Tonight I felt one joy of being home in Pennsylvania. I took my Dubai mug full of hot Lemsip outside on the front porch with me, and sat down to enjoy. The sky was dark, but the residue of dusk still lit up the outline of dark clouds near the horizon. A quarter moon hung brightly overhead, and extraordinarily bright stars twinkled across the sky. I held my warm mug in my hand, and sensed the warmth of the coming summer's air, and the coolness of the spring breeze. I sat on the front porch and felt at home, recalling memories of the past - oh God - seventeen years that I've belonged to this house, or that this house has belonged to my family. I waited for my mom to pull up in her car - this place is home because she is still here, because she has held our family together since my dad passed. The whole house has a new peace about it, a fresh resolve to not just remain intact, but to improve with time. My mom has tirelessly striven to make repairs on her home, improvements that my dad just never got around to. I looked over our newly remodeled bathroom, the product of my kind brother-in-law's hard labour, and asked aloud, "Where's dad?" Quickly, I tried to cover my mistake in front of my mom and added, "What would he think about this?" It was almost like he should have been here to comment on it.
I feel to some extent that I have a duty to my home, an obligation to 'give back' in one way or another. But I like adventure, and learning, and traveling, and stretching my wings. I like staying in an unfamiliar place long enough to make it familiar, and storing memories of how it feels to be in a particular place at a particular time. I like to feel that I'm not confined, I'm not stuck, I'm not going to let myself be trapped in a mundane, monotonous life ruled by slave masters, such as debt.
These days, I'm afraid at home. I don't feel safe praying at home. Yesterday when I visited New York I visited the Park 51 Mosque to pray Asr, and then waited to pray Magrib. I prayed for the mosque, peace and understanding in and around the Muslim community, my future, and so on. I don't feel hated by the public; generally, I feel the hijab draws more positive attention than negative. Riding in the bus yesterday morning, a young couple passed me their one year old little girl, who started to smile at and interact with me while I was reading Gandhi's biography. I found it surprising that a couple would hand over their baby to a stranger, along with her bottle so that I could feed her. And even more, why to me? And then at the train station a truck driver from North Carolina struck up a conversation about traveling throughout the US, problems in his small town back home, and his thoughts about travelling outside of the US. I would not expect a man from the deep south to start chatting with a woman draped in hijab. Ironically, the conversation winded down when he started suggesting I try my beer hot, like the Germans drink it. He may not have been aware that Muslims do not drink alcohol, but at least he did not treat me like an alien or harass me.
I attended the Greek Orthodox church with my mother last Sunday, and felt incredibly uncomfortable. I attend with her out of respect for her wishes and beliefs. Of course, the people attending assume that I am Orthodox, although I never make the sign of the cross or kiss the icons. My mom wants them to assume that I am Orthodox, and she wants me to join the Orthodox faith. I am not angry with her for feeling this way, but she does not recognise that I was not raised Orthodox. My mother only returned to the Greek Orthodox church after my father passed away, thus I had been raised among Protestants. When I drifted towards the Anabaptist/Mennonite Christian tradition in college, she was angry. This Christian tradition was not sufficient, because it was not Orthodox. In the end, I could not embrace the theology and practice of either Protestantism or Orthodoxy. And now she's even more angry.
When I attend Christian churches, I am now prone to notice how much more often Jesus is worshiped as the son of God, rather than God as the Father. Personally, I believe that Jesus (alayhi salaam) taught that there is one God worthy of worship. I do not believe that God (Allah) has parents or children. In Surah Al-Maryam, ayat 35-36, the interpretation of Al-Quran teaches that
It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says to it, "Be," and it is. [Jesus said] "And indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path."
Clearly, in Islam Allah's power and might are evident in the reality that Allah has no counterpart, and alone is able to forgive sins.
I also found myself beyond shocked at the dress code, or the lack thereof, in the church. I respect the Orthodox Christian tradition because I find it to be the most reverent Christian practice of all. And I understand that culture pollutes the Christian practice, leading to what I consider to be completely illogical and appalling conduct. I observed young and middle aged women attending the service, kissing the icons of Jesus (alayhi salaam), Mary the mother of Jesus, the apostles, and worshiping with the lowest of tops and the shortest of skirts. Honestly, for several of the women, it would have been just as well if they were going to visit a bar or nightclub immediately after the service. I stood against the wall observing, and trying to imagine how this young girl in a tight mini skirt with bare skin from her shoes to her bum on display, could kneel to kiss the face of Mary the mother of Jesus, without noticing Mary's long sleeves, long dress, and veil? This is not for me to answer, but such observations make me appreciative of the modesty and therefore, reverence of Islam.
Why a Christian would frown upon concealing the shape of one's body during worship, I do not know. It seems completely logical to me that for men and women to be most reverent in the presence of the Almighty, it is only appropriate to cover any possible distraction. This inappropriate dress at church indicates to me that some people attend a worship service in order to attract attention to themselves.
Lastly, I found myself cringing at the sight of babies and children taking the Eucharist. For someone who does not believe that the wine transforms into the literal blood of Jesus, that wine is just wine. Does anyone question why many babies and children cry and resist the entry of the alcohol into their mouths? Even on the level of drinking alcohol, perhaps the Orthodox could allow the children to choose whether or not to partake at an age of accountability. This sounds better to me, but if infant baptism and partaking of the Eucharist were not part of the children's lives, then it would no longer be Orthodoxy.