14 June 2007

Islam




On the last day of school, I sat in the cafeteria waiting for the first bell to ring. The tables were the emptiest I had ever seen them at that time in the morning, including my own, where I sat alone. As I entertained myself with thoughts about nothing in particular, I noticed the two Muslim girls at our school enter the cafeteria and take their usual places across from one another. I had seen them around the school, but had never seen them speak. I assumed they mostly kept to themselves and didn't speak to them, and they never spoke to me.

I had noticed that the scarves they wore were usually colorful, with flowers or splashes of bright pastels. I was curious about them, and perused them that morning more than I ever had before. The girl who was facing my direction saw me staring and gave a trace of a polite smile. I smiled back in my usual manner--my full lips spread in a wide, dimpled smile, but showing no teeth.

I thought I might like to say hello openly, to try and get to know them better, even if just for a day. I wondered what we would talk about, what their interests were, where they came from, how they felt about living in America. I wanted to ask them about their ideas, their hopes for the future. With my talk about Sustaining Faith in mind, I wondered how they felt about being the only Muslims (that I know of) in our small, almost-Southern high school. I wondered if they found it as tiring as I did to be a representative of my religion AT ALL TIMES, even when having a bad day. I admired their public profession of their faith that stands out even more than mine.

I was curious about their lives, their stories; but not enough to boldly speak to them. The first bell rang, and I left for my first period French class without another thought about them-- until now.

The video above comes from Dr. Wafa Sultan, an ex-Muslim woman from Syria, and a devout Muslim family. She practiced the faith until 1979, when a Muslim terrorist group called the Muslim Brotherhood, broke into the University of Aleppo where she was taking a class. They shot and killed her professor in front of her, screaming, "God is great." Sultan reflects upon the incident as a breaking point between her and the Muslim faith. "At that point," she states, "I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."

Her journey has led her on a dangerous journey. The above video was broadcasted on Al Jazeera in February 2006, and ever since then, she has received countless threats from Muslim extremists threatening to kill her. Her mother no longer speaks to her directly, and will only speak to her through her sister in Qatar. And still, she has not faltered away from the cause she has claimed as her own.

"I have no fear. I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles," she states.

After witnessing this woman's struggle, it puts the lives of these two girls into perspective for me. What has their family seen? Have they too watched a human being die in front of them? Are their colorful scarves a mark of their faith, or of their capture? Either way, it's not my place to judge them, and certainly not my place to hate them for something I know nothing about. There's obviously enough animosity in the world without us adding to it. I believe we are Sisters, and we have more to learn from each other than we have to hate.

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