Sunday, September 18, 2011

How 9-11 eroded our shared faith and American identity

I grew up in an interfaith home where I learned, despite what some on the far right allege today, that Islam and Christianity have much in common. My father was Muslim and born in the 1930s in what was then known as Palestine. My mother is Italian (Sicilian, to be accurate) and proudly Christian.

My family was the embodiment of the American Dream: An immigrant father and first generation mother of differing ethnicities and faiths, who did more than just co-exist: They flourished.

Our mini "melting pot" succeeded because we focused on the commonalities between Islam and Christianity, the most obvious being that we worship the same God. How could we not? After all, we share almost identical prophets such as Moses, Abraham and Jesus.

My Muslim cousins would even celebrate Christmas with us every year - -not only to be social, but because there's a religious basis. To Muslims, Jesus is a prophet referred to in the Quran as "The Messiah," born of the Virgin Mary, who was herself born of immaculate conception.

Growing up in North Jersey in the 1980s, no one expressed any issues with our heritage or faith. In fact, in third grade my teacher asked me to bring my father to school for "show and tell" so the students could meet an Arab Muslim man. I can only imagine if this event was replicated today, some would protest, claiming my father was there trying to spread sharia law or convert the children to Islam. more