The really funny thing is, I got into an argument over the internet with some kid on this very topic. He posted a link to an article about Muslims who threw rocks at elderly Jewish men attending prayers. He added a small remark identifying the violence latent in one of the top world religions. And I in all my foolish could not stand by and let an opportunity for argument be lost! I told him that the Qur'an says that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are cousins in faith. That Islam was a religion of peace. That radicals and extremists are not representative of the religion holistically. I snubbed his findings and essentially called him a liar.
And when I said I, I felt like I had the authority to say it with accuracy. That's the ridiculous part. I thought because I had read a lot of the Qur'an and completed an intro to Islam course and was all packed to spend a two-week immersion amongst Yemeni Muslims, that in light of all this, I was qualified to make an assessment of his assertion.
That's what I get for letting myself get all puffed up with an empty superiority!
When I arrived in Dearborn, all of this came crashing down. Was it the bars on the windows and the locks on the doors of all the Muslim homes we passed, homes where wives were caged all day while their husbands were at work? Was it the documentaries about the three jihads and the ground zero mega-mosque and the child brides and the wife stonings and the terrorism training camps and the birth rates and the fear communities? Was it the talk on Shari'ah law (supreme over all laws) and taquiyya (doctrine of deception) and abrogation (what comes after erases what comes before) and jihad (holy struggle) and tribal intimidation? Was it the countless stories of spiritual warfare, of naive conversion? Or was it when my heart started fluttering faster than I'd ever felt, as the imam lost his temper and condemned our Christian intolerance, wrapping up with an "I'm sorry" and "just kidding!"
I sat in the cushioned half desks of the women's ESL classrooms and thought to myself: everyone has to know. Everyone ought to know.
Hearing the stories of spiritual warfare sent chills to the very pit of my stomach. Every night before falling asleep I rolled over on to my side, and breathed deeply, able to dispel the fear because of the intercession from people back home. On every side we were protected: spiritually, physically, emotionally. I sat on the floor in the front of the mosque listening to three little girls whom I'd grown to love, listening to them sing "We are Muslims" to the tune of Frere Jacques. Fear washed over me, thinking of their expert brainwashing, the poisonous lies flowing from the imam's mouth as he encouraged the children in their Islamic studies. Our host explained the glass box of Islam: no matter how nominally you practiced, as a Muslim you must believe the Qur'an. And it teaches some scary things . . .
There were innumerable blessings on every turn. We were just a short-term missions team, with little to no opportunity to form relationships ourselves, only with the focus of supporting the work of our hosts. And yet, our night at the park left us with dozens of new friends. The next night at the BBQ they came back. An Egyptian woman invited us to her house. An ESL student took my hands in hers and murmured "I love you." Our host beamed with approval as the ladies drew with henna on our skin, and as we played worship songs for their entertainment. Never have I met women so warm and friendly, so desperate for relationships, so thirsty for a sympathetic ear.
Western culture at large has it so backwards, you know? Islam is an innocuous religion, but Muslims are weirdos to be feared. Who'd've thought it was the other way around? That Islam is the very darkest and pervasive stronghold, and that Muslims are precious people in dire need of freedom. I know, I know. Duh. But there's something so precious about learning it first-hand, in feeling how difficult the cultivation, but also tasting how sweet the fruit. And so in two weeks I progressed: from naive to angry, from angry to heart-broken, from heart-broken to hopeful. In Christ is the victory. Amen!
If you don't yet know what to do with your life, get ESL certified. The barred door into the Muslim community all of a sudden cracks open just a little bit . . .