Ron Messier. He outlined the basics of Islam--including its five pillars--jihad and shariah, and offered some insight and perspective for the roomful of those in attendance who were essentially not very well informed. I think it's safe to say that we all came away from that time feeling better grounded in a sense of what Islam is about, with any unfounded fears eased, if not erased. You might say Ron talked a few people down off the fear ledge. Becoming informed is essential for Tennesseans these days, as one of our fear-mongering state representatives has introduced a bill in our legislature to criminalize the practice of shariah. Even a sheriff's deputy, on hand in the event of any disturbance (the local tea party is rabidly anti-Muslim), professed gratitude for being there, and he noted how much he learned.
Of particular interest to me is something Ron shared with us that he, in turned, learned from a Muslim student. Islam is cited as sharing with Judaism and Christianity the claim of being an Abrahamic faith. Universally these three are separated as distinctive faiths, and ordered in a sort of hierarchical way according to their historical founding. It is understood by Muslims, however, that Islam is the culmination of one faith, incorporating the wisdom of the Jewish prophets and the teachings of Jesus, then concluding in the revelations to Muhammad as Allah's last prophet. That "take" on Islam helped me understand in a huge way its attractiveness to so many people.
This morning I am appreciating the wideness not only in God's mercy, but the many and varied ways that he/she is made manifest to creation and embodied in the faithfulness of many peoples. At the heart of so many religions is that the glory belongs to God, to Allah, to the Great One. May we each live in ways that reflect that glory in the fullness of our humanity, and as one in heart. To God the glory. Allahu Akbar.