More listening and less panic will help us put Islam and Muslims in perspective.
This article is from Kathy Hansen’s blog, A Storied Career, reprinted with her permission:
I have to admit, at this time of heated debate over religious freedom, that my knowledge of Islam is virtually nonexistent. Although I unconditionally support religious freedom, I admit to feeling slightly uneasy about Muslims.
Knowledge is, of course, the way to eradicate uneasiness and fear.
In a highly thoughtful essay, The Power of Storytelling: Creating a New Future for American Muslims, <on the website Patheos> Wajahat Ali talks about the exalted position of storytelling and storytellers in early Muslim culture. Throughout history, of course, stories have “inform[ed] and influence[d] a cultural citizenry of its values and identity.”
But in the US today, stories of Islam and Muslims have devolved into “daily stories of vile stereotyping, fear-mongering, and hysteria,” prompting Ali to predict, “If these stories persist with such simplistic, one-dimensional caricatures and formulaic narratives, then the predictable third act can only end in tragedy.”
The answer, Ali suggests, is “finally telling our own stories in our own voices and using art and storytelling as a means of healing and education.”
The second half of Ali’s essay offers a number of resources in which Muslims are telling their stories. Writes Ali:
These stories will ultimately influence the greater American narrative reminding fellow citizens that no group is a cultural monolith worthy of being painted with only black and white colors, and that even Islam is capable of benefitting America with its unique spiritual and cultural gifts.
I, for one, would like to make an effort to learn more about Islam through its stories and those of its followers.
Ali’s piece is superb. I recommend it.