I want to talk about a website I came across recently, My Best Friend Is Muslim. (I particularly like this post and this post.)
When I discovered the site, I promptly told my two best buds about it. One of them is Protestant, the other is, uh, a spiritual vegetarian with a Christian background?
Which demonstrates the obvious: For every non-Muslim whose best friend is Muslim, there’s a Muslim whose best friend is not Muslim. And the benefits of such relationships go both ways.
I know I can’t take full credit for my friends being more tolerant and more knowledgeable about Islam than many other people are, or for their knowing that Muslims’ preferred pronunciation of Muslim doesn’t sound like “muslin.” But I take a little credit.
And I credit my many non-Muslim friends with making me a more tolerant person, too. Someone who understands that not all Christians believe the same things, that atheists have values, that I share more in common with some progressive Jews than with some conservative Muslims.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that one person (or one story) that introduces someone to a different religion or culture or way of being can change that someone’s views. Sure, tolerance by proximity is a fairly slow way to change the world, and it doesn’t always work — there are plenty of people who love and respect a Muslim, or gay person, or Jewish person, or black person, or Asian person, or other kind of person and still hold on to hatred for the group that person comes from. And no matter how energetically writers try to bust stereotypes, they won’t always succeed in busting them for every reader. But the idea that I could change one person’s mind about Muslims because they met me or read something I wrote — well that idea just makes me happy and optimistic.
Maybe even optimistic enough to think I should introduce myself to the Republican presidential candidates.
And I’m also here to encourage Muslim folks, especially those not in the United States (where it’s sort of impossible not to know non-Muslims), to talk about their non-Muslim friends and about how important those friendships have been to them. Let’s make an effort to introduce other Muslims to non-Muslims.
Because Republican presidential candidates (minus Mitt Romney) aren’t the only haters in the world. And sometimes people are intolerant simply because they were never given the chance not to be.
P.S. Back in May, I promised y’all a post about the structure of novels. I swear, it’s mostly written in my head and will make it to the blog soon. Really!