Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the fourth year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Many of us like to treat the month of Ramadan as a spiritual bubble that serves as a retreat away from the world. We hope that for 30 days and 30 nights we can engage in introspection and spiritual growth. It's important to remember that whether it's Ramadan or not, life doesn't stop. Being in a real state of fasting should make us more sensitive to the realities that this world sometimes slaps us in the face with.
The news of the last 24 hours has been heartbreaking to say the least. From the Supreme Court ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to the explosive disruption of rockets in the Middle East, the world regularly reminds us that it is not an easy place to live in. To see the images of rockets blasting in Gaza brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people there. And to anyone who reads that sentence and says, "What about the three Israeli boys whose bodies were found this week?" I include them and their loved ones in my thoughts and prayers as well. My question is, what is really the implication of that question and do we understand how asking it is a key indicator of why we are not moving forward together, but quite separate from each other.
Much of the time when I speak about challenges that Muslims in the United States face as a community, speaking not through a victimized perspective but through the framework of reality, I am often met with a response that says, "You know, this is what many minority groups faced in the United States and now it's the Muslim community's turn" as if that's somehow supposed to make it easier to deal with. If I say something is hard for me and you say, "Well it's hard for other people also," it doesn't somehow magically make it not hard for me. I am also not sure what the logic is in that line of thinking. I empathize with the fact that others have suffered and have had hard experiences, but how does that makes sense that I, or anyone else, should suffer as well? Have we become so complacent in our dealing with pain and suffering that we are indifferent to its ongoing existence? Wrong is wrong and our looking to examples from the past should compel us to be better in the future, not be doomed to repeat them.
A funeral procession of a Jewish man once passed the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and he stood out of deference. When his companions asked why he stood, he answered, "Was he not a living soul?" My Prophet taught me to respect and value life regardless of labels we acquire in this world, even of those who do not respect or value me, my pain, or my overall existence. I will not be made bitter by the ignorance of those who can't see the world as a bigger place than their own existence.
I once was in the audience of a panel that had a young man speaking about how he looked forward to moving up in his career and the salary he projected to make. Moments later on the same panel a young woman spoke of how difficult it was to be in the same role and taken seriously by her male colleagues and how she was paid less. I sat on a panel once with a rabbi who spoke about how amazing it was for him to take his daughter to the holiest of sites in Jerusalem and stand in worship with her by his side, painting a beautiful picture of what the experience was like. I told him it sounded amazing and asked him if through his experience he could relate to how it must be for those fathers who are not able to share the same experience with their daughters because they are not given the same access to those very places. He nodded with a sense of understanding.
There are multiple narratives around individual situations that are valid whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. Those narratives have to find their way to the table where matters of policy are discussed so that the realities and experiences of diverse populations can be represented as best as possible. We have to move away from solely engaging in a macro-level analysis rooted in statistics and historical dates and take a look at the micro-level pain that is felt and unfortunately permeates all communities.
A friend of mine lost his child last week. He was obviously sad and in his moment of need my response was not a curt "do you know how many babies die in such-and-such country every day?" That is not a response of compassion and does nothing for his pain. I can't imagine what it would be like if I lost my own child. I know what it is like to love another being and, in turn, lose one. My response to him should demonstrate that I know. A grieving parent who has lost a child is entitled to grieve and receive unconditional support regardless of their background. We would not say to their face as they cry tears of pain many of the things that we say behind a computer screen. Our insight these days seems to be limited to just hitting "like" on an article or comment and moving on without really thinking about the loss that is being experienced. We need to be better than that and I firmly believe that we can be.
Whether you are fasting this Ramadan or not, keep the world and all of its citizens in your thoughts and prayers, not just the ones who are like you. May God make things easy for all of us.