In response to the Florida pastor who recently called people to an “International Burn a Koran Day,” I thought I’d set my own International event, a siren call, not to hate, but to love and dialogue:
September 17, 2010: International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day
In terms of my own religious orientation, I’m an agnostic, and I spoke to a Muslim coworker that I have known for a decade and asked him what he thought about the idea, and whether he would have a meal with me. He immediately lit up: he thought it was amusing, life affirming, and interesting.
So we’re going to an early dinner—maybe with more Muslims than just him, and maybe with more non-Muslims than just me—on September 17th. We’ve agreed that we’ll talk, and not avoid asking hard questions of one another.
Wherever you are, won’t you do the same? Just find a Muslim in your community and say, “Hey, I’d like to dialogue with you over a meal or a cup of coffee. Are you game?” See what he or she says and let me know how it went. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just share your experience in the post thread below. And if you’re Muslim, then try it in the other direction: seek out a non-Muslim for dialogue.
And if you have any other thoughts about this whole idea, you can share them below as well.
Where will my Muslim friend and I be on September 17th? That’s still to be determined. He knows two Muslim restauranteurs in our area (we live in Los Angeles County) and is going to see which one might want to host us.
Or we might just end up at a pizza place. It really doesn’t matter. The key is that we’re talking.
I’ll keep you posted.
Since originally sharing this idea on my blog two days ago, two people have made Facebook pages to spread the idea further. They’re here and here. Thank you Jonathan and Mary! Jonathan is especially working hard to get the word out. He lives in New Zealand and here is his blog.
And a number of people in the thread of this post have announced that they are going in search of a person to have a meal or coffee with over the next week. For flexibility, I can see that the idea is informally evolving into “Have a Meal with a Muslim Week.”
I’m also scheduled for a face-to-face interview with a journalist Friday night. I’ll keep you posted on that.
And some of the responses that I have heard about so far have been quite moving (such as tears on encountering the idea). It seems to crack the heart open to simply suggest that, you know, Muslims and non-Muslims in a community can take the local initiative to actually talk and get to know one another; that we don’t have to be strangers. International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day is proving to be a siren call to what’s best in us: a call to break some ice and resist the fanatics and political interests that would like to see us not talking.
Won’t you heed this siren call?
If peace, dialogue, generosity, and human understanding aren’t going to start with you, where will they start?
And what an experiment in solidarity and dispersed individual initiative this can represent! Gandhi would have loved this. He once wrote a book titled, My Experiments with Truth. And if you try this particular experiment in truth, surely you’ll learn something important, don’t you think?
So if you’re a non-Muslim, seek out a Muslim this week and tell them why you’re doing it (for International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day ). And if you’re a Muslim, seek out a non-Muslim and do the same. See what he or she says. The “official day” gives you an excuse to approach a stranger or acquaintance and get the dialogue ball rolling in your community.
And who knows? You might be surprised by the response and learn something really interesting about life and human possibility.
So go on.
And in the thread below, let me know whether you are firmly determined to give this a try over the next week.