The challenge is to lift this particular linen curtain and draw Muslims, American citizens after all, into mainstream society, and then to create peace between Islam and the world. That this country donates $1.5 billion a year to Pakistan as well as aid to other developing Muslim countries, proves its generosity. The conundrum, said the professor, is the contradiction between this sincere generosity and the linen curtain [my term] of suspicion, mistrust, and prejudice that so hinders the religious pluralism the founding fathers dreamed of for the future.
Such a black and white us-against-them, evil versus good, Qu'ran versus Bible, the clash of civilizations, just doesn't frame the issue effectively. The question is how to integrate our cultures, and before this can occur, we must want to.
In a very interesting conversation after Dr. Ahmed's talk, a few of us spoke about the huge burden of issues we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren. It occurred to me that if the Earth somehow survives, they will be more than up to it. In high school my daughter's two best friends were adark-skinned Hindu and a gay WASP. I called her wider circle of friendsa rainbow coalition; she called me a racist. Science is progressing by leaps and bounds in the fight against aging and ultimately death as well as the elimination of the most lethal illnesses. New discoveries are emerging daily to address other pressing issues, including global warming and environmental pollution.
We have so much to learn from a culture that participates in society as soldiers, police, lawyers, politicians, physicians, and more. "Some of the best Americans are Muslim," said Ahmed. We must go beyond our monolithic perspective that bunches all as one--Muslims from every corner of the globe, of every skin color from Aryan to black and contrasting in countless other ways, have immigrated here and their numbers are quickly increasing.
Some ironies suggest optimism: sales of the Qu'ran skyrocketed after 9/11--were we seeking understanding in the proud American tradition or comprehension of motivations for the Attack on America? Among converts to islam in the United States, three-quarters are white women. The reason is explained in chapter 6 of Journey into America.
Asked if he was a Sufi, he answered that real Sufis do not reveal this identity. He suspects that his father was a Sufi, he said. He lamented the destruction last week of the beautiful Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan, which attracted adherents to all faiths, who were welcomed. Ahmed's Sufi orientation is explained in his preceding book, Journey into islam.
Let the "American feast" lose its ambiguity. We have all to gain in the face of such a dynamic population, whose majority is predicted to be Latino by mid-century.Becoming a true "melting pot"is the ultimate solution, in both the scientific and rational sense. As my white southern history teacher answered my question about what to do about racism, "One night it should rain throughout the world," said Ms. Betsy Prim, then of Atlanta, Georgia. "And then, in the morning, we will all wake up the same color." She chose gray. I couldn't think far enough ahead, but today I imagine that color will be mestizo, the complexion of Latin Americans.
Unaware of the protocol for posing questions to the ambassador after his talk, I was unable to ask any on the list I had made, which included "What does the Muslim community think about Obama, whose attitude toward them, and hence part of his own genetic makeup, is ambiguous or, to put it another way, politically expedient? What does he personally think of Obama? What of the peoples so opposed to each other, including Palestinians and Israelis? The animosity between them far exceeds the suspicion and mistrust he laments in the United States.