Why Again Are We Doing Interfaith Dialogue?

Why Again Are We Doing Interfaith Dialogue? November 23, 2016

Image via Pixabay

Hind Makki (Muslim blogger at Hindtrospectives): Hi everyone, this is Hind from Chicago checking in. Just a typical Afro-Arab, Midwestern, interfaith educating, observant Muslim woman who’s sick and tired of hearing about hijabs (except for the fabulous ones that glam up my outfits perfectly)!

Galen Broaddus (atheist blogger at Across Rivers Wide): Wait, is this the place for typical people? I might be in the wrong place.

Hind: It’s only for typical Afro-Arab, Midwestern, interfaith educating, observant Muslim women. All other atypicals are welcome.

Andy Gill (progressive Christian blogger at Andy Gill): If it is, I certainly wouldn’t belong; maybe a place for normal people pursuing abnormal intersectionality?

Galen: I think “abnormal intersectionality” might be an incredibly apropos phrase for a conversation between a Christian, a Muslim, and an atheist.

Well, or at least these particular instances of those labels, ha.

Hind: If you know another Afro-Arab, Midwestern, interfaith educating, observant Muslim woman who has fabulous headscarves, by all means — invite her! Otherwise, I’m afraid you’re stuck in abnormal intersectionality with me.

Galen: You know, I’m okay with this.

Hind: Gentlemen, can I say? I’ve been in my feels about interfaith work ever since the election.

Galen: I couldn’t agree more, Hind.

Andy: Absolutely see that, Hind; could you unpack that a little more?

For me, to be honest, I’ve just been in complete disarray. It’s all a bit… surreal. Is that the right word? Ha.

Galen: There are many words to describe what has happened in the US lately, but “surreal” is one that works and avoids profanity, lol.

Andy: Oh, and by “feels,” do you mean “enraged”?

Hind: Ever since 9/11, every responsible American Muslim leader — religious, civic, local, national, mom in PTA, etc. — I know has been engaged in interfaith work. We did the Islam 101s at churches, synagogues, and schools; we wrote op-eds; we went on TV and debated Islamophobes; we did “Ask a Muslim” at libraries; we held mosque open houses; we joined interfaith community service activities and we never stopped. We developed real relationships with faith and secular leaders across the country. And it doesn’t seem to matter; Trump was still able to win on a platform that was literally just: Build a wall. Ban Muslims. Somethingsomething economy.

In my feels = troubled, sad, upset, frustrated

Galen: I see that, definitely. There are a lot of education-related issues here; people tried to make it clear what the outcomes would be, and still people chose what appeared to be the least rational option.

So maybe that’s the big question: What can we hope or expect interfaith dialogue to accomplish, or is it even about that particular goal?

Andy: And, to piggy back onto that question, is there a possibility of future intersectional politics (let alone religious dialogue) that would benefit everybody?

Hind: Yeah. I mean, I’ll still do interfaith work, because I think building relationships in that abnormal intersectional space is a sacred duty, beyond my own particular space and time.

Galen: We’re already to the S word in the first post? I was expecting that to come later. 😉

(For the record, that’s a joke. I’m okay with “sacred,” generally.)

Andy: I think right now might be a good time to mention you’re the atheist… haha.

Hind: LOL.

Atheists and secular humanists are welcome at my big tent interfaith table!

Andy: Christian, eh?

Be honest! 😉

Galen: I like big tents and big tables!

Andy: Sidenote: I also want to mention/admit/point out upfront, even as I type within our space, I feel a huge overwhelming amount of anxiety; intersectionality (privately, let alone publicly) is so tough; the fear of upsetting the two of you is real.

Hind: Same here, TBH.

Everyone’s welcome! Even Trump voters, though they will likely have to sit next to someone their chosen President wants to deport, ban, grope, or roll back rights. They can break bread with us. Then we’ll think about intersectionality.

Andy: I mean, the realest and saddest aspect of this is the fact that far too many (but of course not all) are 100% fine not being at the table.

Galen: I think spaces like this are perfect to handle that kind of anxiety because they allow us to educate each other through direct experience. We’re not talking about our respective religious (or non-religious) positions in the abstract but embodied.

