Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Escapade

Our class embarked on its second field trip today to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a small town on the outskirts of Nashville.

We met with Imam Ossama Bahloul (an imam is comparable to a priest in Christianity or a rabbi in Judaism). Imam Bahloul informed us that though he may have a higher leadership position in the mosque, he is not more in touch with God than anyone else who worships Him—he stressed the principle of equality in Islam: all are equal, including men and women, and everyone’s relationship to God is corresponding as well.

After having some time to ask the imam some questions pertaining to Islam, we were just in time to observe Friday afternoon prayers. I watched, entranced, as the prayer room filled with worshippers of all kinds, and listened intriguingly to the imam recite passages of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is always read in a rhythmic, almost songlike tone, and it was amazing to hear the intricate Arabic enunciated by the imam.

It was a great experience, and after the prayers, we were all given a special gift: our very own Qur’an to read and study to further our understanding of the religion.

In the evening, we all went out to dinner at Café Coco’s, then headed back to campus for a pool party.

The walk to the Recreational Center pool was very lengthy, but it was definitely worth it. We all had tons of fun in the pool, and some friends even tried to teach me how to swim and float in the water (I usually just wade and bounce around the more shallow section of pools). Unfortunately, my natural human instincts would not allow me to let go and trust that the principle of buoyancy would uphold me. However, I am very grateful that Aiyana and our friend Kristen helped me try to overcome the obstacle. I admire the kindness many of the people here exert to one another.


Today we visitied the Islamic Center of Murfeesboro. The center is hidden behind an engineering building, tucked away in a very rural area. It’s a small brick building; not the place of Islamic worship in the beautiful, intricate mosques that you would imagine. If you were to drive down the street, you wouldn’t have even noticed it. But inside, it’s homey. There’s a welcoming feeling to it.

The imam, who is like the pastor or rabbi of other religions, was friendly and happy to see us. He dived right into explaining the Islamic beliefs and the Qur’an. He kept mentioning how accepting the Islamic religion is of other religions. He said the rule of religions is normally good; but some not so good people mess it up. One bad person doesn’t make the entire religion bad. He delved into stereotypes and advised: “don’t let media dominate your information”.

This religious center is tiny. They have been trying to build a large Islamic center for the entire community, but they faced opposition from others in the community. Despite the persecution and opposition that he called “the third world war”, the imam doesn’t hate non-Muslim people, the city of Murfeesboro, or Tennessee. Like he said previously, don’t let some ruin all. He believes that members of the community are just confused or scared. He loves that students like us are accepting and want to be educated about the Islamic culture.
We watched the afternoon prayer. It is mandatory that Muslims come to a religious center like this one to pray during this specific prayer. The other four prayers can be done anywhere. So since this is the closest Islamic center, the small room was packed as tight as a tin of sardines. The Arabic language is such an interesting sound.
The imam gave us all a Qur’an translated into English. He was so kind, and truly showed how wrong stereotypes can be. Though I have attended mosques and Islamic services before in Egypt, it was nice to actually speak with the imam.

THE ARETE SHOWCASE WAS TODAY! Step and Stomp performed. We did pretty well, if I may say so myself. It was fun to perform what we learned in front of our fellow students. Other memorable performances were the Glee video with Julia, the hilarious improv session with Kye, and songwriting.
Our proctor group went out to dinner at this café about twenty minutes from campus called Café Coco. They have appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, and pastas. I had a personal sized cheese pizza and a “Mango Frozen Thingie” which was refreshing and extremely delicious.

We also had a pool party tonight! I tried to teach Julia how to swim. She did pretty well, though the fear of drowning and getting water in her ears and nose took its toll on her. Regardless, I loved floating on my back for a majority of the time and just feeling relaxed while drowning out the sounds around me. I love being in a swimming pool!
Tomorrow is the weekend. I absolutely cannot wait for all that free time.