12/19/2014 06:06 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2015

The Muslim, the Christian, and the Bull

"My mother is Orthodox Christian and my father is Muslim," said my new friend, Ismail. "In my country, Ethiopia, we think people of other religions are going to hell. So, even though my mother and father like each other a lot; their marriage upset their two families. Family holidays are not very pleasant."

"Which are you, Orthodox or Muslim?" I queried.

"I'm Muslim. So are my brothers. Theology makes a big difference, you know."

"Oh? What kind of difference?" I asked.

"Well, take for example when you're slaughtering a bull. You need a real sharp knife to cut his throat, you know."

"Yes, I can imagine," I responded.

Ismail went on. "It's important when slaughtering a bull just how you address God. We Muslims believe that God is one. God's oneness is very important. The Christians believe in three gods, three gods as one in the Trinity. See, this is a big difference."

This was the first moment in my life that I had associated either Allah or the Trinity with bull slaughtering.

Ismail had one more thing to say. "I like America. Here we respect each other's views."

I said nothing. But, silently, I agreed.