Jul 2, 2010

The Faith Club, Chapter 1

Okay, I startedreading this today, and i have to say that so far, I'm not too impressed.  The very first page has a statement that offends me to my core.  Ranya writes, "I did not feel comfortable at the mosque in our neighborhood, where women prayed separately from men.  I wanted to feel respected."


I get not feeling comfortable at the mosque --- it's happened to me.  It happened to me at the churches that I attended too, before I chose Islam....but it happened because of the little cliques that are inevitably formed where a group of people gather.  In the church, it was the "homemakers," the "group leaders", or the "bible study" cliques.  I didn't fit into any of them.  I felt an outsider.  Now, at my mosque there are the "Arabs" and the "Converts" -- I'm too Arab to fit in with the converts, but not Arab enough to fit with the Arabs.  I get the feeling uncomfortable thing (and, much to my surprise, I learned that there's a gathering outside of the mosque for those who feel....uh...shall we say "shunned" -- yay for that!)  Anyhow -- to say that you don't enter a mosque on equal footing as a man is wrong.  Flat out WRONG.

Yes, we pray separately from the men.  I like that. I can go upstairs and listen to the sermon, watch the Imam deliver his speech and stand up to pray with the other ladies.  If my baby is hungry, I can nurse him.  If I'm hot, I can remove my headscarf -- I call it freeing and wouldn't want to be with the men.

If this silly statement were said by someone who was not a Muslim, I wouldn't be offended at all, it can seem as if it's unfair and lacking respect if you don't know the reasons behind it.  I think that there are a lot of things that non-Muslims view of my faith as unequal or lacking respect for women, but the truth is, once you learn about them -- you see it's the exact opposite.  Islam gave women a voice more than 1400 years ago that was unheard of, they were able to vote, ask and receive divorces, own property, refuse a marriage....and so many more.  People think "yeah...big deal" but think about this.  Women in America were not allowed to vote until the 1920's (but if you were an African American Woman, you didn't get that right until 1968).  So sad.

Anyhow back to the book -- I understand Ranya's fear of post 9/11 America.  I was afraid too.  But I don't understand what she's afraid of.  She is a Muslim woman who doesn't wear a headscarf, who's children have "normal" names, who drinks alcohol, doesn't go to a mosque to pray and celebrates Christmas.  What kind of Islam is this??  I see it Islam of convenience.  That's how she felt, it's how she felt -- but I wonder, how did the Muslim woman who adhered to those articles of faith feel??  I know that some women removed their Hijab (headscarf) in fear. I know that they removed Islamic art and Quranic scrolls from their places of adornment in their home...in fear.  I know that they feared going to the mosque to pray...that they had no place where they could gather and feel safe -- they became the enemy in their own land. 

I'm 8 pages into the book and I already have a bit of loathing for Ranya...who claims my faith by name and not in spirit.  I don't like that....not at all.

I wonder if I'm the only one to feel this way.  I know that I only have a few followers on here who are Muslim -- what about  you Jewish followers?  How do you feel about Priscilla, who I see as very much the same as Ranya -- a woman who talks about faith, but doesn't really seem to have it.  On page 8, Priscilla says "...despite the fact that I prayed along with others to God that night, I wasn't sure whether I really believed God existed."

I find it odd -- a book called The Faith Club has 2 of the 3 authors who don't really practice their faith.  Go figure.


Keahn said...

I'm part way into the second chapter already. I wasn't prepared for the sytle the book is written in: separate entries for each woman and her point-of-view (POV). I was thinking it would be more cohesive. Anyway, as far as the overall content, it's too early for me to decide pro or con yet.

However, here are few things that did come to mind as I was reading:

Ranya – “I began to feel self-conscious about our Muslim identity. I was concerned and fearful for the security of my children as American Muslims. I avoided calling my son by his Muslim name, addressing him in public only by his nicknames, Ty and Timmy” (3).