And yes, there’s the potential for upsetting others, but there’s also the potential for correction and learning and growth.

Some conversations may be harder than others, but they can all be fruitful and worthwhile if we come in with the right attitude.

(Okay, off my soapbox now.)

Andy: I think that this fear is something soooooo many of us have felt (because, the Internet). It’s caused so much silence, I think from all ends and sides of the conversation(s).

Galen: Maybe people haven’t had enough faith in the process of dialogue.

(Sorry, I’m too much of a fan of irony to miss that opportunity.)

Hind: LOL. Bring on the puns!

Galen: On a more serious point, maybe the real purpose here is to try and stretch ourselves beyond the bubbles we normally find ourselves in. Religion (or atheism for me) is one axis that happens on.

Hind: Yes, absolutely. And for me, and everyone else in “their feelings” about the future of interfaith cooperation, it’s a critical next step. Let’s step out of the hummus and falafel bubble and dive into a stretchy, introspective space.

Andy: Yeah, I struggle right now in finding the “true” reason (or rather, function) of intersectional and/or inter-religious dialogue. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can definitely ring off what I know the answer to be, and I’m 100% for these conversations (obviously, considering I’m here). I think I’m just still in a mindset in which I’m a bit jaded on how these conversations have gone in the past.

Galen: I suspect that you’re not alone on that. I’ve felt my own tendencies toward reaching out being severely challenged lately.

Andy: I mean, Thanksgiving is coming! Lol. How many people are DREADING conversing with their “liberal” or “conservative” relatives?

Hind: Same here. And in the past, I was very comfortable engaging with Evangelical Christians (to be honest, they remind me a lot of the conservative Muslim community I was raised in), but now, I genuinely don’t think I’d be in a safe space with them. Like, I literally have never felt unsafe in a church (or synagogue) in America before, but now I know for sure, the majority of White Evangelicals don’t think I belong here at all. So how safe would I be in reaching out to them? No thanks, not right now.

Galen: That “not right now” reaction is precisely what I have felt. But clearly some conversations need to keep happening.

Hind: I really hope people do take the time in Thanksgiving to engage with their politically opposite relatives.

Galen: I’m going to keep that in mind when we visit my father who was for Trump before anyone seriously thought he had a shot. (And he’s the kind of evangelical Christian you’re talking about.)

Can I make a meta observation? We started having conversations about this blog in those halcyon pre-Trump days, and I think we envisioned this being less depressing, lol.

Andy: I’m going to learn so many new words from you Galen. #Halcyon

Hind: Ha, right? Definitely not the mood I was in when I eagerly signed up to be part of this interfaith blog!

Andy: Yeah, I’d love this to be a conversation that’s not just serious interfaith dialogue, but also, fun! It sounds and feels weird typing that out — the idea that interfaith dialogue on relevant issues, politics, and culture between an Afro-Arab-Midwestern-interfaith-educator, an atheist, and evangelical-esque-progressive christian will be fun. Haha.

But, I think (at least, I’m hoping) we can do that! And show readers it’s possible, all while encouraging others to feel and become more open to re-engaging.

Galen: I feel like I just got shortchanged on my label.

Andy: Hahahaha — apologies.

Hind: LULZ

Ummmm, I don’t want to end on a negative note! Here’s one of my favorite poems, “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!

Andy: I’m stealing this. So. good.

Galen: I love that poem! The first time I heard it was at an atheist event, actually. It’s a great inclusive message.

Hind: Yes, I love that it speaks to everyone!

Galen: So, goals for next time: More fun, less depressing, and, to fulfill readers’ expectations, more Ghostbusters references.

Andy: Hey, I honestly had tons of fun today! I’m super encouraged. And, I look forward to next week 100%. (Ohhh… that was a Ghostbusters reference above. I still need to watch that.)

Hind: I had a lot of fun, too! Looking forward to our next chat!

Galen: I’ll third that. See you all next week!

Click here to read more about Hind, Andy, and Galen.

Image via Pixabay

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