Radical Revelation

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The television screen flashed breaking news in neon red on March 20, 2011, reporting a story about Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who denounced the Quran after his “trial” reached a verdict proving it “guilty”. His punishment was burning it after an hour of soaking it in kerosene and titled the day as “Burn a Koran Day”. My father sat in front of the television screen in pure and utter shock as he sternly put down his chai cup on the coffee table. I stepped in to the kitchen and faced the white cabinet that held prayer mats, praying beads, and the so-called guilty Quran. What existed between the gold embroidered covers of my holy book that it was being considered “guilty”? Why was my religion being labeled as threatening and dangerous, when I had been considering what I read and heard “right” throughout my fifteen years of existence?

The cold breeze that whipped my neck that afternoon sent chills down my spine, causing me to feel out of place and not myself. We were walking to a well-known Pakistani/Indian supermarket, Patel’s Cash & Carry in the heart of Indian Bazaar and once again, the smell of dosas and spicy of samosas filled the air, along with the sound of honking cars and road rage. For once, I was not concentrating on the cart traffic inside and the crowd of people lined up to grab a fresh bundle of mehti and palak. Instead my mind was on the elderly Muslim woman seating on a small stool at the corner of the market, praying on her red prayer beads. It was the red from the breaking news newscast earlier. Usually when I’m around someone of the same race or religion, I feel at home and welcomed, yet, looking at her, I began to question whether I wanted to experience that at home feeling anymore. I slapped myself to bring back some sense in my logic. However, I think that my logic was very logical. I found myself confused and partially guilt-ridden in having the courage to begin questioning my very own religion. Was my devotion to God so weak that I could lose faith by watching one mad man burn my holy book? It was just day one of my existential crisis.

5 times a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in a year, my forest green prayer mat was still in use. Every time I raised my hands adjacent to my shoulders to make a niyat (intention) in my prayers, I would become slightly uncomfortable. Yet by the end of each prayer, I would feel connected to God in an indescribable way. As the summer sped by and school was once again in session, which was a tragic event in itself, the day of sorrow arrived. September 11, 2001 was and is a day that has wounded each and every American deeply and that wound has proven difficult to heal. The tears shed that day could probably turn the Sahara Desert into the fertile Amazon Rainforest, blossoming with bright colored wild flowers. Once again, I witnessed the face of Jones on the morning news, initiating his plans to burn Qurans to fight Islam in recognition of the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers. I turned to the gold clock hung behind me and it was 3:36 p.m. Zuhr namaz time was almost over and so I took out my prayer mat and made my neeyat. Independently. Strongly. Proudly.





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