We should embrace our Muslim brethren, rather than fear them

Monday, December 22, 2008

I get very upset when I read the negative things that people say about Muslims all over the world. Well, I have been working with Muslims for more than 40 years and really believe that, in many ways, they are far superior to us. When I went to Africa in 1961, the Muslims did everything for me.  They built our churches and schools, looked after our house, our car and I would not have existed without them.  The country- Gambia- was 95% Muslim.

Now that I have retired here in Ireland, after serving eight years as chaplain in St Michael’s Hospital Dun Laoghaire, I have not changed my mind about them. In order to understand them better during the next few months I am studying Arabic, Islam, Sharia law, and the Koran in Cairo, Egypt.

I want to be able to communicate with  them in their own language, know more about Islam, and what makes them “tick”  I know something about Sharia law, and that is not about cutting of someone else’s hand if they steal. I also want to know why every child wants to learn the Koran off by heart, and is proud to recite it and quote from it.

It’s an intensive course, lasting at least 10 weeks. The first part is study for five weeks, and in the second part, we spend three days, with an Arab family in Syria, where no English is spoken, and we also spend three days in the desert living in a tent with a pillow, a mat and your own camel.

You have to bond with the camel or he will do nothing you tell him. They are temperamental animals, and unless you greet them in Arabic and talk to them in Arabic, they will grunt and growl and let off steam.

When I return from Egypt, I want to spend more time with Muslims. In recent days, the Vatican has said that there are more Muslims in the world today than Catholics. We must open up communications with them, work with them, and engage in dialogue with them but dialogue in a different way.  You will get nowhere if you introduce philosophical or theological arguments

‘The Vatican has said that there are more Muslims in the world today than Catholics. We must work with them and engage with them’

My type of dialogue would be visit them and welcome them as neighbours, attend their weddings, funerals, visit their sick in hospital, attend their naming ceremonies, and visit and congratulate them on their feast days. They have a great personal relationship with God the Father so why not join in their prayers to God the |Father?

If you read their prayers in English, you will find that their prayers to God the Father are prayers of praise- “God is merciful”, God is just” God is Kind”, and so on. Muslims are great family men and women, disciplined and they are very bright in school.  Their best subjects are maths, science and philosophy.

They are excellent at all sports. They have a great prayer life. I have not met a Muslim yet who would dream of missing his daily prayer.  I have not met an unhappy Muslim woman yet. They love their family and they are lovely people to meet and talk to. We associate Muslim women with long clothes and a veil covering their head, but they only wear a veil at certain times.

How many people know that Iran has the greatest number of women, in the whole world, in middle management and that Iran has the greatest number of female engineers? Around 90% of all Muslims are peace-loving. I have never heard of Muslim teenagers using bad language, being cheeky with their teachers, getting involved in drugs or getting involved in alcohol.

I would like to see schools giving Muslim children space to say their prayers, especially during Ramadan at 12 noon and 2 O’clock.  Perhaps we should allow them to use an empty classroom. If you allow them to pray at certain times, you will have happy and contented pupils and a good school.

It would be interesting to wonder that if Mary the mother of Jesus, came back to visit a Catholic School in Ireland, would she be told to remove her veil?

I hope that when media use terms such as “terrorist” that people will see through it and know that it is an excuse to clamp down on Muslims and perhaps invade their countries.

Somebody passed the remark to me that other day that if Zimbabwe had a Muslim leader, would it have been invaded by now?

Editor’s note:

This piece has been published earlier on. We here reproduced it on the permision of the author, someone who considers himself as a friend of the Muslim Ummah.
Author: Fr. Seamus Ahmed Fleming, Ireland.