Hate is darkness that strikes the heart. It takes out the light from our souls, pushing it out, invading all corners of our being. The times I’ve come across it, it’s left me scared, bewildered, and lost.
I remember back in high school, how a friendly unknown girl came up to me during my lunch break, and asked me if I was Muslim. “Yes,” I responded. “Cool!” Her eyes lit up and her smile widened. “I’m Jewish! No Pork!” She gave me a thumbs up as she said “no pork.” She brought up “no pork” because Muslims and Jews share the same dietary restriction of abstaining from pork. But then she posed an odd question. “Do you hate me?” She had grown serious suddenly. I was so taken off guard, so taken aback by her question, that for a few seconds I simply stood there at a loss for words. “No,” I finally managed to say. My heart pounded in my chest. I didn’t understand why she would ask something like that. Why would I hate her for being Jewish? Then I got my answer. “Oh okay,” she explained, her smile peeking through her words, “because I once told this Muslim girl ‘I’m Jewish,’ and she told me that she hated me.” “No, I don’t hate you,” I repeated.
The experience left me a little shaken, and although it was not an actual incident of experiencing hate, I’ve carried it with me for over fifteen years. I was not raised with hate, and it greatly saddened me to realize that perhaps others were.
Similarly, I remember one day when one of my younger sisters went over to a school friend’s house, who happened to be Jewish. When my sister returned home, she told me how her friend had said, “You know we’re supposed to hate you?” Her friend meant that Jewish people are required to hate Muslims. And although she had not directly told my sister she hated her for being Muslim, my sister came home with the feeling and message that Jews hate Muslims. Because we had no contact with anyone else Jewish, we carried this idea that we were looked on with hate by everyone from the Jewish community.
I find it interesting that it never occurred to me at that time, that perhaps I was as mistaken about Jews as that Jewish girl from my school was mistaken about Muslims. She believed that all Muslims hated Jews and for a long time I believed that all Jews hated Muslims. And while we stereotyped each other’s faith communities, it didn’t occur to anyone, that we were all human, created by the same Loving God.
It took me so long to realize that people are people, regardless of what label we slap on ourselves and others. It took me so long to see that it is our ego that desires to separate ourselves from others. We don’t want to think of others as the same as us, because then we would be obliged to treat others with the same dignity, respect, and compassion we expect for ourselves.
And what does this unconditional dignity, respect, and compassion looks like?
It is the most beautiful, magnificent, illuminating experience to be touched by human compassion. It is the grocery clerk, who ran outside and grabbed a cart for me without me even asking, after he saw me heavily pregnant, struggling to carry multiple bags of milk through the aisles.
It is the God-loving people such as Rabbi Tamar, Reverend Cheryl, and Imam Jamal, who touched my life in beautiful ways, and whose light is much brighter than the darkness of all hate. Rabbi Tamar had enough courage inside her to use her blog to urge everyone to view Muslims and Islam objectively. Reverend Cheryl offered me, a Muslim woman, free childcare for my children at her church, so that I could widen the scope of my blog. Imam Jamal, instead of leading a mosque, works at an interfaith sanctuary, in order to build bridges and understanding between faith communities. All of these individuals are brimming with compassion. They reach out to others, despite the apparent differences, just to let them know: I care.
There are countless small, yet significant acts of kindness we all encounter on a daily basis. So the question is, what logic is there behind reserving kindness and compassion for a select group of people? There IS no logic. There IS no solid foundation upon which to prop up our various hatreds.
Therefore, I am done with hate. I’ve had enough of fear. I choose to live. I choose to love God. I choose to love humanity.
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