This is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Photographed by a friend of mine who lives in the U.A.E.
The week that I had crossed my first year sober, my addictions counselor asked me a question… She said, “You’ve been sober a year now, what do you want to do for you?”
I really had to think about my answer. In the end I decided that, at age 35, I would go back to school, and complete my studies in a field that I had begun in, when I was only nineteen years old.
I did not make it into ministry through the front door. And a lifetime would go by until the day I reached the point that I would finish my religious studies “in the field.” Almost a decade in studies took place, and I got my two diplomas.
World Religions and Pastoral Ministry …
It was odd, getting sober, in the rooms, AND studying Religion, by the book. I learned about God, by the book. I found Him as real, IN the rooms.
A requirement that we were invited to do was, at each unit of study, in whatever religion that was, we had to in-bed ourselves in that particular faith community. We did not just study the books and go to class, we participated in every religion we studied.
Islam, was a unit of study. The good thing about Concordia University, is that there is a very high population of Muslim students, from all over the world. And in the Hall Building, the university set aside two rooms that are dedicated prayer locations, so that students can come and make their prayers and participate in their own community and not have to leave the university while they are there.
I have Muslim friends. I am intimately familiar with the Muslim population here in the city, mainly because of my participation in the Muslim community when I was a student.
For many Friday’s, I attended Friday Prayers with my fellow students, both men and women. Those first few years, after coming to Montreal, I had to find my own footing. politically, mentally, and spiritually. The many faith-based communities helped me find my way.
The way people hate so hard is common, around the world, no matter where you come from. In my case, it began at home. I learned how to hate hard by my parents.
Thankfully, I never hated that hard in my life.
People tend to hate what they don’t know, it is easier to hate, then expanding their minds to learn about others, so that understanding is possible.
In the United States, Americans live in a predominantly Judaeo-Christian society. What did we know about Islam, for a very long time? I had NO exposure to any other religion than Christianity and Judaism.
I was not introduced to World Religions on a grand scale, until I moved to Montreal.
My father lived in the thought that, He loved his country, fought for his country, and you either loved it or left it. New comers to the states, be they immigrants or religious minorities or religious communities, the “Other” was always viewed with suspicion, as if something “New” had come to supplant what was already there.
The old Judaeo-Christian conquest conflict of East Meets West, Islam is coming to the West to take over the world mentality, is pretty scary to people who grew up in generations past, with all they know of is Christians or Jews, to have to expand to open themselves up to Islam, or Asian religions, or South East Asian religions was preposterous and not to be attempted.
People tend to freak out, as we have seen over the past fifteen years since 9-11.
It is easier to hate everybody and not know why we hate, then to figure out who we hate, and why, and not pigeon-hole Everybody into One Lump Hatred Society.
And by Everybody, I mean that because of some men who choose to do what they did, we hate all Muslims no matter where they come from, because we saw One thing and came away with One opinion. Because we were fed that opinion by the media.
We did not spend any time learning for ourselves what was either True or False.
And the way the media and society spins that hatred is mind-boggling.
And depending on where you live, that hatred is spun into an evangelical frenzy.
Evangelicals are some serious people who believe in a set way of life, with set scriptures and set teachers and believe they have ALL the right answers, no matter what ever info exists to the contrary.
Hatred, in many places, is as potent as Evangelical Frenzy.
Because Hatred that lives in an Evangelical vacuum is seriously dangerous. You cannot teach anyone who lives with evangelical truth or hatred, Anything… Because they know who God is and He is Christian, and nobody is going to teach them anything else, from any other perspective.
God said it, I believe it, that settles it …
I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the Quran. I’ve read it. Learned about it. I have a Quran in my reading library. Islam is part of my life today, because you know, there are Muslim men in the program of recovery here.
Many of them are my friends.
Before you judge ANYONE else based of country of Origin or Origin of Religious faith, take a step back, and think about respect and dignity. Think about their humanity. Think about their families.
You cannot go very far in Montreal, without meeting someone of Muslim faith in any shop, any restaurant, or any service industry, in this city.
The Middle East – all of the Middle East is fraught with serious conflicts.
Middle East religions were not part of educational curriculum when I was a kid in school. That was not introduced until University here in Montreal. Many, MANY people in the West know Nothing about Islam, but for what the media feeds them on any given night from television.
