Sunday, November 07, 2004
break bread with my brother
I know a lot of people here in Japan and I have a lot of friends... but true to my personality, I have very few close friends. I can probably count them one hand.
So last Friday, when I my friend Selman (Sel) invited me out to dinner out at his mosque, I took the invitation seriously even though I've been feeling a bit sick lately. For the uninformed, it's currently Ramadan, the sacred holiday in Islam that celebrates the time that Mohammed fasted, prayed, and was given the Holy Quran. Modern day Muslims in recognition of the event do the same - they fast during daylight hours, abstaining from all food and drink.
From a worldly perspective, many people would think it's odd that I consider Sel my best friend here in Japan. Maybe one could possibly imagine a sitcom with a Christian Chinese American from Seattle (me) and a Muslim Indian Canadian from Toronto (Sel), but most people just don't get it - because our friendship is based on a spiritual connection, a faith in one God, and a conviction that our actions, and our perspectives must stem from that faith.
And in a modern world where people consider having faith in God to be "backward" and "primitive", many people (including Japanese people) can't understand why we're friends.
Eating at the mosque with Sel, talking with his brothers there, of course our conversation turned to the world, the US, religion, the recent American presidential election, and the politics of the Middle East. The funniest exchange of the night at the mosque was with Sel's friend Ash, a recent arrival to the English teacher set here in Japan.
Ash: So what do you think about George Bush and the Republican Party claiming to be the "Christian" party?
Gar: I resent the fact that my religion and spiritual beliefs have been hijacked for dirty political purposes.
Ash: Haha, welcome to the club.
I felt honored to share in a holy meal with Sel at the mosque. Because honestly, I've felt more welcome and at home there than many wonderbread WASPy "Christian" churches I've ever visited.
For a country founded on the belief in religious freedom, modern America is awfully suspicious of people who are religious. It makes me wonder if many "Christians" in America will ever realize that Islam and the true believers of that faith are not our enemies.
Americans' own ignorance, cultural imperialism, nationalism, and (white) ethnocentricity is.
Free your minds.
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