Thursday, March 26, 2009

Insulting Muhammad in downtown Chicago!

It was a Friday. I was walking to the downtown mosque for the weekly collective prayer. As I was waiting for the light to cross the street, the man standing beside me started talking, or preaching. He was nicely dressed and looked decent, I looked at him and smiled, may be one of those smiles that try to say, thank you, I respect what you have to say, but I am not interested! Then I thought hearing him say: “Muhammad is down”. Then it was clear, he came closer and enthusiastically acted as if he was crushing something under his shoe, repeating: “Muhammad is down, Allah is going down”. It was a little surprise. I came across many well-meaning preachers before who stand in the streets and talk about Jesus, but I knew that none of them would publicly insult another religion; even if they believed that Allah and Muhammad are going down, they still wouldn’t say it out loud in the street.

For a while I thought the man wasn’t in his right mind. And for some other reason I didn’t feel at all offended, even though I believe in Allah/God and believe that Muhammad is a messenger, and a role model for all humans. I even thought it was funny! And to make it even funnier, I turned to him as he was insulting Muhammad and said: “Well, I am Muhammad” Then I looked at him again, smiled and repeated louder: “My name is Muhammad!” As I was now crossing the street and leaving him behind I looked at his face, trying to see the effect of my words. I thought, the guy is either not very normal, or he judged by my look that I was Muslim, and he was deliberately saying those words to me.

I have no intention whatsoever to use this little incident to play victim and give a proof that Muslims are not well liked in America. Even though they are, by some people. It’s just a human nature. I know it. I don’t think it’s right, but it’s a fact of life. The same stupidity can also be found in some of my people (Arabs, Muslims, Egyptians). People are all the same, everywhere. They have the same choices to make, no matter what color they wear or what country and culture they grew in. For an Arab, the choice can be whether or not to hate all Americans, because they hate Bush and the American foreign policy. For an American of today, the choice can be whether or not to think that all Muslims are violent, beat their wives and hate Americans for no reason. Well, a few decades ago a white American had a different choice: whether or not to go with the flow and disrespect a black human being because of the color of his or her skin! People are really the same, and the choices are the same, just with different circumstances and different names.

The Quran says that God made people different, and had He wanted to make them all into one nation, He could, but He is testing them with one another. I strongly believe in this concept. I don’t hold a grudge against this guy for insulting Allah and Muhammad, gosh I believe he deserves pity. I also believe that there is a lot of good in this country and its people, and I am confident that more and more of them will respect my religion if they just got a chance to “know better”. Knowledge. It’s a true savior! However some people will remain ignorant, no matter how much information they accumulate. Knowledge is a quality of the heart and the mind, hand in hand. I remember how the prophet Muhammad used to pray God to protect him from knowledge that would remain useless and from which he wouldn’t benefit. People need education. But nowadays we tend to forget that there is education of the mind, and yet there is one education that is the real base; it’s the one that makes education of the mind ever useful and good. We need education of the heart. It’s why God sent all those Messengers and revealed His Books.

Like learning a language, or studying for a degree, we don’t expect it to happen overnight, nor do we think that we will learn Spanish the moment we are told the rules of grammar and meaning of words. It will take time, and it will take practice. The same applies to educating our hearts and building our character. It starts with a conviction that, for example, being mean to others is no good, that we really should treat others the way we like to be treated. Once we know that, we will start a journey of falling and getting up, practicing, making a mistake then realizing that we made a mistake and committing not to make it again, etc. It’s the best education we will give ourselves, and it will get us the highest “degree” of closeness to Truth and Good/God!

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