Or from the pulpits of their churches.
And the more evangelical that news presentation, the harder the hate and misunderstanding and misinformation. The harder the media tries to paint ALL of Islam by ONE brush, with ONE vision, and only ONE understanding, what does that do to those who are fed that message ?
They hate as hard as they are fed that message.
Do you know Muslim men and women, Do you know their families ? Are there Muslim citizens living in your community ? Do you know or do you even care ?
Hatred and Islamophobia is alive and well here in Canada. We are not immune to the messages of Hate and Exclusion. Social Media and right leaning news organizations fit that bill very nicely, not to mention the media that comes out of the United States.
You cannot blame ALL of Islam, for the failings of certain specific communities. We should not paint every Muslim man, woman or child with the same brush.
For decades, the Middle East has exploded into calamity. That portion of the world, that is so Steeped in Religious history, is fraught with complications, like I mentioned earlier.
The Powder keg that is the Fertile Crescent has fallen into mass civilization destruction and genocidal death.
Where do all those people go to flee war, killing, death, starvation ???
Europe is on their doorstep. And we all know how that turned out.
For the Christian West, as happened, was the bastion of freedom, of life and of the pursuit of happiness. Why would people NOT come to the West, to seek a better life for their families? And why as we, as Christians, not welcome the refugee ???
I mean, why does the Statue of Liberty stand in that Harbor, welcoming the huddled masses from all over the world.
We have forgotten or refuse to admit, that North America began with people who came from someplace else FIRST…
I mean, do we all get that Jesus was a refugee ? That when he was born, his parents took him from his home and fled to Egypt because of King Herod wanting to kill him ?
Do we all get that Jesus was not a Caucasian white man ? He was of Middle East parentage, and had Middle Eastern looks, and a life spent living in the Middle East, and preaching there as well ?
So why do we hate so hard, when Jesus taught us how to treat each other with Love and Charity ? I don’t get how you hate so hard and believe in a God that taught you what you should do, and in reality, you could not be bothered to accept the “Other” and love and respect them as God has taught you to.
All because they worship God in another form and tradition, and that threatens your safe and sound ideology that does not serve you well.
In fact it makes you hate harder, instead of Loving your neighbor better.
If we loved as hard as many Hate, the world would be another place …
That is what the rooms teach us. How to love ourselves, and each other. And we learn to serve each other, in the least of these on a daily basis.
Lessons the world at large could really benefit from.
Right now, here in Quebec, our Muslim communities have opened their mosques to the public, for us to come and participate in and learn from their community.
Will you participate ?
Hatred is NOT a Christian Value.
In fact it goes against EVERYTHING that Jesus taught us.
The reason so many people hate as hard as they do, is because they listen to only those people who feed that kind of fire. I call it Evangelical Hatred.
Evangelical hatred is much more energetically potent vehicle because God is behind that kind of hate. Gay men, during the AIDS crisis and to this day, suffer that same hatred by many.
Now the world is saturated with this kind of hatred of Islam and the “other.”
Hate everybody, because that’s what we are told to do by those who teach hatred from their pulpits. And all those people, voted for the man, in great numbers, who just banned Muslims from seven specific countries in the Middle East and Africa.
But he did not ban Muslims from countries where the President has business ties.
Hmmm … Business Security comes before National Security.
We cannot live in a world of peace, until we end systemic and evangelical hatred.
Systemic evangelical hatred is poison for the soul.
It tarnishes our souls, and separates us from truth and love.
It pits One God over Another, Allah.
Jesus against the Prophet, Blessed be His holy name.
Religions of the world exist.
And we are all here, because our God created us, and gave us a faith of origin. And what right do we have to be judge, jury and executioner, to say that one religion is the Ultimate Religion, and Truth, and that No Other Religion or Truth will be Listened to, Learned about, OR Accepted as Legitimate.
We sit in the balance of the war between the Christian God of the West versus that Muslim God of the East.
Nobody will win this war … More will die to defend their faith, than will survive it.
Where will you stand in this religious battle for truth ???
Will you love or will you hate ?
God weeps that we have let our world fall into this abyss of conflict.
When it all comes down to LOVE.