I have such a great variety of friends that sometimes it makes my head spin. I think it boils down to the fact that everybody on earth is really interesting and I was taught all my life to notice that and embrace it and cherish each person I meet.
However, I touched the Third Rail yesterday. I posted about politics on Facebook. I didn't even tell Beaven because I knew he would say, "Oh, for crying outloud, No Politics!" I was on the phone with a congregant a few weeks ago when she got into politics and I could hear her husband yell in the background, "No politics!" It's the unwritten rule of American culture in the current divisive times that you are playing with fire if you talk politics.
I think this is a very dangerous situation and I'd like to find a way through this swamp full of alligators. Of all my friends I happen to know I am able to love each one of them dearly and I would love each one of them to be able to accept each other.
I might be naive. But I have to try. Social media has been a double edged sword: The potential has never been greater to uncover the truth or spread love. And the danger of what happens if we pretend this will just "go away" has never been greater. I don't think these things just "go away."
Why am I posting now? What got me stirred up?
This graphic showed up on Facebook:
In 2015 I was invited to New Orleans to be part of a press panel to discuss the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. As usual, I had misjudged my wardrobe and while most people waiting for the event were wearing professional attire I sat in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel wearing jeans and my Presbyterian Disaster Assistance T-Shirt. It was bright blue and, while most New Orleans folks were familiar with them, I still stuck out like a sore thumb. I was early so I got a cup of coffee and sat in the lobby waiting for the conference to start. While I sat there a Muslim woman in black robes and head scarf walked up to me and leaned down to speak to me. "I just want to thank you for all you did for us after the storm," was all she said to me. I answered something standard like "You're welcome" or such. I was so shocked I didn't have much else to say. I wasn't really shocked that she thanked me-- actually I was used to that because after the storm, people did that all the time in hardware stores. But this was ten years later and we were in a fancy hotel and this lady didn't seem like your average New Orleanian.
But once the time came for the press panel came and I went inside the press room I saw the same woman. It turned out she was on the panel with me. I had just met Jane Aslam. And she ended up being one of the Gulf Coast top experts on Disaster Recovery. In fact, since we were both named Jane the press called her "Sister Jane" as a sign of respect. I don't think it's a religious designation in the Muslim faith. I could be wrong.
And out of the five people on the panel she had the best information on the Katrina recovery, the best answers, the most experience. The press asked her the most questions.
I went home and looked up what ICNA is because I heard about it a lot that weekend. Islamic Circle of North America is very active in disaster recovery. When the city gave a banquet for all the faith based agencies one night up at the Catholic church gym they served 300 people and a good chunk of the folks were Muslim.
Now, in my variety of friends I have several Jewish friends. You've heard me speak of my friend, Nancy, who was in Jerusalem when this war broke out. Another one was there last year for her son's Bar Mitzvah.
I have progressive friends and conservative friends. And we have fallen into the bad habit of avoiding politics lately. A while back politics got so divisive that people had to stop talking about it. I've had people tell me that just had to "agree to disagree" and leave it at that. And that's OK.
But at some point can't we agree that war is bad? That killing non-combatants is wrong?
I watched a series on TV about evolution and then read a book on the same subject. All this thinking of evolution reminds me of all the history museums I've been to that show ancient weapons. It just seems like aggression is hard-wired into our nature. It is a natural state of animals, too. Male animals fight each other for dominance. Is violence inescapable?
Are humans no better? Have we not yet figured out a better solution? We have a choice to compete or cooperate. Or could this be our opportunity to take that next step in the evolution of the planet? We seem on the path to extinction if we fail.
And we have a lot to say to each other. We have already started. Now, Sister Jane Aslam sent me many words to explain her position. And I think (I hope) you will all want to hear what she has to say. She wanted to spare you all a lengthy read so sent it in a Google doc. I didn't want you to have to go off in Googleland so I'm including it here. I'll just change the font so you'll know when we're back here with my voice. She has written a goldmine of information. Do yourself a favor and take time to read it. I plan to re-read it several time in order to really understand it.
And let me say one more thing about my friendship with most of the people involved here on this conversation. I know you all through some sort of faith-based relationship. In some cases I have prayed with you. We all share Abraham as a forefather to our faith no matter what it is. I trust each one of you here in this conversation and I hope you will be able to trust each other as well.
Here are Jane's words:
Propaganda is what it is. It has a biased and misleading nature, used to promote and publicize a particular political cause or point of view. As related to the issue at hand, it seems that there is enough of it to go around, being spread by all parties involved. As normally found, there are some facts contained therein. I call it “a pearl in a cowpie”. Meaning, a little bit of truth surrounded by a bunch of b.s.. God is watching. He knows the truth and knows the creators of the b.s.. We will probably never know the entire truth and only the truth.
