We invite you to view our interview first, with Krister Stendahl's three rules for religious understanding (listed below), and then take a look behind the scenes, to find out a bit more about why Azza's story is significant to Closed to Close.
1. When trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its critics or enemies.
2. Don't compare your best traits to their worst.
3. Leave room for 'holy envy'. In other words, be willing to learn from how they live their faith, so you can live your own more effectively. Enjoy!
The essential purpose of these posts is to give you an in-depth understanding of the experience we had with our interviewees and the lessons we learned from them. However, in this situation, we feel we need to do so with a challenge to view this woman’s story with your eyes wide open about a policy that may affect people like Azza. To be clear:
The interview featured above is one that proved to be, though not purposefully, especially timely. You see, Azza is originally from Libya, one of the countries listed in President Trump’s recent executive order concerning the issuance of visas and other immigration documents.
While we don’t wish, at this time, to make statements about public policy, we do want to encourage you, our reader, to stare whatever dissonance you may have, right in the face. One of the results of tearing down the walls that keep us closed-minded toward one another is the realization of the other’s pain. This is, in our opinion, essential to the human experience. Regardless of how you feel about President Trump’s executive order, we believe that it is always valuable to understand the ways proposed solutions to social issues influence others.
So, yes. Azza is a Libyan Muslim.
She is also a mother.
A Ph.D. scholar and professor.
The Vice President of her local Islamic Society.
A woman of fierce faith.
A woman with compassion.
An explicit denouncer of Islamic Extremism.
A woman who literally welcomed a stranger into her sacred space to ask her about her faith.
And so, so much more.
I went into the day feeling more than a little apprehensive about how I would be received. I rehearsed in my mind, at least a hundred times, the reminder to go to the back door and not the front. I didn’t want to offend Azza. The truth is, she could not have been more welcoming.
From the start, it was such a treat to watch her beam about her daughter, who, by the way, does seem like a really cool kid. It was refreshing to hear about her perspective and struggle (mild as it may be) with fasting. Others will surely find it fascinating to hear about the ways Islamic women revere Mary, the mother of Jesus. By the end of the interview, I felt as though I were in the home of an old friend.
She was vibrant, and affable, and had a depth of faith that was nothing short of impressive. Azza lives what Closed to Close teaches, and we consider ourselves lucky to have found her. We are confident that her eloquence will help inform our viewers about Islam in meaningful ways. She shatters stereotypes about what a Muslim woman is and isn’t. This was true both in the footage that made the final cut, and the rest of our interaction.
We fully recognize that there are many in this world that have used Islam as a platform for committing unspeakable evils. We, however, side with Azza when she asserted that, “I don’t know any religion [that] would call for terrorism and violence. All religions, if there is anything in common among them, is to call for love and passion and spreading love and respect in humanity.”
Terrorism isn’t religion. It’s venomous and perverse ideology that threatens true religions, especially Islam, everywhere.
We are honored to be able to tell a bit of Azza’s story on Closed to Close. In the end, we still assert that the bridge between being closed-minded toward one another and being close, is our commonality. We are more together.
We couldn’t be more excited about some of the developments coming to C2C. We invite you to follow along, share our message, and get involved. Until next time, may your God bless and protect you.