Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I've been inundated with emails of late that bemoan any development that bestows upon Palestinians or Arabs any degree of humanity. I joined a coworker's yahoogroup on eschatology and I get messages every day from Christian zionists who see anything that gives Palestinians the slightest space to live or be free of abject poverty and terrorization as a demotic and apocalyptic sign. (Of course the reverse of this is me always having to explain to Palestinian friends that I know very few people in the United States who are actively interested/involved in peace and justice for Palestine who are not Jewish).

Another coworker actually used the word "sand nigger" in a conversation. Given the curent climate, maybe I should not be surprised. But it is a term I didn't learn until college from a friend who had been its target (A friend who is in fact from a Sephardic Jewish family who passes for "Arab" in many parts of the US).

Even in a Unitarian Universalist context, I have found a certain hostility whenever I challenge stereotypes of Islam (my favorite is when people think of Islam as being a particularly and uniquely political relgion. I would make the claim that the typical Friday juma sermon is no more likely to be political than the average Sunday UU service). In my local congregation, I felt well received when I gave a sermon on Eid Ul-Fitr that looked at common ground between Islam and Unitarianism and at the idea of exploring Islam the same way many other UU's currently look at Buddhism and paganism. At least one member came up to me six months or so after my sermon and mentioned that he had started reading the Quran to be a little more informed. I suggested that he might want to read Karen Armstong's Islam: A Short History, A History of God or Muhammed: A Biography of the Prophet.

I suppose I have to be doing something right if people come to me months later and talk about how they were influenced by one of my sermons. It sure is easy to lose sight of that sometimes between exegesis papers, regional subcommittee on candidacy paperwork and the other assorted joys of being a student.


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