Ramadan Reflections '13, Day 18: Little Mosques in the Big Cities

About six years ago, when I started to dig deeper into the faith I was brought up with, I became very narrow in my views of what I should care about. I became so Islamically gung-ho that my thoughts, blogs, musings, and most of my other daylight hours revolved around my faith. I had grown up with mostly non-Muslim friends, so I wanted a group of solid Muslim ones who could help ground me and support my spiritual development. I blogged about Muslim-only topics fervently as I tried to grasp hold of this rediscovered faith I had just "let be" for the majority of my life. Why I practiced Islam from a young age, I didn't really choose to explore it until my 20s.

And then a couple of years ago, it hit me. I was becoming too Muslim-centric in my views and with what concerned me. I started to realize that general society is not going to give a crap about the issues in my community if I don't show them care and concerns towards what they are facing. Why should they donate to send money overseas to war-torn Islamic  countries when I don't give two hoots about supporting the Drop-In Centre or other recognized charities they care about?

I think the same holds true for some, not all, Muslims in Calgary. We are too focused on pushing the causes that matter to us that we don't stop and pay attention to the causes that face our larger community...the community we call home. During the Alberta floods, I didn't hear of the Muslim community offering their mosques as shelters or distribution centres. I didn't hear about a press statement regarding donations they'd be giving to those who had to leave their homes. Nothing. While I know of individual Muslims who gave monetary, food, and clothing donations, it would have been a stronger message to come from the community as a whole.

Oh wait, that's right...our people were too busy fist fighting at the MCC elections. My mistake.

And there's this sense of "otherness" we create, whether intentionally or not. Many Muslims tend to see ourselves as strangers in this land, as "others" that are so different from the mainstream population, that we cannot possibly share things in common. But we do! A friend and fellow Muslim shared an article a couple of days ago about how Muslim female writers tend to blog and write articles about the same topics: marriage, hijab, and the role of a wife. While these topics are important, they are not comprehensive about what our lives consist of. Muslim female writers rarely tend to push the boundaries with their topics. Let's talk about the increase in Muslim male pornography addicts. Or substance abuse and domestic violence. Or the continued sexism that exists in our community. Or let's branch out of Islam-centric topics and talk about the homelessness in our city streets and what we can do to help. Or the number of kids who come to school hungry and without a lunch. If we are having a hard time pushing against boundaries in our own community, how can we push into the larger one we live in? I repeat this mantra a lot, and it's simple but oh-so-true: Muslims are human too. We share common lived experiences to those around us, yet why are we denying this?

So before you post yet again about Syria, Palestine, Iraq or another Muslim-centric cause you would like to raise awareness about with your non-Muslim friends, perhaps consider this: have you shown care and concern towards causes that are impacting the community you live in? The Quran does not specify for Muslims to show compassion towards Muslims only. And we also did not immigrate or choose to live in the West to build our version of Little Mosques in the Big City, where we become self-sufficient for everything we need within our Muslim community. It doesn't work that way.

Ramadan is the perfect time for reflection, so include these thoughts as well: Do I care about what goes on in Calgary, the wider community? Do I show care and compassion towards other causes, so that others may appreciate what I am raising awareness about? Do I treat non-Muslims with the same genuine and caring attitude that I show towards Muslims?

And Allah knows best.

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