Encountering Islam

At work, I’m training a team of Malaysians for the next two or three weeks. Most of Malaysia practices Islam, and our guests are no different. Personally, it’s the first truly close encounter I’ve ever had with the religion, and I’ve enjoyed the encounter. Here’s just a few random thoughts….

  • Our guests are deeply devoted to their religion. We’ve set aside a conference room where they can retreat to perform their daily prayers and washings. The room is private, and they’ve got prayer rugs, cleaning vessels, and other items in the room. On one wall is a small sign that points the way to Mecca. Each time I enter the room (never during the prayers), it just has a good peaceful feeling to it.
    I think their attitudes toward god are inspiring. They are quiet in their religion but firm in their faith, something that I feel is lacking from many of the mainstream religions of this nation. They speak openly of their faith when questioned and have reciprocated with genuine interest in understanding my own. There have been no attempts at conversion from either side, and it’s been strangely pleasing to be equally satisfied and comfortable with our unique, but equally devoted, expressions of faith.
  • They are incredibly gentle and a peaceful people. I understand that I’m seeing a very small portion of the population of Malaysia, but each of them are distinctly quiet, gentle, and happy. All of them laugh easily, clearly, and joyfully. They’re quick to make a joke, faster to smile, and each have expressed a measure of friendship in their own way despite such a brief time together.
  • They are all family men. Each of them have independently talked about their wives and their children. One has been married for over 25 years, and all of them have children that they talk about frequently.
  • They are politically conservative, something that I think would surprise most Americans. They reject immorality, especially pornography, and are deeply concerned for the moral direction of their nation. In fact, the reason they are here is to receive training on building a certification. The topic of the certification? Becoming a moral citizen in an internet-based world. I could only imagine the good such an attitude would have on a global scale.

There is plenty more I could talk about, but I’ve been deeply impressed by a culture and religion that, as near as I can tell, mirrors much of what I want for my own family and life. At one point, I mentioned the general attitude most Americans seem to have towards Islam, and the man I was talking to, Izat, mentioned that he was deeply troubled about the labels that were associated with the religion as a whole because of 9/11. He denounced both the attacks and the idea that Islam is a religion of violence and extremism, a claim that I agreed with prior to meeting them but support with greater vigor after meeting these men.

We have almost 10 more days with them, and I hope to spend many lunches and breaks talking to them more about their culture, their religion, and their views on the world.

I’ll keep you posted.

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5 Responses to Encountering Islam

  1. nosurfgirl says:

    What a great experience.

    I think the paralels between Islam and the LDS faith are extremely poignant.

  2. nosurfgirl says:

    I did correct the spelling… but for some reason the message posted first! :p

  3. Dad says:

    My experience with Muslims reflects what you have written. What we get in the news media is the views of extremists and zealots who have taken one or two points, altered them and now use them as the basis of Islamic Fundamentalism, which is not true of Islam.
    As I have traveled around the world, in most countries, if you get down to the common people they are very similar in their desires to live a quiet life, raise their children in peace, practice their religion and be friends.
    If you look closely, we have our own fundamentalists and zealots who are just as crazy as anyone else’s.

  4. Paul Pehrson says:

    I totally agree. One of the biggest take homes from my trip to Saudi Arabia had to do with the respect that I developed for the people of Islam. I totally agree with every thing you said. They were a peaceful people, greatly devoted to God, respectful of other religions and cultures, deeply devoted to family, and very gracious, and generous personalities.

    I wish more people could understand that side of people who comprise a religion practiced by 1 in 4 people in the world.

  5. Pingback: Encountering Islam, Again « the prodigal

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