The Faith Club : A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding
"Welcome to the Faith Club. We're three mothers from three faiths -- Islam, Christianity, and Judaism -- who got together to write a picture book for our children that would highlight the connections between our religions. But no sooner had we started talking about our beliefs and how to explain them to our children than our differences led to misunderstandings. Our project nearly fell apart."
After September 11th, Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, faced constant questions about Islam, God, and death from her children, the only Muslims in their classrooms. Inspired by a story about Muhammad, Ranya reached out to two other mothers -- a Christian and a Jew -- to try to understand and answer these questions for her children. After just a few meetings, however, it became clear that the women themselves needed an honest and open environment where they could admit -- and discuss -- their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings about one another. After hours of soul-searching about the issues that divided them, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla grew close enough to discover and explore what united them.
The Faith Club is a memoir of spiritual reflections in three voices that will make readers feel as if they are eavesdropping on the authors' private conversations, provocative discussions, and often controversial opinions and conclusions. The authors wrestle with the issues of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Muslims, and preconceptions of Christians at a time when fundamentalists dominate the public face of Christianity. They write beautifully and affectingly of their families, their losses and grief, their fears and hopes for themselves and their loved ones. And as the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, readers watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others.
In a final chapter, they provide detailed advice on how to start a faith club: the questions to ask, the books to read, and most important, the open-minded attitude to maintain in order to come through the experience with an enriched personal faith and understanding of others.
Pioneering, timely, and deeply thoughtful, The Faith Club's caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
For more information or to start your own faith club visit www.thefaithclub.com
In the wake of 9/11, Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, sought out fellow mothers of the Jewish and Christian faiths to write a children's book on the commonalities among their respective traditions. In their first meeting, however, the women realized they would have to address their differences first. Oliver, an Episcopalian who was raised Catholic, irked Warner, a Jewish woman and children's author, with her description of the Crucifixion story, which sounded too much like "Jews killed Jesus" for Warner's taste. Idliby's efforts to join in on the usual "Judeo-Christian" debate tap into a sense of alienation she already feels in the larger Muslim community, where she is unable to find a progressive mosque that reflects her non-veil-wearing, spiritual Islam. The ladies come to call their group a "faith club" and, over time, midwife each other into stronger belief in their own respective religions. More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion nonfiction book. From Idliby's graphic defense of the Palestinian cause, Oliver's vacillations between faith and doubt, and Warner's struggles to acknowledge God's existence, almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride. (Oct. 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 02, 2006
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Excerpt from The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby
In the Beginning
The phone rang on the morning of September 11th. It was my husband, screaming for me to turn on the TV. With sheer horror, I watched as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
"Please don't let this be connected to Islam," I thought desperately.
As the city began to mourn, churches and temples opened their doors for worship and emotional support. I longed for a mosque, or a Muslim religious leader, an imam, who could help support my family during this horrific time. I needed a spiritual community, a safe haven where we could seek comfort.
Back then, I knew of no alternative Muslim voice that could represent the silent majority of Muslims, no nearby place where we could congregate. I did not feel comfortable at the mosque in our neighborhood, where women prayed separately from men. I wanted to feel respected. I longed to enter a mosque on an equal footing with Muslim men, to be treated as an equal, as I know I am in the eyes of God.
Tensions rose, and as some Muslims, or those mistaken for Muslims, were attacked or rounded up for questioning, I began to feel self-conscious about our Muslim identity. I was concerned and fearful for the security of my children as American Muslims. I avoided calling my son by his Muslim name, addressing him in public only by his nicknames, Ty and Timmy. When my grandmother came to visit, I asked her not to speak Arabic in public. And when my parents were in New York, they were approached by a stranger who advised them not to speak Arabic on the street. A well-meaning friend, trying to make me feel better (and warning me not to "take it the wrong way"), told me that my family and I "don't look Muslim." This, she thought, might protect us from discrimination. What were Muslims supposed to look like, I wondered
My husband and I were challenged on both fronts, by Muslims abroad who questioned the very possibility of a future for our children as American Muslims of Arab descent, and on the home front, by the stereotypes and prejudices that were heightened by the attacks of 9/11. On street corners, people joked about Muslim martyrs "racing to heaven to meet their brown-eyed virgins," a supposed reference to the Quran, but something I had never heard before. While we took heart from our president's visit to the mosque in Washington, D.C., we were also aware of the voices within his own administration who felt he had gone too far and who maintained that, at its core, Islam was a militant and dangerous religion. I wondered who was representing my faith.
Although my husband and I had at first chosen to spare our children the details of the attacks, we soon found out that our kindergarten-age daughter, who was the only Muslim in her class, was learning a great deal from friends at school. We explained to her that evil men who were Arab and called themselves Muslim had performed an evil deed. Since her only experience of the Arab world overseas had involved her grandparents, she anxiously asked if her grandmother knew these men or was involved in any way.