So about two years ago I got in the habit of asking my audience to write down what they think when they hear the word Islam/Muslim before I begin my presentation. Although my audience has ranged from Police Department to soldiers deploying to a predominantly Muslim country to healthcare professionals, the majority of my audience has been college students in various disciplines and majors. I've kept all of those notes and I plan on collecting more. I am hoping that one of them days I'll find me a poor college student who would collate all the answers and then publish them. Because the answers to the question tell a completely different story from what we're being led to believe as the current American attitude towards Islam and Muslims. They also tell of inquisitive minds and spirits that are anxious about the future of a world that seems to grow more and more intolerant. But what those minds don't see quite yet is the light that they are bringing with them as they go through the dark times. We should treat them all like we would treat a delicate candle sparking its first flickers of light.
Peace and love to you all.
How are you?
A question often asked in passing, in an exchange of pleasantries between two people. A question that is almost always answered in the same casual vein in which it was asked. It's as if we've become conditioned to consider deeper discussions about our wellbeing a social faux pas. Time is money in our modern capitalistic society, and money cannot be made by talking about “emotions.”
Such shallow niceties are so fragile that a simple test of what we supposedly stand for as a society has sent our collective moral compass in a spinning frenzy. No wonder we are broken.
How often do we stop and think about how we drone on as supposed members of a supposed society without much consideration of our fellow human beings? Many of us have deep feelings, thoughts, worries and aspirations, but how many of us know that about each other? No, I don't mean doing that with the random person on the street. But what if we truly took the time to do so with the friend/partner/neighbor/colleague?
How often do we really ask the question intently? How often do we answer it meaningfully? How are we to understand and appreciate the struggles of a black person or an immigrant or a working-class white man/woman if we can't get past the lip service of a shallow nicety that is expected as a show of “civility” but never really used as a means of understanding the person of whom we're asking the question?
How are we to have a healthy functioning society if we don't even know what is going on with those we work with, live around, or even sometimes call friends? There is a lot more to the person we interact with, and if we don't invest the time in getting to know each other better, then we will never heal our societal wounds.
We are dealing with a lot of issues that affect us on many different levels, yet we seem to either brush them aside or become keyboard warriors, hiding our thoughts and emotions behind the false guise of internet anonymity. Issues such as immigration, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and attacks on faith principles, as well as the rampant sense of nationalism over true patriotism, the divisive/divided/dividing political system, glaring health care disparities, and the widening gap between rich and poor, are all created by the sense of foreignness we develop by not engaging each other in meaningful conversations.
So I ask you, if such problems are of our own creation, then what is stopping us from creating solutions instead? We can't acknowledge and appreciate what we don't know, and we can't know without at least having a conversation.
So I am going to leave you with a challenge. I urge you to text, call, email someone you know. Take them out to lunch, grab a cup of coffee, go for a walk. Have a thoughtful conversation. Go ahead – ask someone how they are doing like you mean it.
This post originally published in Fort Wayne Journal Gazette http://www.journalgazette.net/20170331/beyond-niceties-youll-find-real-people
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark