Friday, September 10, 2010

Eid mubarak

Submitted to the local paper:

I’ve been really troubled by the eruption of hostility toward Muslims in America that has been touched off by the proposal to build a house of worship and community center near Ground Zero in New York. I have a number of friends who are Muslim, and from them I’ve learned a lot about the world’s second largest religion, and also about the world. I’ve learned a lot about the value of regular prayer. I’ve learned a lot about charity, which is one of the duties of Islam. I’ve learned a lot about discipline. It takes discipline to fast for 30 days during the daytime, not even drinking water. I had the great good fortune to be introduced to the religion by a woman, an accomplished professional. I don’t think Islam teaches that women are subordinate any more than Christianity does. Cultures may get that wrong; cultures also get wrong the Christian teaching of nonviolence with distressing regularity.

Apart from whether there are rights or sensitivities at issue with respect to building the Cordoba Center, I see this matter mostly as unneighborly. Muslims aren’t them, folks - - they’re us, if “us” means Americans, neighbors, and local residents. Thousands of Muslims live in the western suburbs; I’ve eaten gracious Ramadan iftars – meals to break the fast – with some of them. I wish them all a happy Eid, the celebration that marks the close of Ramadan.

I work as a book reviewer and recently received a beautiful new edition of the Koran from the publisher Oxford University Press. To stand with, and better understand, my Muslim friends and neighbors, I’ll be reading my Koran on Sept. 11, not burning it.

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