Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Bible tuera l'Église et l'homme tuera Dieu

(TITLE TRANSLATION: The Bible will kill the Church and mankind will kill God)

I take my title from the lyrics of a wonderful French-Canadian musical called Notre Dame de Paris (Hunback of Notre Dame) inspired by the famous novel by Victor Hugo. In this scene, Frollo (the priest) and Gringoire (the poet), discuss discoveries in science and technology--albeit based on 15th century Florence--such as the printing press and the rumours of round planet! *GASP!* They speculate that the world is about to change forever as all the new technologies will come to destroy the traditions and science will come to destroy faith.

In this day and age --assumed that I speak from a point of privilege as a white, bilingual, middle class (?) female in Canada-- religion has become a taboo. Especially in the French Quebecois society, but still very much all thoughout Canada. Attitudes are increasingly negative towards religion in any way, regardless of which religion. While I understand the concept of "secular" government, I often find myself wondering if I really want a secular government or if I want an inclusive government. The difference being, do I want a government which regulates the state to eliminate religion, or do I want a government that regulates the state but leaves religious practices alone. France's ban on Burqas quickly followed by similar laws in Quebec in public buildings, makes me wonder: do I want the government to tell me how I can or cannot practice my faith? Provided Quebec regulated with concerns for security, which I understand but France's ban of the Hijab also came with the ban of any other visible religious symbols and I have a problem with that! I have a problem with my government telling me that I cannot show my devotion. Just like I would have had a problem if my government told me I could no longer have a pride flag patch on my backpack! Get out of my wardrobe!

Security, in all aspects of life, should trump religious belief (i.e. I cannot kill, beat or otherwise abuse anyone based on my religious beliefs). As my father used to say "your right to swing your fist around ends where another person's nose begins"; my rights should not infringe on anyone else's rights. I've already made my feelings clear about the war on Christmas. Arguments to remove religion from our lives so as to "respect others" frustrate and angers me to no end.

Some might argue that this is in the political sphere. On the personal end, however, religion is not affected... Wrong! I had a chat a while back with my then-15-years-old cousin, who told me how difficult it was for her to find a boy who would understsand her devotion and deeply Catholic values. I was a little shook up by that: I was raised in a good Catholic home but my values as a teenager were far from being deeply Catholic or even devoted in any way. I was dragged to Church and that's why I was there, that's it! I found it touching and beautiful that a yound woman like my cousin would value religion so soon in her life, but saddening that she is part of the minority.

More recently, I started posting about my Hijabs, and my spiritual journey. This has encourage many of my friends to "come out" to me with their own spiritual understanding, many of whom have said "I never tell people that I'm [Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Greek Pagan, etc]." The reasons why so many people have such strong feelings AGAINST religion is because of the actions of the institutions and the people. Let us not forget that religion is not God but people, and, therefore, religion is, like people, failible. The Catholic Church is a prime example of abuses of power "in the name of God". more recently, Muslim extremist are doing the same. These abuses have turned our society into a bitter generation that equates religion with God and are in turn turning away from abuse by turning away from God. I can't say that I don't understand them!

I think that a good look at ourselves as believers or non-believers to see how we can make more pleasant the life's journey of others, is primordial for a just, loving world. Taking the institution out of religion and allowing individuals to chose their own path without judgement, without expectations and with true love is the only way to reconcile ourselves with God.

On Saturday, I officially became a Muslim. Of my friends present, many belief system were represented: Catholicism, Hinduism, Greek Paganism, Atheism, Agnosticism, and Islam! I am ever grateful that people of different faiths or beliefs could come together to wish me luck on my personal journey even though it may differ tremendously from their own.

From what I see, the Church may kill the Bible more than the other way around, and if nothing else, people are the ones who will bring God to life! We just need to start the process, together, regardless of our faiths, towards a just, loving, peaceful world by bringign acceptance of others into our own hearts!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I'm a Muslim!!!

