This year I’ve been learning more about Islam. This is mostly because of a co-worker that I’ve become friends with who is Muslim and really likes to have spiritual discussions with me. I also have another co-worker who practices a different flavor of Islam that I talk to occasionally, and this week I’ve been asking her what she does for Ramadan. Today she took the day off for Eid, which is the celebration of the end of Ramadan, and from what I’ve been reading about it, it actually sounds like a really good time, on top of a very full spiritual day.
I’ve also been listening to an audio book version of the Qu’ran. What I’m finding fascinating, and what my friends at work would agree with me on, is that the Qu’ran has the same problem as the Bible: different translations will have different interpretations of the laws and traditions of Islam. What I found interesting is that there are some pretty sensible ideas regarding things like divorce in the Qu’ran (basically, if you think you need to divorce, you separate for a month to see if that’s what you really want, and if, after the separation, then living together for another month, you still want out, then it’s done). There are passages in there about treating women with respect, and equal ownership of property.
Yet, further along, you find the passages that the fundamentalist radicals latch on to and use to do great harm.
Doesn’t this sound familiar?
One of my friends asked my opinion the other day of the pastor in Florida who thought it was a good idea to burn copies of the Qu’ran as a memorial for 9/11. It sounds to me like a ploy for media attention, especially since it is the end of Ramadan and the 9th anniversary of 9/11. Generally, the burning of any book is disgusting to me, but this just smacks of the fear that some people in this country have of a religion that is different from theirs. I get this, since my practices aren’t understood either. What annoys me the most about the mostly Christian anti-Islamic sentiment is the fact that both religions have the same roots. And the same unfortunate violent past and present.
Both Jesus and Mohammed wanted the same thing: love, compassion, prayer, and helping our fellow human beings. Jesus died on a cross to help God understand what his followers went through. It was violent and bloody death. While Mohammed grew to old age, he had to go through war to again help God understand what humans can do to each other. But in the end, both ended up preaching that love, compassion and non-violence was the way to win the day.
These are hard lessons for humans to learn. We can be passionate, greedy, domineering, violent, destructive, and cruel to each other. We latch on to things that make us “the same as” and find ways to shame, shun, or excuse violence against “the different”. This is in spite of what religion someone is.
To put it bluntly: is there are real difference between Timothy McVeigh and the 9/11 bombers? Or Westboro Baptist Church and Al-Qaeda? How about Pat Robinson and Osama Bin Laden? The hate and anger are the same. The rhetoric is the same. The need for conversion is the same.
I think we could learn from the celebration of Eid. It is a day of prayer and celebration. Let us not burn books, or throw bombs, but let us celebrate being alive and say prayers for peace.
That, it seems, would be a more fitting memorial.