On TV and in the newspapers of our state, we again hear and see the vicious and damaging words and actions against human beings who happen to be Muslims.
Especially we who embrace the Jewish or Christian faith need to understand that Jews, Muslims and Christians are all a part of the Abrahamic tradition—that same Abraham found in Genesis in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). There, he is the "exalted father" of all three religious traditions. With that fact understood, this might make us cousins, a hundred times removed.
Sadly, all religious groups have their times in history which they wish they could tear out of history books. Christians, for example, participated in four "Crusades" which were military expeditions from the 11th to the end of the 13th centuries to "recover" the Holy Land from the Muslims. How did these Christian Europeans reclaim this land? They did it by killing as many Muslims as possible. Hopefully we can learn from this history.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke at New York's Chautauqua Institution. (Imam is the title used for Muslim clergy.) Rauf explained, "For Muslims, what Islam means is an act of submission to the transcendent, the personal relationship of every human being to the ultimate truth of the universe. The Islamic tradition teaches that when God created Adam, he breathed a breath of divine spirit into Adam. The primary objective of the human soul is to know God. Within every human being—Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc.—there is the constant search for the face of God, for contact with God."
In the March/April issue of Nebraska Life writer Matthew Spencer titles his article: "Islam in Nebraska—Muslims find welcoming neighbors." His opening reflection is that some of the several million Muslims in America endure stereotypes and harassment, but in Nebraska, where Christian faiths blanket every community, Muslims are welcomed warmly into the fabric of the state and especially in Omaha.
The article introduces us to Samyr El-Rafaie, a 22-year-old. He follows the Islamic custom of wearing a traditional long beard. He dresses in formal Arabic clothing, but he also is at home in a T-shirt as he cheers for the Cornhusker football team. He says: "In Omaha I have found that people are very open and non-judgmental about aspects of faith, whether you are a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. They respect you for who you are, not for what you believe in."
Finally, consider the experience of Maisha Godare following the shocking horrors of 9/11. She and another woman were dressed in Muslim clothing when they shopped in a grocery store. Strangers kept smiling and nodding at them. She was bewildered at first, and then it was all as clear as a prairie sunrise. "They were just trying to say in a Nebraska way that we know you weren't responsible, that it doesn't represent Islam."
What about us, lions and lambs who live in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Crossville or anywhere in Tennessee? Don't we have as much hospitality, kindness and compassion for others as do those Nebraska folks?