Monday, 23 May 2011
After 3 ½ years living in Dubai I finally got around to visiting the Jumeirah Mosque. It’s the only Mosque in Dubai that invites non-Muslims to go inside and learn more about the mystery of what happens beyond closed doors and uncovering some of the myths surrounding the Islamic religion. They offer a program called, “A Taste of the Emirates…Open Doors. Open Minds.” I was ready for my eyes to be opened. Do you know what I discovered? Behind that closed door, there were rituals going on that I had done every single Sunday growing up in a Roman Catholic family. At the start of the tour, our guide recited the prayer we hear over the loud speakers five times a day every day since we arrived, and then the Salat (act of prayer, which they use as the first “connection” to God during the service). He then translated it into English. The first line of the Salat is “Glory to God in the Highest.” I mouthed back to him, “and peace to his people on earth.” Then I couldn’t help it as the hymn continued in my head… “Lord, God, heavenly kind, almighty God and Father. We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your Glory…” and on it goes. After so many years, piling in the car with my mom and dad and four brothers and sisters and heading to church every Sunday, it’s something that stays with you. He then proceeded to demonstrate the posturing that follows which we have seen on the news and in the movies. I grinned to myself as I pictured the entire congregation of my church standing, kneeling, genuflecting, sitting, standing and kneeling over and over again throughout the mass. The Emirati gentleman who was sharing this with us had a great sense of humour and shared stories from his childhood when he accompanied his father and brothers to Mosque too. The women aren’t required to go as they have children to care for and a house to run. In his words, “they’re too busy to drop everything they’re doing five times a day!” So, a man gets extra reward for joining the group prayer but a woman gets the extra points no matter where she prays. He punctuated this by saying that people can pray wherever they want. They don’t have to go to Mosque. That’s my thinking, exactly! He explained that the reason you see the group standing shoulder to shoulder is not to let the devil of the differences between each of us that we (humankind) create get in the way. As I travel the world and learn about different cultures (or just interact with people from the 136 different cultures living here in Dubai), I see that there are often more similarities than differences. Yes, there are some differences (and some that may frustrate you when you think...'that's not the way I would do it' but then you take a step back and ask yourself why). With any religion, ethnic group or culture, if there are individuals who have hate in their heart, they’ll find a reason to fight or will fabricate one. Myself, I prefer peace.