I am extremely happy and proud to announce that last night, July 28th, I did my declaration of faith.

My wonderful boyfriend lead the declaration while in front of a number of friends! Thanks to everyone!

The journey is faaaaaaar from over, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. Thank you to everyone who have kept me in their thoughts and prayers: peace and blessings to you all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last minute fears...

Peace and blessings,

As you may now know, I am scheduled to take my Shahada (official conversion to Islam) over the weekend. I am excited, I am anxious and, yes, I am scared. I don't think that anyone in North America in a post 9/11 wouldn't be. I know far too well how my brothers and sisters in Islam are depicted in the media. Similarly, I also know how extremist some Muslims can be. I feel once again, stuck between two worlds.

Growing up, I was always the "daughter of the gay guy" to my straight peers, and the straight girl to my queer peers. Once again, I have decided to juggle another line: too conservative for my non-Muslim peers and too progressive for my Muslim peers. I guess I've made my bed and need to continue to follow my path the way I know is right. No one said following the truth would be easy.

While I am shaking in my pants, I know that I can do what I know is right, thanks to a number of people who have supported me throughout. My mom especially by telling me that it is perfectly okay for me to follow my own spiritual path and my boyfriend by answering all of my questions (and God knows there were many and still more to come) without ever pushing towards a specific interpretation, allowing me to make decisions on my own. I have so many friends that I can't even name them all, but in short, anyone of you, regardless of your own spirituality that have encouraged me to explore my own: Thank you. Fears aside, I am grateful to be able to make this choice for myself and I am glad that you are there beside me supporting me. God willing, I can be there for you in similar ways whenever you need me.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Five pillars examined: 3 - Charity (Zakaat)

Of every aspects of Islam, the duty of charity placed on every Muslim is probably my favourite. Many people often forget that we are one large brother/sisterhood of humanity, charity is the epitome of all moral and just treatment of our fellow man. The Golden Rule dictates to treat others as you would like to be treated. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), in one of the hadith states: "Not one of you truly believe until you wih for others what you would wish for yourself" (An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith 13, p. 56) That in itself is the true Islam but to go above and beyond is charity.

In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is quoted as answering after being asked what are human beings expected to give as charity "The doors of goodness are many...enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one's legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one's arms--all of these are charity prescribed for you. Your smile for your brother is charity."

To many people, Muslims included, view charity as giving away of our goods or money to those in needs. That does not mean that you should give away to each and everyone. In Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, the main character, Santiago, stops atop a hill in a crystal shop. He asks the merchant if he could have a cup of tea, in exchange he would clean the dusty crystal in his shop. The merchant agrees and once done explains to Santiago that regardless of his cleaning the crystal, his religion mandated for him to give him water and food but that allowing him to work as he did was better for both their souls. This is the concept of "tough love" in a way, helping people to do within thier means instead of enabling them in their own destruction. For example, is it helping then to give money to a gambler to pay their bills or would it be best to go do groceries with them and pay for the food? Tipping someone extra-good for doing their job may be greater charity than giving to those who do not work for their recompense.

With Ramadan coming up, I will be doing a lot of introspection but also I will force myself to do some more good int he world around me: smiling a little more, helping those in needs, mending my relationships with friends and neighbours. While they say "Charity starts at home" I think that it's important to look beyond the home from time to time and, whenever possible, invite someone in.

Have a blessed month of Ramadan! :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Believing in spite of science

There has been lots of talk lately about the Higgs Boson or "God particle". From my understanding, this particle comes to explain the Big Bang and other concepts in physics.

What has been interesting in the discovery of the Higgs Boson is the religious debate revolving around this discovery. So many claim that now that we can scientifically explain the Big Bang, there is no reason to wonder "who lit the match". God, has no reason for being if science can explain the universe...

