An Agnostic Interviews an Imam: Kamal Tells a Non-Retaliation Story from His Tradition and Discusses the Prayer Rug

In the below clip, Kamal al Khatib offers an anecdote from the life of Muhammad that illustrates (for him) Islam’s general commitment to non-retaliation. I’ve actually heard the story that Kamal tells from another Muslim. I recall the previous telling of the story to me to have been about an old woman who puts her trash on Muhammad’s doorstep, then turns ill and is graciously visited by him. Because Muhammad is considered by Muslims as an ideal man worthy of imitation, I think it’s important to hear Muslims affirm stories of Muhammad’s non-violence. But Kamal’s version makes the person abusing him a Jew, which adds a decided cringe factor to the story.


Also note, in the background of our conversation, the double-paned window in the back of the mosque. That’s where the women pray—behind it.

For me (as for most non-Muslim Westerners) the segregation of women in this way is reminiscent of Southern racial segregation in the 1950s. I find it intolerable visually, emotionally, and intellectually. It’s a deal breaker for me (in ever considering Islam as a religion that I would join). To my mind, female segregation is morally indefensible. Muslim women need their Rosa Parks. 

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to An Agnostic Interviews an Imam: Kamal Tells a Non-Retaliation Story from His Tradition and Discusses the Prayer Rug

  1. Pingback: Conversation with an Imam « Spritzophrenia

  2. concerned christian says:

    Next time you meet you may want to bring up these great points made by the Vatican and Pope Benedict
    “All the same, dialogue would not prove fruitful unless it included authentic respect for each person and the ability of all freely to practice their religion,” he said.
    “Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres,” he said, adding that this had to include the right to profess religion “privately and publicly and (for) freedom of conscience to be effectively guaranteed to all believers.”
    “Reciprocity” is the term the Roman Catholic Church uses in demanding full rights for Christians in Islamic states where laws prohibit them from practicing their faith openly. It has often asked for reciprocity with Saudi Arabia.
    At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world.
    The freedom to practice Christianity, or any religion other than Islam, is not always permitted in the Gulf and varies from country to country. Saudi Arabia, which observes an austere form of Sunni Islam, has the tightest restrictions.
    The Vatican says Christians in predominantly Muslim countries should be allowed to practice their faith openly, just as Muslims can in predominantly Christian countries in Europe.
    In Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, any form of non-Muslim worship takes place in private. Converting Muslims is punishable by death, although such sentences are rare.
    Services and prayer meetings are often held in diplomats’ homes but access is limited, so Christians meet to worship in hotel conference rooms, at great risk.
    The Vatican has expressed concern about the fate of Christians in predominantly Muslim Iraq, where 52 hostages and police were killed Sunday when security forces stormed a church that had been raided by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen.
    In the document, the pope re-stated Vatican opposition to the use of violence in the name of religion.

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