Therefore it is our responsibility to seek knowledge and to seek guidance (an Islamic directive which we find in the Quran* and in the Hadith** of Prophet Mohammed). Then we must choose what we are willing to do. Our intentions and choices, and our actions, are known by Our Creator. Muslims believe that this is included in what we are judged upon on the Day of Judgement. (*the Quran is the verbatim message given to Mohammed by the Angel Gabrial (as he gave to Mary, Jonah, Jesus, and others); **the Hadith is the common practices and statements of Mohammed, as recited by observers and others) The Quran and Hadith serve as guidance to the believers of Abraham, and for the common good of society and life on Earth.
Yes Sue, there are many Palestinians that hate Jews. Especially among those who have directly suffered at the hand of those who occupy the land of their fathers and forefathers, in Palestine. Especially those who have been displaced and exiled from the land of Palestine, or who are trapped and suffering inside Gaza and the West Bank.
Not all Palestinians hate Jews. Some do. I know both. Although, most Palestinians (there are always exceptions in everything) hate Zionism*. (*a movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. It was established as a political organization in 1897 under Theodor Herzl, and was later led by Chaim Weizmann.) This political movement has caused suffering for Palestinian families, their land and livelihood, and the land, homes, and gardens of their forefathers for a very long time. Generational trauma, forced immigration, military occupation, and strong attempts to annihilate their culture and their religion have had an extremely detrimental impact on their wellbeing. Unfortunately, these actions have been used by evil forces (in Islam we attribute evil to Satan) to cause many to succumb to hate. Alhumdulillah (Praise God, in Arabic), there are more believers who are relying on their faith in Allah/God to bring them through these struggles (tests of this life) than those who have succumbed to hatred. They are being strengthened and are witnessing miracles. We are seeing many evidences of this in our daily reports coming in from Gaza and the West Bank. (It reminds me of going through the pangs of labor, while zoning out and being strengthened in the embrace of The One who creates us.) My heart aches for them, is almost jealous of them, and prays for them continually.
“From the river to the sea” is the term used by Palestinians to describe the geographical outline of the land of their fathers and forefathers, from which they have been exiled and is now occupied by the Zionist political party of the state of Israel. This statement is being propagandized to mean “death to all Jews” by those who want to diminish the actual meaning and stir hatred. Although I have been familiar with this statement and its meaning for many years, I first heard of this degrading interpretation recently.
Hamas is the political party of Gaza. Like the political party of Israel, it is a democracy and has elected officials. Like the political party of Israel the officials are tasked to support the citizens who live where they live. Even though it is long known and fully recognized that citizens living in the area of Gaza (and in the West Bank) suffer from the military and ruling of the well-supported Israeli occupiers who walk freely in their streets and evict them from their homes, while controlling their resources for daily living and self-governance. Like the Zionist Israeli government, Hamas has the responsibility for the safety and protection of their citizens.
There are well known bomb shelters and the Iron Dome protecting the Israeli citizens, supported by U.S. taxation and legislation, and elected officials. There are no bomb shelters (per say) nor defense domes in Palestine. Hamas supports mass shelters in what we normally call “neutral zones”, such as hospitals, schools, churches/mosques/synagogues, and community centers. Contrary to propaganda statements that Hammas stores their munitions in neutral zones and thereby uses Palestinian citizens as “human shields”, it is well known that their storage of food, fuel, emergency supplies, defense armory, etc. are to be found in the well known tunnels, underground and protected. The same place that housed recently released prisoners of war. This is one of the fundamental evidences of the complaints against the Zionist regime of committing genocide. Neither substantial weapons storage or commanders of war were to be found in any neutral zones. The basement of the hospital, which was propagandized as being Hammas headquarters were the Administrative offices of hospital operations. The Arabic written “plans” found in the hospital was a calendar of trash pick up. These are facts according to Doctors Without Borders staff and those who read Arabic. These are facts. Not propaganda.
Based on ongoing and recent reports from our local (Baton Rouge) community members, friends across the country (U.S), and extended family who were visiting family in Palestine when Israel began bombing, Hamas has assisted (not prevented) in evacuations. When the first bombs fell, there was a minutes-only warning by word of mouth in the neighborhood. No flyers, texts, television, radio, online warnings as has been mentioned in mainstream media. Our (extended-) family member’s apartment complex was fully destroyed. We saw it happen on television. She is 81-years old, being cared for by her wheelchair bound cancer-stricken daughter. They heard the panic filled rumors from their neighbors. Having a premonition, they left her apartment 5-10 minutes before the bombing. Although, her daughter’s apartment was destroyed within 48-hours, leaving them to seek shelter in a furniture store for several extremely difficult days. With medicine, food and water running low, they were then forced to evacuate to the south on roads that had been made rubble by Israeli bombs, while bombs were being dropped on the prescribed evacuation path, and with the sounds of snipers' bullets along the way. They weren’t prevented evacuation by Hamas, they were prevented/deterred by the Israeli government. (Many more stories and much too much to mention here and now.)
