance, oppression and similar social ills. The objective of this blog is to provide an outlet for a community of like-minded individuals where they can show a decidedly progressive side of human behavior that rises above the all too common examples of greed, stupidity, bigotry and selfishness that seems to be alive and flourishing in our society.

As members of the admittedly flawed human race, we authors and editors are not above certain levels of hypocrisy and even a tolerable amount of judgmental name calling. Justification can be found in our desire to enlighten the unenlightened and draw attention to people or situations where the simple concept of "Treat others as you would have others treat you" seems to be completely absent.

Some individuals maintain that it is their inalienable right to speak their minds because we live in a free society that prides itself in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and we are not saying that the Philistines, right-wing religious nuts and Republicans shouldn't have their say... The only thing we ask is that any rebuttals or reactive comments be issued in an intelligent and thoughtful manner. :)

Having stated the basic concepts powering this blog, I leave you with the topic of the upcoming post for the Progressive Humans:

"The Muslims are Coming - A Guide to Inclusive Behavior"