By Paul Louis Metzger
professor at Mutnomah Biblical Seminary
I wish Fox News could have been at the Muslim wedding celebration we attended Friday. There would have been nothing sensational to report, only something very normal and wholesome. That’s what made it newsworthy.
Many Westerners view Muslims as terrorists. While there are some who claim to commit gross, violent acts as adherents of Islam, that is not true of the Muslims I know (and countless other Muslims I do not know). And while I don’t wish to excuse those acts, I also don’t want to make excuses for sweeping generalizations like all Muslims are terrorists or terrorists wannabes.
It is important that we get to know people as people, no matter who they are, including Muslims. That’s easier said than done given sensationalism in the media and our own creative imaginations. That’s why it is important to engage in uneventful conversations and witness everyday life with Muslims, as in the case of this wedding celebration.
Of course, the marriage of the two Muslims was eventful, though in a normal cycle of life kind of way. A few of the things that stood out to me as eventful included the following. The marriage of the young couple had been arranged—how striking in our current cultural context. Also, it was striking that the women celebrated in one large room while the men celebrated in another large room in a very normal American hotel. Since I was in the latter room, I can only speak to what I witnessed there.
Most of the men were immigrants from the non-Western world. My friend, the father of the groom, served as the MC; he welcomed everyone to the celebration and introduced the male family members of the bride and groom, as well as others who participated in the brief program. One of the brothers of the groom read from the Qur’an. A Muslim leader, a noted medical doctor, gave a few words about the importance of marriage based on the Qur’an. Another man sang a song or poem. That was it. Then everyone ate to their hearts’ content and interacted with those at their tables. Nothing more. Nothing less.
My wife and I left the hotel that evening, full of rich food and thought, and grateful for the invitation and opportunity to celebrate the marriage of these two young Muslims. My wife shared with me how beautifully adorned the bride was. We spoke of the rich and joyful conversations with others, including one with a son of my friend (the father of the groom); the son sat next to me, his two small sons playing on his lap. The conversation ranged across the world. His father dropped by once or twice to make sure I was getting enough to eat, concerned that his talkative, engaging son might be keeping me from getting up for more.
The meaningful dialogue at the table included talk of family and various cultures. We also spoke of religion and politics, such as the politicizing of religion, and the need to untangle the two to keep them from leading to violent ends. Between the lines of our lengthy conversation, we were searching for points of contact between an American-born Christian and a Muslim from overseas. We found the points of contact easily enough—our shared humanity including love of family, good food, and the desire to communicate in a way to hear and be heard above the din of the evening news. I wish FOX News could have been there.
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