I’m trying not to overreact to the anti-Muslim sentiment blowing through the United States at the moment. I keep telling myself that there is a core decency to Americans and that most are not stampeded into hysterical hatred by demagogic political and religious leaders. Although the United States has not always welcomed immigrants and people of other faiths, it has generally proved an open enough society that most have come to see this as home. Many former Africans, Irish, Italians Chinese, Haitians and Mexicans, many Jews, Mormons, Catholics and Buddhists, have all come to feel that they belong here. Hopefully Muslims will one day feel this way as well.
In the spirit of opening ourselves to the wisdom of other faiths while acknowledging that we are still in the holy month of Ramadan, I share the following poem by American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, sent to me by reader Farida Bag. Nye is the daughter of a Palestinian father and American mother and author of the collection Different Ways to Pray. The Joha that she mentions is a comic figure in Arab lore:
My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”
Goodness knows, our pockets often feel full of stones these days as we trudge through life, bruising our shins on the world’s rough edges. We may feel encouraged to keep going if we remember that Allah–or whatever name we choose to ascribe to the holiness that undergirds creation–is everywhere.
The artist’s work can be found at www.gogokorogiannou.com/portfolio/scapes/olive-tree.