I am a Muslim.
Nine years ago I stayed at a Muslim boarding school in Indonesia. While I was there I wore a head covering (jilbab, in Indonesian), joined a religious fast, and avoided physical contact with boys.* None of that was required, and the girls I stayed with were constantly urging me to take off the jilbab because of the heat (I was fine, and so were they). The jilbab was part of the uniform, but it really came into its own as a flirtation device.
Here’s how it’s done (based on lots of observation):
1. Spot a boy you like.
2. Giggle as if you’ve never seen a boy before.
3. Watch carefully for the exact moment the boy tries to meet your eye.
4. Quickly hide your face with the side of your jilbab.
5. Giggle as if you are Shocked and Apalled that a boy would dare look at you.
Speaking of jilbabs, I recently saw the head of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association on TV. This is an organisation that represents and protects Muslim women (and the head is a woman, of course). Although she and her staff receive many calls for assistance from Muslim women, her organisation has never had a woman call to say that her husband or father is forcing her to cover her head.
It’s worth repeating: Women in Australia are covering their heads because they choose to cover their heads.
So if you respect women’s rights – let them.
To many Westerners, the jilbab or burka is a symbol of the oppression of women. To Muslim women, it is a symbol of a compassionate God, a symbol of beauty, and a symbol of personal pride in who they are.
So I’m proud to wear it today.
Since we’re here, here’s my one-minute lecture on what it means to be a Muslim.
The five pillars of Islam.
1. The creed (said three times in Arabic): There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet.
2. Giving to the poor.
3. Fasting (from dawn to dusk for up to forty days).
4. Pilgrimage to Mecca (for those who are financially able).
5. Prayer five times a day.
You’ll notice suicide bombs don’t feature.
I have read the Christian Bible, and an English translation of the Koran, and the Bible (rather embarrassingly) is much more violent. The Koran utterly condemns violence against innocents, and also condemns starting wars – a true jihad can only be fought in self-defence. Suicide bombs are definitely not allowed in the Koran’s principles, as any Muslim can tell you.
I have personally stayed in an entire town of Muslim refugees from a people group murdered and dispossessed by Christians.
So don’t you dare tell me Muslims are violent.
Obviously, killing and mutilating people of another faith doesn’t agree with the Christian faith, either (despite the disturbing parts of the Old Testament).
I am a Muslim because a girl at that boarding school in Indonesia cared enough for me to ask me to say the creed three times, which I did. That makes me a Muslim – technically. In reality, I am a Christian – mainly because I’ve met Jesus and after that he’s a bit difficult to ignore. (Side note: Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, but not as important as Muhammed. Both religions trace their spiritual lineage to Abraham, so we have a lot in common.)
In my opinion, the only crucial difference between Islam and Christianity is that Muslims must earn their way to paradise (Allah mercifully forgives sins, which certainly helps), while Christians are given total forgiveness and a free ticket to paradise because of Jesus’ death – so we can just chill salvation-wise, except that we (hopefully) respect God enough to be good people too.
The commandments given by God and Allah are virtually identical – love your neighbour, help the poor, practise hospitality.
I sometimes wear a cross. Muslims sometimes cover their head. That is all.
Today’s awesomeness is Steffmetal.com’s # 45: Worship a new God.
Yesterday, Don Miller sang Christmas carols near what turned out to be a terrorist bomb. He wrote a blog today about terrorism and extremism far better than I could (this is G-rated, so go ahead and read it).
*Easy to do, since boys are gross anyway.