Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holier than thou...

I cannot even begin to explain how much I hate when arguments arise about the legitimacy of one religion over another. Let's agree on this: everyone who follows a religion believe that their religion is the "better" religion... otherwise why would they follow it at all?

Most religions follow the same basic principles of doing good rather than bad. Which means, all we are really arguing when arguing about religion is what is our definition of "good" and "bad". That lays in much deeper than belief in the after-life, karma, or reincarnation. Religion is, afterall, a way to dictate a way of living in righteousness and all of them lead to punishment or reward sooner or later, whether in this life or the next.

Now, there are some who don't believe in religion, don't beleive in a higher power, don't believe in an afterlife. THAT'S FINE!!! They still hold basic principles of what is right and what is wrong. Everyone has a moral baseline within themselves and refusing to attribute it to a deity doesn't make that person any more right or wrong. The argument can always be made that many religious leaders have abused of their powers to do what most of us would consider "bad" things, while I'm sure many atheists have lead perfectly righteous lives worthy of reward in many faiths: who cares if they don't need to believe in a reward to aim at doing good!

I am often faced with questions about faith. I have turned to Islam but still keep many of my Christian traditions. Which faith do I like best? Why? There is no answer to give you. I have found a communtiy where I feel accepted, understood, appreciated and I do not ask to be given the name Muslim or Christian, but simply believer. I believe. And if one day I chose no longer to believe in one deity, one God, then I will still be a believer. A believer in righteousness and good deeds.

So next time you want to ask me about my faith, please ask me "what good deeds were you able to accomplish through your faith?" and I will be glad to elaborate. As far as which faith is better? I beleive that having faith is better than none, whether it is faith in God, faith in humanity, faith in goodness, fairness, life; faith has many forms and many targets, but faith definitely should be had.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The book that changed it all

"God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you."
For some, this might sound like a quote from the Torah, the Bible, the Qu'ran or another scripture. However, that quote is from Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist. In his book, Coehlo speaks of a goal, a personal treasure, which each of us possess. God sets this goal for us but also puts obstacles to test our faith and our desire to achieve our goal. On the way to this goal, we are told it might be tempting to give up, and it is often unclear which path we are meant to follow, but that we are to obey the signs, the omens, that God puts along the way, in order to reach our goal. It is Coehlo's novel that guided me to Islam. Ironically, I was given The Alchemist as a parting gift from an ex-boyfriend. Part of the lesson he wanted me to take from the book is the story of Fatima, a woman of the desert with whom the main character falls in love and for whom he considers abandoning his journey. She tells him that he has a path to follow and that abandoning it for him would be foolishness, leading to resentment and misery for the both of them. Unfortunately for my ex, I highly doubt that my journey will lead back to him eventually, but I guess I should be grateful for the enlightenment provided through it.

I was first introduced to Islam in a university course called "ARTS 1000: The Development of Western Thought". Islam was discussed as an opposing force in the crusades and later in the post 9/11 western world. I took an interest in Islam then but only slightly, only through my study material.

I was then given The Alchemist, which speaks of following signs and omens. While the main character is Christian, many of the book speaks of Islam, and of the Islamic culture of Egypt and the northern regions of Africa. I loved the book and used it as a driving force towards finishing my university degree.

In the last few years of my degree, I started seeing a Muslim man. He did not quite know what he wanted in his life, even though he was well into pre-med, it was a choice he had made mainly to please his parents. So I lent him The Alchemist, so that he would look at his options in a new light. He never read the book, and we broke up before he could return the book. After the breakup, it became extremely important to me to get the book back. It was an insult to me that he had never read it and I wanted this important memory of my ex and this inspiring story to remain mine. After a few months, he returned the book, and we got back together.

The story of my Muslim ex is unimportant from this point forward, so I will skip it and continue to the good parts. When the book was finally returned, I decided to re-read the novel. It seemed like everything pertaining to Islam was jumping back at me: my first university class, the details in the book, everything I'd learned while dating my ex. Everything seemed to want me to learn about Islam. I would never say it the signs wanted me to be Muslim, but clearly, there was a path defined for me and learning about Islam would be part of that path for me.

Fast-forward two years, I am still learning about Islam. I have not converted nor do I plan on doing so for at least another little while, but if nothing else, it has given a greater understanding of this often misunderstood faith. In a post 9/11 world, in a self-declared civilized country, education should be something each and all of us should strive for. So follow the signs, educate yourself, and learn. Never stop learning! You never know where life will lead. Salaam.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Interfaith Holidays

It is no secret that North American culture revolves around a primarily Christian society. By no mean do I think that a majority of Canadians are Christian (or live by truly christian principles), but our holidays and government often revolves around rules created to accomodate Christians. I find that JUST FINE. What annoys me is those who make such a big deal of "Christmas" being uttered in classroom or in governments. Do you also slap people when they wish you a happy "whichever holiday you celebrate"?

No offense to anyone, but instead of arguing that schools and governments should be forbidden to celebrate Christmas, wouldn't our country be strenghten by asking them to celebrate yours as well? What if schools HAD to teach our children about Christmas, Eid, Hannukah, Diwali and other celebrations? Wouldn't that make our children more educated, knowledgeable and ready to operate in a diverse and just world?

As some of you may have read, I am currently studying Islam. This has not stopped me from spending a fortune on Christmas gifts for friends and family again this year. My faith is one that believes in God, in sharing, in knowledge and in tolerance, and celebrating with people of other faiths allows me to share joyous moments with them. How weak must one's faith be that it would be threathen by others'?

So for all of you, regardless of your religion: Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and a blessed year in 2012! May your heart be filled with love and happiness and may you share this with others!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let me introduce myself...

I'm a 20-something Franco-Anglophone from Canada. From a small town originally, I now live in the capital. Everything about my life so far has been a world of contradiction: between an over-the-top christian mom and my atheist/agnostic gay dad, my love for culture, languages and diversity in a town where speaking English was considered "diverse" and my desire for equality in a biased world.

For most of my teenage years, I have found myself to be agnostic, not sure where I belonged. Recently, I have grown fond of Islam. I have found some peace in the teachings of Islam. A group called Muslims for Progressive Values has helped me find a place where I fit in in my belief in God and for my belief in gender/sexual diversity and equality for all. This blog is for me a way of sharing my journey within Islam and within the LGBT community.

Finding a balance between love, God and Diversity is a difficult journey that I will take seriously but with a smile, and I encourage you to take part in it!