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open

by Shawni

I’m so grateful for people who are open to invite others into their lives. To recognize how much we can learn from one another. To put to rest the notion that we are too different to see eye-to-eye.

Especially in today’s world where in some ways we are becoming increasingly divided.

A little while back I wrote about our layover in Dubai (back HERE). I wrote about how much I was planning to learn more about the Muslim religion after that stint. Sure, I’ve lived in Jerusalem for my study abroad semester and learned some there, but it’s funny how life gets jumbled up with life, and so many details get folded carefully away in the recesses of your memory.

Low and behold, shortly after my post a reader wrote to me to let me know she is originally from here in the desert, she is Muslim, and she wanted to invite me to come with her and her family to their Eid holiday celebration she was coming to town to attend.

I was overcome with how kind that was and quickly accepted her invitation. My neighbor friend ended up coming with me and I’m sure we looked a little out of place heading into the mosque wearing the only long skirts we could wrangle up and scarves I’m sure we probably weren’t wearing quite correctly.

But I loved trying to find a parking spot amidst all those people dressed in such a vast variety of coverings. Hundreds just flocking in to the mosque, ready to share in that special prayer. It almost felt like we were back in Dubai. And it made me think about how beautiful it is that there are so many different ways people connect with God in the world. And also that I want to delve more into other religions too.

My new Muslim blog friend who had been emailing back and forth with me was smiling waiting for us at the entrance with her sweet baby in tow.

She took us in, helped us find a spot for our shoes, led us through the crowd to find a spot we could be together, and let me snuggle her baby while she joined in the prayer.

This Eid holiday was called Eid al-Adha. It commemorates the prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son (who God replaced with a ram). There was a short prayer and then a talk all about that willingness to sacrifice. I was kind of overcome, standing in the hallway with my friend’s fussy-then-sleeping baby, prayer rugs filled with worshipers all around, with how similar it is to my church. And how nice it felt to be there, to be included, to feel the strength of all those people reaching up.

The only picture I got was from afar when we were headed back to our car, but even this just helps me remember:

My friend invited us to her home that afternoon to meet her family and I brought Dave, Claire and Lucy. Dave got whisked off to hang out with the men, and the girls and I sat with a group of women who were open to every question we could throw at them. We learned all about the five pillars of Islam, how marriages work, thoughts about the Quran, how each of those women decided, in different ways, when and how they wanted to start wearing a hijab as adults.

I could go on and on about all we learned, (and I still obviously have so much more to learn!), but that’s not what this post is about. More beautiful to me, was how it felt to have such kind and gracious new friends. I found myself wondering about all the pre-conceived notions we humans hold. The biases we tend to have when we come across things that are different. Things that aren’t in our realm of understanding. It’s so easy to make generalizations and to close ourselves off from learning and growing with each other. But oh! We have so much to learn and gain from one another! How grateful I am for the openness of this new friend to invite me into her circle with such love. And for the added insight she has given me by being willing to reach out.

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24 comments

Jenni McBride September 24, 2019 - 4:54 am

I just came across your blog by chance as I’ve been searching for something of meaning and purpose for my young women. I found your Daughter of God Week post and I loved it! It is older and I was afraid to comment on it that my message would not get read. Thanks for letting me post here. How am I able to see or find more information on what kind of things you used each day in your envelopes? I feel such an urgency for our girls to know how important they truly are, and this activity sounds wonderful! I appreciate any information you can help with. Thanks. – jenni

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:27 am

Hi Jenni, you can find the links here: https://71toes.com/2014/07/daughters-of-good-week-help-links/ but unfortunately some of those links don’t work. Here’s the correct link about what was in the envelopes: https://71toes.com/2011/12/envelopesfinally/ There are lots of links to a google drive with the exact documents in that “help links” post, and those ones DO work so check them out! Good luck with sharing all that with your girls, I was so grateful for that good idea all those years ago!

For anyone else who is interested, the original post is here: https://71toes.com/2011/11/daughter-of-god-week/

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Molly C September 25, 2019 - 7:41 am

I also felt impressed to do Daughters of God week with my yw a couple summers ago. It was a really neat experience. definitely took a lot of planning and organization but definitely worth it. One of the days (my favorite) was when we collected stories of a relative of each girl who showed an example of faith and courage. We met at the temple that evening, had the girls spread out and read their story privately We then gathered so girls could share if they wanted. It was a really neat experience. There is a strong correlation between kids being resilient and them knowing stories of their family members so I thought it was appropriate for this activity. Good luck

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Sabrina September 24, 2019 - 6:29 am

I LOVE this post. I really do believe if the world (as citizens) could be more open-minded, and willing to learn, that it would be a better place. This doesn’t mean we have to agree on beliefs, but at the very least, respect them. I find it rather interesting how you were able to draw some parallels between you faith and Islam… shows we all have more connections than we may realize 😉.

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Kara September 24, 2019 - 6:35 am

What a great opportunity! I firmly believe that no matter what we’re talking about…race, gender, religion, politics, nationality, etc., we are more the same than different. Some people are just better at finding our likenesses than other. I think you’re one of those people 🙂

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Heidi dressel September 24, 2019 - 8:13 am

Oh I absolutely love this!!! I’m so glad you were able to go!