A friend of mine asked me this week: do you still believe in God in spite of science? Here's my answer on that one: I don't believe in God in spite of science, but BECAUSE of science. The universe, this universe is full of coincidences. For example, in order for life to be maintained, this planet has to be the perfect size so that its gravity doesn't crush us nor leaves us loose in the universe, it has to have the perfect breathable air, which is achieved by plants creating the oxygen required by using the Co2 emissions from humans and animals. The human body is a perfect machine of genes and neurotransmitters. While free will makes us imperfect, we have to admit, looking at the world around us, that we live in a seemingly perfect world.

Now if I "ran into" my ex 12 times in one day, I would stop assuming it is a coincidence and start thinking there may be some intention behind it all. While looking at this perfect, explainable universe, I can't help but believe it is more than a coincidence: this world, these creatures, the human body, they are overall too perfect not to be intentionally so.

Some may say "but there are tornadoes, diseases, etc. How is that perfect?" Science relies on the greater scheme of things not on individual cases. Smoking causes lung cancer, it's a well-known fact. Just because someone has smoked their entire life and hasn't gotten lung cancer, or just because someone has gotten lung cancer in spite of never smoking in their life, this doesn't disprove the correlation. Just because there are less than perfect situations doesn't mean that we don't have a rather perfect planet. Tornadoes and diseases cannot be avoided but they have their own reason of being such as remaking the environmental landscape or be caused by environmental toxins.

So here it is, I don't believe in God in spite of science. I believe in God because science has proven to me that the world is too perfect not to believe in a higher power!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Five pillars examined: 2 - Prayer (Salat)

"Lord, please give me the courage to change the things that I can, the serenity to accept the things that I can't and the wisdom to know the difference"

The prayer above is known as the alcoholic's prayer. While I am not an alcoholic (though my first two years of university might have brought me dangerously close), this prayer resonates deeply with me. It reminds me, just as when my mom used to say "Aides-toi le ciel t'aideras!" (God helps those who help themselves) that God, while almighty, is a facilitator and that I need to change the things around me in order to receive His kindness.

My mom did attend church 5 days a week with the exception of prayer night and bible study, though I never really tagged along except for Sundays and only while living with her. However, she did teach me how to do my Catholic prayers and I have recited the rosary more than my fair share of times for a young adult in the 21st century. I used to think my mother was ompletely demantial with her church once a day, turns out, there's another people out there even more "demential" than my mother. Moreover, I am joining their religion knoingly and willingly: blessed be my soul!

Sunni (a branch of Islam) Muslims pray 5 times a day:
- between dawn and sunrise
- between sunrise and midday
- between midday and the evening (when the sun is about halfway to setting)
- between evening and sundown
- between sundown and nighttime

The concept of Muslim prayer ressembles that of Sunday mass: stand up, sit, stand, sit, kneel, sit EXCEPT replace sit by sitting on your feet, on the ground and kneeling by prostrating. Also, much to my enjoyment, Muslim prayer does not last an hour like Sunday mass, but between 10 -20 minutes depending on the prayer you recite. There is much too much for me to explain but look it up, it's very interesting. But long story short, with all five daily prayers added up, I'm basically goign to church on a daily basis! Ressemblance are so close that I even took it upon myself to compare both of the most recited prayers from Islam and Christianity:

"Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
- Bible, Matthew 6:9-13

"In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the World
Most Gracious, most Merciful
Master of the Day of Judgement
We worship You and we seek Your help.
Show us the straight way.
The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your Grace, those whose [portion] is not wrath and who do not go astray"
- Qu'ran, Al-Fatiha 1:1-7

Okay, looking at both those prayers, we can see one very obvious pattern: we both are seeking righteousness and trying to be steered away from evil/wrath. Praying to me is more than requests and demands to God, it's also submission and love for God. "Our Father", "Beneficent and Merciful" those are characteristic of love!

Regardless of all of this, it's going to be a pain to wake up early in the morning and pray late at night, but I can do this. Can't I? I'll get back to you on this once I've actually tried!