Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who's afraid of sharia law?

Today I got another chain email. This time it's an essay supposedly written by a woman Muslim convert to evangelical Christianity, warning of the coming sharia law in the US as Muslims in America begin to gain political clout.

I usually don't reply to chain emails but this time I couldn't help it. I wrote back to my friend who sent it and said:

Dear ,
I am very concerned about this kind of chain email circulating in our communities. I think it stokes our fears of the "Other" and makes us undermine our own faith in our professed democratic pluralism.

Even if the personal story of the writer is true, I doubt that the majority of American Muslims share her fear of shariah law ever taking over the U.S. I won't get into this lengthily here but I have faith that all of us who came to this country to find our personal freedom will be wary of any one fundamentalist doctrine threatening to rule our lives. (Of course, whether we find that personal freedom is another topic.)

This email could have been the story of one Filipina woman who was abused by an American man and then the word spreads that all American men are violent. Or the story can spread that a Filipina woman marries a white man to get a visa, exploit him, and then divorces him for another and then the story circulates that all Filipinas are the same.

Please let us be mindful of fear-mongering and let us not be afraid of other-ness.  Let us not forget that Filipinos in the US are still also considered "other" along with other communities of color. 

I just checked out the author of the piece you sent on wikipedia. She claims that she did not write the piece that is circulating. Also, her views should be considered as the views of a Muslim convert to evangelical Christianity and we know that an evangelical can espouse a dualistic world view that is just as sinister as its counterparts in the Muslim world. Is it really an either/or world with nothing in-between?

I hope you can send my remarks to the rest of your listserve. Thank you!
There is enough Fear circulating right now that is undermining our capacity for an ever widening and deepening appreciation for our diversity - religious views included. Our public discourse has been reduced to this "us" versus "them" or "West vs. the Rest" and we all suffer the fall-out from our lack of capacity to imagine how else we could view the world beyond dualisms.

Last week in class, we talked about jazz as life metaphor for improvisation; as the capacity to listen deeply to each other; the ability to create bridges instead of slamming doors in each other's faces; the need to learn how re-frame and reconcile rather than divide and conquer. 

It is beautiful to see that when my students listen to each other's stories, they develop a profound compassion for the one who is not like them. Then we remind each other that ideologies and discourses in the dominant culture would have us mistrust and fear each other.

How can we ever find our common ground if we  allow ourselves to be fearful? to be subjected to fear-mongering without critical reflection of what is at stake and who benefits when the people are afraid?

I know Fear intimately. I think about it everyday: I'm afraid of earthquakes, tsunamis, radiation. I'm afraid of oil running out; I'm afraid of soil erosion, global warming, etc. etc. The list is endless.

So I seek refuge in ancient stories about the Water of Life. I seek refuge in trickster stories. I seek refuge in the Beauty that takes my breath away. I seek refuge in the lemon, pomelo, apricot, pear trees in my small garden. I seek refuge in watching the finches feeding off the bird feeder outside my window. 

I seek refuge in writing...about this Fear...and allowing it to swallow me until the alchemy transmutes it into something else that is no longer Fear but Awe in the Mystery even if this mystery is tremendum. 

May all our fears become daffodils in the spring.

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