The state of Michigan has a pretty diverse community. You can tell from the first time you went out of the airport, you could see Caucasians, African-Americans, and even women with their hijab. This diversity is what makes people receive a lot more exposures toward other ethnicities, races and religions, and as a consequence they are also more tolerance. That is why, the group of Moslem Students Association’s (MSA) members that we met today, at the university library, claimed that they didn’t experience any unpleasant treatment after 9/11 in Michigan. But Obada, one of the Moslem students, lived in West Virginia when the tragedy was happening. He said that his house and some other Moslem’s were vandalized. We couldn’t tell how wide is this action happening in America statistically. But generally, the Moslem students agreed that United States is a safe haven for them as Islam believers. Some of them compare that with the condition in the Middle East, where conflicts happen a lot, and as Moslems they can receive many restrictions- don’t do this, don’t do that. Of course most of the female members in MSA do not like conservative Moslems. I mean, most of them are Middle East descendants, but most of them (at least some members of the group that I met yesterday) are not wearing hijab. They wear dress-not necessary the long one and their nails are painted. I guess unless you are in Turkey, Indonesia, or countries like Egypt, you will not find Moslem women dress up like this. Some others though, are still wearing hijab. Regardless of the appearance, coming to America does not change the faith of the Moslem students. Even, they believe that becoming the minority has strengthen their faith. As Aisha, an international student from Pakistan explained, she felt like she took her believe for granted back in Pakistan. Being a Moslem is just what others are, and practicing the daily prayers are just what others do too. But in America, she will not hear adzan. She has to be more responsible with her obligations as Moslem. and be more aware with her identity.
Through our meeting today, I can see that Islam and America can become one part. Unlike what happening out there, where these two are always seem like in opposite side, fighting each other. I guess we all agree that these wars are politicized. But still, war in the Middle East happen. And as Moslems and American citizens at the same time, the students still feel the attachment with the Moslem world. Iya was from Iraq, and she really condemns American foreign policy toward her hometown. She said, “How do you expect people to be your friends or follow you (in democracy) if you keep beating and kicking them?” Sarah, who came from the same country like Iya, also said that they still have this solidarity toward Palestine, and they did demonstrations too asking the government to end the conflict, or its sided support.
After meeting MSA, we headed to an apartment, apparently to one room in a basement. Coming into this dark room, we were greeted by group of girls! They are a group of Christian students. Most of them are Asians, they said it because the priest in the church they get involved in is an Asian, so it probably attract more Asians. But they are also some members who are African Americans. And they know some other groups who consist of Caucasian too. I am so glad that in this evening session, we can join the group doing their usual activity. They sing a song titled Second Chance. The lyric was beautiful (it is about how God gives second chance to everyone, and I see that, although the concepts of sins, punishments and hell are exist, but all religions still share this common perspective about God which is loving and forgiving), one girl-Maggie played the guitar, and everyone sing with feeling, they close their eyes, meditate the words. After singing the song, they invited us to join the next activity which is to recite the bible and discuss the story in it. We read Samuel 2, chapter 11 and 12. It was about King David who made a mistake, he slept with Bethsheba, Uriah’s wife. Bethseba finally pregnant and King David tried to manipulate the situation so he can marry Bethsheba and made the child like a legitimate child. H sent Uriah to war, ordered the troops to leave him in the middle of the battle ground so Uriah dead. King David tried to cover his mistake, until Nathan the prophet confronted him and asked him to repent. According to the rules in the bible, people who commit adultery should die. But because David repented, God forgave his sin.
This second meeting is also enlightening to me. During our previous 2 weeks activity, Lehigh students gave me this impression that all American youth are not religious at all, and even, the fact that religions still play a big role in daily life seems strange for them. But these Christian girls showed me that, although I can generalize, there are still many American youth who take religions seriously. And I guess, there will always be. I remember this one student that I met in Mualimat, I asked her why she chose to go to boarding school. Her answer was beyond my expectation, she said, “This world is getting more challenging. And I need religions to hang on.” Probably it is also one of the reasons for the Christian girls, and the MSA members, to stick with their religions values.
Basically today was a very fun day. In the morning we had a campus tour with Kate. University of Michigan is huge and beautiful. Then we went to the downtown of Ann Arbor and had a scavenger hunt, Shannon was my partner. Ann Arbor has this urban of fairy. In many stores and even people’s house, they put a tiny door either on the wall or in front of their buildings for fairy to get in. Very cute!
pictures: (1) Ann Arbor’s attachment to fairies: fairy slippers! (2) one of the fairy door in the Himalayan store (3) University of Michigan’s library.
Ann Arbor, June 20 2012