This made me think of a list on the wall at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The list breaks down "Jews" by ethnicity. I'm not a dumb bunny by any means, but I was totally caught off guard as I read the number of "Italian" Jews, "French" Jews, "Spanish" Jews...who were massacred. It never occurred to me that all Jews were not of some sort of Slavic ethnicity. That said, with America being the "melting pot" it proposes to be, it disturbed me to think that she (and others like her) were struggling with their identity, post 9/11 -- it was also reflective of the "Japanese" Americans in World War II. At least the "powers that be" refrained from repeating the mistake of WWII and did not gather Ranya and others into concentration camps. Bottom line: if you live here and your loyalty is to America, you are AMERICAN, and there should be no question of your identity.

Note: Ranya these are her son's nicknames, so we have to presume that she actually gave her son a Muslim name.

Ranya – “We do celebrate a commercial kind of Christmas” (4).

Truly, I didn't see anything wrong with this -- though I'm not Muslim. A lot of the "traditions" of Christmas can be seen as secular as well as Christian - depending on one's POV. I enjoy shopping in the malls, hearing carols, and taking in all the holiday eye-candy, just as much as I embrace going to Midnight Mass, singing hymns, and putting up the manger in my home.

Priscilla – “I knew a fair amount about my religion...I knew the rituals and stories of my religion” (7).

There are a LOT of people from various religions who are on equal ground with Priscilla here ~ knowing a "fair amount" about the religion practiced by their families, with most of it being the rituals, traditions, and stories handed down.

Suzanne -- went from being Catholic to Episcopalian.

To me, it seems like a lot of Catholics leave the church before they've ever taken the time to really get to know and understand anything about it. As if "starting new" with a different denomination is going to make them a better Christian. Of course, I will have to see if there is an explanation given in upcoming chapters as to why she chose to make this change, before I make a decision about her input in the club.

I studied the different religions of the world when I was younger. I had been disappointed by the Catholic church and decided to leave, and to learn about other religions and denominations. In the end, I realized that all the religions have much more in common than their respective followers would like to admit. I chose to come back to the church and remain a Catholic Christian, because all faiths ultimately seek to make a person BETTER at knowing themselves and each other -- and I am familiar with the traditions and rituals and what they represent.

So, I'll be curious to see if Suzanne's POV changes and how.

I don't really find it odd at all that "2 of the 3 authors" don't appear to practice their faith -- I find it typical in light of society today. What would make The Faith Club live up to it's name and purpose is, if in the end, each member actually embraces and practices their faith on a much deeper, spiritual level, in relation to the other faiths.

Hethr said...

@ Keahn -- great thoughts! I also agree that each woman's POV is an unconventional way to write a book, but then, it does let you know who is saying what.

and, regarding Ranya's children, their names are Leila and Taymour (in the very front of the book, where the dedications are listed)

I'm interested to read the rest of this book. I'm interested to see if it causes my own faith to become stonger.

NanLT said...

I've come back to the beginning to write my thoughts as I read the book. (Got my copy this morning, yeah!)

All 3 women are in their own crisis of faith starting out here. I get the feeling that for each of them religion has become something you do, not something you are.

I also found myself wondering if a project such as this could have been done if all three women had entered the discussions fully confident in her own beliefs.

Erin said...

I think if they had all been sure and strong in their Faiths, the book would never have happened. My experience with religion has often been...uncomfortable. I enjoy learning and listening, and find it tough to be told there is One Right Way....

Back to chapter 1: I like the way the book is written, clearly detailing the feelings of each woman.

Hethr said...

@ Nan -- good points, never really thought that the book couldn't have come about if they had all be sure of their own faiths. Ironic though, that they came to write about a children's interfaith book, and instead came up with this.

@ Erin - LOL at the "uncomfortable" -- I have been there MANY times!

NanLT said...

The problem with believing there is only "One Right Way"(@copyright pending and if you could imagine this coming out in a deep booming voice like the one in the McD's commercials it would help) is that in order to be valid, you automatically have to convince everyone around you to follow your "One Right Way".

Otherwise, the possibility exists that you're wrong and the other fellow is the one following the "One Right Way".

Then you have some yahoo like me comes along and really throws a spanner in their works because I say it isn't the route you take, it's that you make it to the destination that matters. And of course I also tell them that actually, I do believe a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth lived about 2000 years ago and performs miracles. I just choose not to worship him or any other Gods. (Actually, I think he had a good press agent and was doing energy healing, but there ya go)

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