On this especially meaningful and sober day of remembrance, the Houston Chronicle published this hope-filled perspective from Sumer Zakaria, a Muslim at a Catholic school in Houston:
Religion has always been a complicated subject, but it seemed that most Americans recognized that we live in a multi-denominational society. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized recognizing different religions is very different from accepting them.
But attending St. Agnes Academy, a Catholic high school here in Houston, helped me realize that gap is repairable.
Masses and theology classes are a norm at school, as are questions. People seem curious about the few Muslim girls attending a Catholic school. I typically get light questions, such as why I wear leggings instead of shorts, or why we can’t eat pork. Instead of getting frustrated by such questions, I came to realize that each one is a bridge to acceptance. In some cases, it leads to a deeper conversation about the religion, and how Islam is not as different to Catholicism as it seems.
I benefit as well. Taking theology courses has not only given me a deeper grasp of Catholicism and Christianity, it has actually strengthened my faith, as I have learned to look at the similarities between the two belief systems. Being somewhat of an outsider during classes, I was able to translate how things would be in a class about Islam, which quickly helped me appreciate parts of my faith I took for granted.
Being able to have these conversations helped me clear up certain misconceptions my peers held, such as the idea that my religion is inherently violent. Islam is not what it is often portrayed in movies and the media. Sometimes, all it takes to improve understanding is for someone to ask a question and for someone like me to answer it.