Saturday, March 03, 2007
Today I spoke at a Women's Convocation held at St. Christopher's in Speedway, IN. I've given various talks at St. Christopher, and several of our family's close friends attend services there. The women were an amazing bunch... warm and welcoming, open and deeply spiritual, you could just feel the goodness oozing throughout the room.

Sad to say, before the Convocation began, other people, not so welcoming, were outside handing out anti-Islam leaflets. They were quite clever... the simply welcomed the women who were arriving and handed them a pamphlet. Possibly some of the women thought they were handing out brochures, or programs, for the conference.

The head organizer was in tears over this incident (which left me at a loss for words... the depth of compassion she had for my feelings was very touching). Of course, it represented the exact opposite of what she had tried to achieve by inviting me -- a chance for Catholic women to gain some insight into Islam, the lives of Muslim women, and to be able to ask those questions they always wanted to ask.

For me, the incident really raised the issue of what is the purpose of interfaith dialogue. Initially, the point is to simply be informed of what other people believe. But at some point, dialogue about theology needs to move into real touching as people. I remember the Focolare event where people of different faiths weren't sharing "what my faith says about family" but rather, their own experiences of family. Of love, and loss. Yes, their experiences were colored by their faith, but essentially they were human experiences that we could all relate to.

I think we need a lot more of that. We need to have dinners together, be in book groups together, talk about our hopes and dreams, our joys and sorrows, because in the end, we are all the same. Only once we have made that human connection will racism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, homophobia, etc, fade.

Either way, interfaith dialogue is not about converting people. I briefly glanced at the pamphlet. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. For instance, is stated, Muslims don't believe Jesus is God. Well, that's true. Of course, I wasn't going to try to sneak in under the radar on that one. But some of the other stuff was not so accurrate. Clearly, the authors of the pamphlet, and those who were handing it out, didn't want good Catholics to be seduced by "false" religion.

But that wasn't the point at all. The point was to share info and to build a relationship, a sense of common ground, either theologically or as humans. Unfortunately, the people who really needed that, didn't come inside.

I've been meaning to ask for years, how did you arrive at your choice to become a muslim? I could never have predicted that! It's fun to have discovered your blog and to find that you have the same love of writing and exploring ideas as you did many, many years ago. But the underlying reasons why you would have chosen one religion over another escapes me; I haven't found that in your writings yet. On a not-unrelated topic, have you read much Joseph Campbell?

JDR, San Francisco
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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