Mosque

We were greeted at the front door by Asif, the acting Imam for the Jackson Heights Mosque. “Please come in and remove your shoes. Have a seat on the floor. Females must sit behind the males in your group”.

Our 8 young ladies looked at me puzzled…I nodded an OK…and we all took our places.

The room was simple, dark carpet with white unadorned walls. I could see a stair case that led downstairs. We would not have an opportunity to find out what was down there.

Asif gave us the ground rules. He made it clear that all questions were good questions. He and his two associates would respond only to our questions, and we had 1 hour.

The girls were fascinated by their beards – long and unkept. The first 5 questions asked pertained to their looks and it quickly shifted to the roles of women in their culture. Our girls were none too shy as they poked and prodded these men with “…but whys”.

I choose to ask a series of questions that focused upon the extremist wing of Muslims. Asif sat up tall and with piercing brown eyes looked almost through me. He was passionate. He favors the fundamentalist Muslim group. I could feel it. The whole room could feel it. An eerie tension fell over us all. I asked about Jihad, the virgins, and martyrdom. Someone else asked about terrorism and murders. Asif paused…looked up, and said “If I wanted to kill you all right now, I have a knife downstairs.” For a moment time stood still. For him, it as an attempt to break the direction of my questions. For us, it was a moment that we won’t soon forget. He laughed…we nervously laughed…we then breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Our Q & A continued for about 15 minutes more. Asif and his guys got in the last word, but only after we told them that we would pray for them to receive the truth.

Perhaps it was a step towards TRUTH.

Five to 6 million strong, Muslims in America already outnumber Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Mormons, and they are more numerous than Quakers, Unitarians, Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists, combined. Many demographers say Islam has overtaken Judaism as the country’s second-most commonly practiced religion.

The statistics also suggest that the United States must wrestle with a question that has challenged France, Germany, and other European nations as their Muslim populations have grown: Is America a nation based on Judeo-Christian values or on something more universal? Do we value cultural diversity, or merely tolerate it?

Our kid’s kids will live in a country that requires an understanding of the Muslim people. We have just begun this journey, and it will be long.

Asif’s closing comments to us today: “You must worship your God with full sincerity. You must study with full sincerity. You must love with full sincerity.” His passion for his creator was to be admired. Maybe we could learn something from Asif. Maybe we took a step today towards an understanding. Maybe God may be up to something. Maybe….

Advertisements

7 responses to this post.

  1. What were some of his answers in regards to the questions on Jihad, radical Islam, and some of the other difficult questions you guys inquired? I’d be curious to her his responses.

    I have been studying Islam for almost a year now, and I have listened to some of their most famous theologians. What I have failed to hear, at any point in time, is (1) the condemnation of Jihadists and (2) their explanation of how to otherwise interprety the 200+ verses in the Koran that preach physically against non-believers.

  2. Posted by james on June 7, 2007 at 3:25 PM

    great post.

    wish I was there.

    PJ

  3. Posted by Derek on June 7, 2007 at 4:48 PM

    I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this blog and keep us posted on your trip to NY and for everything else you put on here. It truly is a blessing.

  4. Jonathan,

    He said that Jihad was all about the struggle against anything that oppresses them.

    I asked about the condemnation of the terrorist and he said it was impossible for him to pass judgement on them because he never had a chance to speak with them. I caught him in this flawed thinking when he condemned Bush and I asked him if he ever spoke directly to him to form his opinion. He had no answer and changed the question.

    He said that we must read the Koran in full and not pull verses out of context.

    He also cited the “lies” that Bush believed to declare war – lies that ran over and over on CNN and Fox News. And then cited the same news sources when he said that his point was proven correct when the WMD’s were never found. I told him that he could not discredit a source and then believe in the same argument. Again, he stumbled over his words and changed the subject….

    Roy

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    I love your thoughts and questions! Dialogue like this is so healthy and a means to growth – please never hold back. They in no way make me uncomfortable.

    All I know after my meeting at the Mosque is this – God is still in the miracle business, and I am more motivated now than ever to pray for the lost.

    roy

  6. Thanks for the reply!

    Common answers all around.

    Jihad is being pushed as a spiritual term now, referring to the “jihad with oneself.” There is very little talk of the physical, agressive jihad that pushes people to attack and murder others in the name of their religion.

    And again, it seems that Islam is unfortuantely entirely unwilling to condemn their actions. On the other hand, I am sure you would be comfortable stating that abortion clinic bombers are wrong. You may not specifically feel comfortable condemning that person to Hell, since that isn’t your place, but you could probably say that the actions taken were wrong and dangerous.

    You can read the verses in context, and in most case the entire passage is speaking out against “infidels.” That only bolsters the reasoning that would say the Koran is filled with agressive speech against non believers. In any case, I wonder how he explains such verses in context or out.

    WMDs may not have been found that specific day, but Hussein certainly has the capabilities to create such weapons. That is illustrated in his courage against the UN, and his rebellious attitude is dissallowing inspectors to search for the weapons before the war began. And besides, he had killed tens of thousands of his own people with biological weapons. I hope that the man was not defending Saddam.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your efforts, and hopefully you weren’t made to feel uncomfortable because of my questions.

  7. I REGULARLY PRAY AT THAT MOSQUE. ASIF IS A GOOD PERSON BUT HE IS NOT A PREACHER OR A SCHOLAR OF ISLAM. IF YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT ISLAM YOU CAN TRY TUBEISLAM.COM . IS HAS A LOT OF GOOD LECTURES ABOUT OUR FAITH. AS FAR AS WHY WOMEN ARE ASKED TO SIT IN THE BACK THE ANSWER IS PROPER DRESS CODE IS NOT FOLLOWED BY LADIES WHEN THEY ENTER OUR MOSQUE.SOME WEAR SHORTS OR SHORT SLEEVE DRESS THAT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR A PLACE OF WORSHIP. IN OUR FAITH BOTH MEN AND WOMEN ARE REQUIRES TO DRESS CONSERVATIVE AND LOWER THAIR GAZE.

    AS FAR AS THE QUARANIC VERSES THAT RELATE TO NON MUSLIMS DO NOT TAKE IT OUT OF CONTEXT AND KNOW THAT WE ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF EDITING THE TEXT .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: