The dilemma was this: Wear the long, festive dress that comes to my ankles, the one with the delicate muted gold crochet over a black liner, or the matronly solid black dress that hits just below the knee?
For a wedding reception, the festive gold, right?
It’s almost a no-brainer: The neckline is high and sophisticated – perfectly modest for a Muslim wedding reception. It also has a matching shawl to cover my bare arms.
But the shawl is light, crocheted-lacy. My arms show through a little. Is that okay?
And the dress is form-fitting, shows my curves. Is that okay?
I put on the black dress. Boring. Looks like I’m going to a funeral, not a wedding.
Plus, the dress is supposed to be long. And this one has a slit, which gives an occasional peek at my kneecap.
Back to the gold dress. I search out the hub. “Hey hub, does this look okay?”
“It looks great.”
“Do I look immodest?”
Do you think this dress is suitable for a Muslim wedding?”
“I have no idea,” he said, and turned his attention back to football.
I went back upstairs, put the black dress back on and grabbed a black and silver shawl to cover my arms.
Frumpy but safe. Well, except for the black-tights-covered knee cap.
As my daughter and I entered the reception hall, we were greeted by the bride’s mom and sisters. Her older sister was wearing a gorgeous form-fitting, blush-colored dress. Shoot.
I had never been to a Muslim wedding reception before. There was no ceremony. A Muslim wedding ceremony is more an engagement ceremony and it rarely takes place on the same day as the wedding reception. In this case, the engagement ceremony occurred a full year ago.
My daughter and I were among the first to arrive. The bride – one of my daughter’s best friends – had previously told her that we would be sitting at one of the tables reserved for family near the stage. But there were no place cards or seating chart, so we just took a seat among the sea of unreserved tables.
The guests trickled in and then the bride and groom made their processional entrance and took their seats at a special table.
A brother, a father, a sister, an uncle and a best friend each made a speech and said a prayer in a language I don’t understand and then translated them into English.
Mid-way through the speeches, the bride’s mother moved my daughter and me to one if the reserved tables. I’m not sure why, but as I viewed the vast unreserved tables from my new vantage point, I realized that ours had been the only non-covered heads in a sea of hijab wearing women.
The groom is a recent convert to Islam. His non-Islam mother and sisters-in-law were also there with bare heads. We were re-seated with them.
As dinner wound down and the wall that would separate the men and women went up, the bride’s sister-in-law joined our table and the conversation turned to the hateful things people say on Facebook. She shared an incident that occurred when she was a girl in a Muslim elementary school. A substitute teacher told her class that all Muslims were going to heaven, and all Christians and Jews were going to hell. She said she raised her hand and said, “My mother and my aunt are Christians and they are very nice people. They aren’t going to hell.” And although this young woman was misguided about how salvation works, I was struck by her statement. If her mom and aunt had not been Christians, if she had not personally known any Christians, her little girl mind would have soaked up the teacher’s blanket statement and she would have gone through life thinking that all Muslims are good and all Jews and Christians are bad. But, since she knew two Christians who were not bad, her little mind rejected the teaching.
She went on to lament that people tell her she’s really nice and that she is their friend to her face and then write hateful things about people of her religion on Facebook.
I offered that when people speak to her one on one, they are looking at her, thinking of her as an individual. When they are typing on Facebook, they are forgetting her and thinking of a nameless, faceless group.
This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought of an article I read shortly after the 9/11 attacks. It reported that one of the terrorist pilots trained under the radar at a flight school in Florida. When his former classmates were interviewed, many commented that the terrorist kept to himself and refused their many invitations to go out for a drink or a meal after class. He refused all of their efforts to get to know him.
His refusal to socialize, I’m guessing, was not so much an attempt to protect his identity as it was an attempt to protect his hate.
He didn’t want to get to know his classmates. He didn’t want to discover that they were decent human beings. He wanted to hate them. He needed his hate to propel him to carry out his part in the evil scheme.
My friend Alma wrote a really good post. She said there are people hating on France. Saying they don’t deserve our prayers.
Individuals who were shot, killed, injured, traumatized as they enjoyed a Friday night out don’t deserve our prayers? Wives, mothers, husbands, brothers, children who tragically lost a loved one don’t deserve our prayers? Wives just like yours, mothers just like yours, children just like yours don’t deserve our prayers? A city, a country numbed and shaken by an attack of evil don’t deserve our prayers? I shake my head. Has Jesus taught us nothing? I read Alma’s post to my daughter and she shakes her head. Really shakes her head.
Lord have mercy.