I was humbled to hear that I had won the Brass Crescent Award this week for “Best Non-Muslim Blog.” I’ve had a few thoughts since hearing the news.
First of all, thank you to those of you who took the time to go to the website and vote for me. Some of you even encouraged others to vote – thanks, Amanda Q!
I am particularly grateful to my friend, Daryn DeZengotita, who originally helped get my Ramadan posts noticed. Thanks to her advice and guidance, my story got picked up by KERA, WFAA-Channel 8, and the Huffington Post, to name a few.
But beyond the award itself, I can’t help but marvel at the openness of the Brass Crescent award organizers. The fact that they would even include such a category for the “best blog written by a non-Muslim which is respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue” is incredible. Can you imagine a “Best Non-Christian Blog” sponsored by a Christian website or organization? Neither can I.
This fact makes me extremely sad. Sometimes it appears that the desire for interfaith interaction is one-sided in America; it sounds like non-Christian religious folks are desperate for Christians to listen to them. They simply want us to take them seriously, to open up and acknowledge their legitimacy. They want to be seen as genuine religious partners, not as potential converts.
I know that there were Christians praying that I would convert some Muslims during my Ramadan experience, but I also happen to know that some Muslims were praying that I would convert (or “revert”, in their language) to Islam. I don’t believe that either result would have been true to what was really happening in the experience. Instead, I like to think that I was converted to a new understanding of the way God is working in the world. And I think I converted some others to that way of thinking.
A Catholic priest, Vincent Donovan, put it this way in his classic Christianity Rediscovered: “Do not leave others where they have been. But do not try to bring them to where you are, either, as beautiful as that place might be to you. Rather, invite them to go with you to a place neither you nor they have ever been before.”
That’s precisely what happened to me this summer. I discovered a new place where I can stand in solidarity and community with Muslims, a place where we care about the same things. It’s a place I had never visited before.
I am still a Christian, and Yaseen (my imam friend) is still a Muslim. Indeed, we hold our convictions strongly and confidently. But because of our friendship, we have moved into a sphere of compassion and care for each other and each other’s communities. We don’t need to, nor want to, convert each other or our peoples to the other’s point of view. Instead, we have found that we can occupy a new space in which our concern is the common good, the good of all humanity and the whole planet. And God is there.
This experience needs to be duplicated over and over, by Sikhs and Buddhists, agnostics and evangelicals, New Agers and Catholics, Wiccans and Baptists, Hindus and atheists.
I believe that this can only happen through personal friendships, through personal interactions, through casual conversations over dinner or coffee.
And that’s the conviction of my friend, Muhammad al-Amin, of the Deen Institute of North America. DINA has a simple objective — to connect every American with a Muslim American online so they get to know each other first-hand. “Personal interaction is the key,” he says.
He then had a brainstorm to create a big event where Muslims and Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others could get together in one place and meet each other. His big idea mushroomed into a festival event with special speakers, performers, and musicians. And the result is Waves of Unity, which will take place at the Dallas Convention Center on Nov. 11, 2012, from 2-9 pm.
I happen to believe that this could be a landmark event for the religious communities of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. If you live nearby, please make an attempt to attend. I will be there to lead a breakout session, talking about my Ramadan observance.
But I’m looking forward to making new friends. Come join us!