Sunday, July 31, 2011
Ramadan Kareem 2011
Tomorrow begins the month of Ramadan, which is a holy month of celebration, fasting, and introspection for Muslims around the world. There are Muslims all over the globe, but four years ago, I had never heard of Ramadan, and even if I had I don't think I would have spent any time finding out more about it. I lived a very secluded, sheltered life then.
Since moving to the Middle East I have become aware of so many cultures, religions, and even countries I had never known before. The diversity in the world is astounding yet there are so many commonalities too. I have seen many similarities among many religions. Mormons and Muslims have many things in common like believing in prophets, scriptures, and holding up the family as the rock of society. Muslims and Jews also have common ground like say . . . the same ancestors. The most difficult thing I have learned from my experience overseas is how even with so many values, beliefs, and practices in common, many people all over the world seem to look for divisive points to hold out and use as a wall or weapon against peace.
I was reading an interesting article about Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 2007. He said a very powerful thing:
"If you use your religion as an identity as opposed to a path to divine, inspirations and guidance, then you are no different than Crips and Bloods [gangs]," he said. "And I want to say that I mean that."
This statement impressed me because I think many people are guilty of using their faith as their identity, and then that identity as a comfort zone to surround themselves with sameness. Some Mormons I know are guilty of this and so are some Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. I have been guilty of this at times, much to my dismay. Moving to Qatar definitely forced me out of my comfort zone, but I think I was ready for that. I was ready to be released from my shelter of familiarity that had almost ceased to bring the expected comfort because I knew better. I knew that my little bubble of understanding was not enough for my own growth and progress. Now I'm not saying that people who are born in one place and then stay there all their lives do not grow and progress. Many people are able to open up their minds and their hearts to new vistas even when they live in a smaller (in distance) circle of influence. I guess I am one of those people who has to learn through experience. Now I know what Ramadan is . . . the only catch though is that I'm not feeling too terrible about being in the U.S. for the duration of the Muslim holy month this year and I don't even feel guilty eating and drinking openly during daylight hours! I guess growth and progress come to all of us at varying speeds. :) So to my Muslim friends I say "Ramadan Kareem", and if you happen to come and visit me in Utah, I will not partake of food or drink in front of you, and I will fast along with you next Sunday, but I am pretty happy about not having to sip my water on the sly while I am out running errands.