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Jessica September 24, 2019 - 12:19 pm

I’ve read your blog for years even though I’m rather ‘far from mormon’ 🙂 I’ve been and continue to be inspired by you and your family. For a number of years I’ve wished that I could find a Muslim blog to follow in much the same way, to get a glimpse of a life so different and yet somehow also similar to my own. So I thought I’d ask if you, or any of the readers, have any suggestions. I’d be so very grateful. 😊

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Kerstin September 25, 2019 - 2:33 am

Maybe you will like Kalid Al Ameri. He makes little videos on Youtube and Instagram, often (or always?) with his wife. They are Muslims and live in UAE.

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:34 am

Kalid Al Ameri looks super interesting, thanks for the tip Kerstin. My Muslim friend also recommended a movie called “Arranged” to get an idea more into how the arranged marriages work. She said it’s not the most amazing movie ever, but it shows that process in a pretty realistic way. I keep meaning to watch it with my girls but life keeps getting in the way!

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Erika September 24, 2019 - 1:54 pm

I love this so much. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your willingness to learn and grow and then share with others is refreshing. I’m not mormon but live in a predominantly mormon community, and I so appreciate hearing your perspective. Thank you.

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Erika September 24, 2019 - 2:00 pm

One more thing. I took my 8 year old to Egypt – a predominantly Muslim country – this past Spring (just the two of us). I have never experienced such collective kindness. We were treated with love everywhere we went. So much generosity. A welcome spirit everywhere. We have traveled all over the world, we live in a Christian community, but I’ve never felt the way I did there.

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Katie September 24, 2019 - 3:30 pm

I loved reading “A Place for Us” because it helped me understand Muslims so much more. I have a Muslim acquaintance now here in Utah (we’re both on the PTA) and I have so many questions that hopefully I’ll be able to ask one day. But I really admire her because I am very impressed with their convictions, dedication to family and work ethic. I feel so badly that they are so often categorized and labeled and I think if we all learned more about each other we could be great friends.

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:36 am

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to get to know her better! Like you said, so much we can learn from each other! And I want to read “A Place for Us” again. Love it so much!
xoxo

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Rachel September 24, 2019 - 3:49 pm

I love this so much!! I read “Letters to a Young Muslim” on your recommendation and loved some of the thoughts. I also recently read “A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum and it was incredible- mostly because it made me think really deeply about how religion influences culture which then influences behavior and how similar our religion is to Islam in that respect. I would highly recommend it!

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:36 am

Thank you for the recommendation! I’ll check it out!

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Jane Flynn September 24, 2019 - 4:56 pm

I tutored a Muslim woman last year and I think I learned more from her than she learned from me.
So important for us to be open to other cultures and religions and to model that openness for your children.

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Keya September 24, 2019 - 7:56 pm

I love this post Shawni and kudos to you and family and friend to branch out like that and learn and appreciate different cultures.

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Catherine Cherin September 24, 2019 - 9:33 pm

Your post made me so happy. We are a Jewish family living in Northern California and through an interfaith coalition our synagogue participated in we have been paired with a Muslim family from Turkey and enjoy a special Ramadan meal with them each year and invite them to Passover with us. It has pained me to hear about the hate these beautiful, kind people have experienced here in the US.

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:38 am

What a great opportunity! That inspires me to look for an interfaith coalition here.

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Kristen Arnett September 24, 2019 - 9:39 pm

Not sure why this post made me tear up, but it’s just so beautiful! Maybe because for the first time in my life I have a desire to learn of other religions in this way! Especially after reading A Place for Us, per your recommendation. I hope you’ll continue to share things like this! And amen to how much we have to learn from each other!

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Kerstin September 25, 2019 - 2:35 am

I bet your favorite thing about that experience was snuggling that baby (I’m joking!)!

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Alma September 25, 2019 - 2:40 am

I’ve been reading and loving your blog for years now and the reason that it’s the one of the few I didn’t stop following is your ‘mild tone’ when you write about anything. It’s not ‘I have it all’ and ‘I know it all’, you are not exaggerating about life and in my humble opinion by that you are not making life less, you are making it more by taking it in its fullness, bad, good, great, different, struggling, amazing, in reinventing it each day by doing some good.
I’m a Muslim, but not wearing hijab and being white (so the prejudices are not developed at a glance) and very often the foreigners realize I’m a Muslim later on when they already know real me, my interests and my charachter, and there is no room for the prejudices any more. If we only could keep back that first, initial prejudice, and be more curious about people we could see that the differences exists only on the surface if anywhere. Thank you for that!

p.s. English is not my native language, sorry for mistakes.

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Shawni September 25, 2019 - 7:44 am

Beautiful English and thank you for the sweet note. Interesting to hear from your perspective with no hijab. My friend wears one and her mother does not.
I love how we can all look for what works for us to feel more connected to God. Thank you for sharing. xoxo

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Christine September 25, 2019 - 1:29 pm

This post made me smile. One of my best friends here in Holland is an Afghanistani Muslim woman. Because of her, I’ve learned a great deal about her religion and nationality. She’s opened my eyes to a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise understood. We’ve also had some deep spiritual conversations which have taught me how many similarities there are in our faiths (I’m LDS). I wish more of my friends family members could meet her so they could also understand how much we have in common with those often considered so different. I think it’s great that you are sharing these experiences with the world.

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