I was privileged to be the Principal of Louisiana's only state-approved Islamic school (at that time) for several years. The majority of our student body was Palestinian when I first started. I have worshipped with the same community for 25-years. I do not know of any children who were taught songs that reflected hating Jews. I never heard any songs of such at any cultural gathering where traditional songs are sung. My son-in-law’s parents were forced to immigrate, leaving their families in Gaza (still there; still suffering while shoved up against the Egyptian border)*. My grandchild is not taught any such hateful songs. Their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, none, sing such songs. None of them are taught to hate anyone. Islam teaches us to overcome hardship through faith and righteous actions. We are taught that suffering is part of life on Earth. We are born to be tested, so that perchance we may be found grateful. Are they angry at the Zionist political party of Israel and those who support their agenda? Surely. Maybe the belief that Muslims/Palestinians hate all Jews is established by propaganda?
*They met in Kuwait, while attending college. - Yes, Muslim women are among the most highly educated women in the world. Islam encourages continued education for both genders throughout their lives. In Islam, women are prescribed a wide scope of rights, roles and responsibilities: including the right of education, the right to own her own business, the right to work and keep her own money, the right to buy and sell her own property, the right of inheritance, the right to vote, the right of sustenance, and many more. Of course, cultural machismo common in many cultures and religions can and does impair religious guidance. Especially among communities who are restricted in travel and limited in educational opportunities.
The whole of Palestine/Israel is currently inhabited by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is true that some Arabs live in areas where Jews also live. Although the large majority of them are Christian-Arabs. They staff the hotels, wait on tables, and clean up behind others. Some Christians and Muslims own their own small businesses in the bazaar. The second most “holiest” mosque, according to Islam, is located in Jerusalem. Muslims are commonly attacked by the Israeli military while attending prayer services there, and as recent as this week. If a Jewish citizen of Israel marries a Palestinian the couple is not permitted to live together in Israel proper (i.e. only in Gaza or the West Bank). Of course Jews do not live freely in Gaza, as neither do Muslims while under Zionist occupation.
We live in the United States of America. We have a constitution that allows each of us the freedom to practice our religion, congregate with like-minded people, and the opportunity to share our beliefs with others. We have laws that attempt to protect us from hate, safeguard our homes and property, and establish a peaceful environment. Although they are not perfect nor fully adhered to, we each have the opportunity to change them via prescribed processes, and punishments are prescribed for convicted offenders. Muslims and Jews sometimes suffer from religious persecution in our country (and Christians too). Although abhorrent behavior, it is not a daily or commonly accepted occurrence as it is in Palestine. It is usually perpetuated by propaganda influenced lobbyists to elected officials, those who are financially invested into warmongering, and/or misled media and social influencers. It is normally perpetrated by extremely troubled and/or mentally unstable individuals, or by elected officials with extremist/corrupt views within the context of their boundaries. (May God keep us from being among those who are misled and protect us from evil. - Ameen) Most individual Christians and Muslims, and many Orthodox Jews, consider this country to be our united-country. Most are not looking to establish any new country in the name of their religion.* Muslims immigrate and integrate. This is historically part of our religion and why Islam is found all over the world.
* This is why Muslims all over the world created the slogan “Not in Our Name” when ISIS tried to call themselves the Islamic State. The same slogan is now being used all over the world by (non-Zionist) Orthodox Jews and allies of Palestine.
Similar to all prophets, the followers of Prophet Mohammed were persecuted for their beliefs. Their homes and businesses were seized, their people imprisoned, tortured, and killed, and their caravans were continually under attack. They were forced to migrate. They did not fight-back until permission was received by Gabriel, to do so. They were also given the “rules of war” which include how to treat their prisoners of war, and other guidance. This is why the recently released videos of prisoners of war (“hostages” by agitprop) being released exhibit the kindness and protections that they received while imprisoned. The complaints of Hamas soldiers raping women and killing babies were debunked by mainstream media, while reporters were being shot and killed. The possibilities of beheading are a bit higher, due to knives being the primary weapon of war and due to the lack of guns. Though more probable that the jugular vein and windpipe were cut, with an accidental beheading.
The current assault between Palestine and Israel is being embraced by Muslims all over the world, due to the long-standing oppression of Palestine by Israel.
Palestine is not being supported by the rich Arab countries in the Middle East because of their economic ties with the United States, which is perpetuating the anger of Muslims all over the world. Palestine is being supported in the rhetoric of the religious countries of the Middle East that have no economic ties to the U.S. and being hailed as heroes by many.
In Islam, when we see something that is “wrong” we are supposed to try to stop it with our hand. Else with our voice. If not possible, then know in our heart that it is wrong: and this is the least of these. Only God knows the future and only He knows how. I lift my hands to express my voice, and I pray for justice and peace for all.
Sincere “Salams”, ✌️
Sister Jane Aslam
Here's Little Old Me, Jane, again............
I'm going to start out calling this post Listening to Each Other because I believe deep in my heart and soul that this is what we need right now. We need it individually and as a country and the whole world needs to listen to each other. Just as I finally figured out that every single religion is based on Love at its core the whole world's most basic need has always been communication. Love and Listening feed off each other. Each requires the other, each gives to the other. Love requires Listening. At the same time Listening requires Love.