It has never been hard for me to see the good in most things. I guess you can call me an optimist. In Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, he argues that “human life is becoming not worse as many seem to feel, but globally safer, healthier, longer, less violent, more prosperous, better educated, more tolerant and more fulfilling.” I too, believe this to be true even with a recent rise of tribalism that seems to be sweeping many parts of the world, including America.
O mankind! We created you all from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other not so that you may despise each other.
Surah Al-Hujurat, Chapter 49
As a hijab wearing Muslim woman and a mother of two girls (who love putting on their hijab), I should be more worried, but I have never been more hopeful. This feeling of hopefulness also has a lot to do with my work on the Eat With Muslims project, which is all about building bridges between people and communities that would never meet otherwise. Yesterday, Ilays and I had the honor of hosting an EWM gathering in the beautiful home of Gail and Tom. There were about 35 people, mostly Christians and Muslims from different walks of life that came together for lunch. The food consisted of basmati rice, lentils, hummus, soft pita bread, garbanzo and bean salad, yogurts and chutney, sautéed vegetables, and marinated chicken and beef dishes. The guests loved all the delicious flavors, full of spice and love. After lunch, we sat in a circle and shared stories of ourselves. We laughed and even teared up a few times. We listened and learned interesting facts about one another.
One of my favorite moment’s from yesterday was when a couple from Senegal, Issa and Aisha, spoke about growing up in a predominantly Muslim country, with a five percent Christian population. They told us how the different communities all live together in harmony and even celebrate each other’s holidays. Mr. Abdulkadir Aden, a Somali gentleman with a rich understanding of world history, added how Senegal electing a Roman Catholic, Léopold Sédar Senghor, as their first president. Furthermore, even Zambia had Guy Lindsay Scott, a Caucasian Zambian, as Vice-president and acting President in 2011 and 2014. These are facts that people don’t often mention when it comes to accepting one another’s differences and trusting in one another. Other guests talked about their life changing experiences when they visited the holy land. Many of our guests just started branching out of their circles and have realized the benefits of other perspectives and cultures.
I feel privileged to do this work of peacemaking and friendship building. We are invited to people’s homes, places of worship and even work spaces to bring love and light between our brothers and sisters in humanity. We must always remember that we are humans first and we share this one village called Earth. We are all safer when we protect one another and consider each other’s well-being because we all deserve the right to life and liberty. When we affirm the humanity of all people, we affirm our own humanity.