The other week, I had a great Sunday. It started like most weekend days do, full of possibility. Sometimes the possibility is so great, that we don’t know where to begin, and we end up wasting the day, thinking I’ll end up doing something nice, just a little later…after I’ve watched another episode of Portlandia…But this Sunday was planned. I wanted to hear the service at the UU in Providence, which is usually an uplifting environment, and sometimes a treasure of philosophical thinking and motivation, opening doors to new perspectives, ideas and motivations. After that I intented to go to AS220 to meet a friend and hear a talk on being a Muslim Ally. These days, any chance I get to be on the side of love and not hate, I take.

First stop, First Unitarian Church of Providence

This Sunday at the UU, Reverand Charles Blustein Ortman delivered a message that really connected with me. His sermon, titled “Why I am a Universalist Unitarian Jew”, hit on philosophies and ideas of life, death, God, society, religion, existentialism, history…so much crammed into a few short minutes! I soaked this serman up, which I advise you to read here, took away just a few key notes:

Holy, one of the most distinguished words in the Bible, does not refer to a thing, person or place, but instead a time. Holy is the Sabbath. Holy is not a mountain, or an alter. It is about taking time, being with time. Being present.

To quote a story that Charlie used:

A story from Martin Buber: Rabbi Shneur Zalman, The Rav of Northern White Russia (died 1813), was put in jail in Petersburg, because the [adversaries of Hassidism] had de¬nounced his principles and his way of living to the government. He was awaiting trial when the chief of the gendarmes entered his cell. The majestic and quiet face of the rav, who was so deep in meditation that he did not at first notice his visitor, suggested to the chief, a thoughtful person… He began to converse with his prisoner and brought up a number of questions which had occurred to him in reading the Scriptures. Finally he asked: “How are we to understand that God, the all-knowing, said to Adam: ‘Where art thou?’”

“Do you believe,” answered the rav, “that the Scrip¬tures are eternal and that every era, every generation and every [person] is included in them?”

“I believe this,” said the other.

“Well then, said the [Rabbi], “in every era, God calls to every [person]: ‘Where are you in your world? So many years and days of those allotted to you have passed, and how far have you gotten in your world?’ God says something like this: ‘You have lived 46 years. How far along are you?’”

When the chief of the gendarmes heard his age mentioned, he pulled himself together, laid his hand on the rav’s shoulder, and cried: “Bravo!” But [silently inside] his heart trembled. Our hearts should tremble, too. There are questions to be asked, and questions to be answered. Where are you? How far are you along your journey? Where is your holy space? Where is your holy time? What is your ethic in dealing with your fellow human beings? How do you study and promote the causes of goodness? How does your life serve the generations yet to come? And what are you doing to make the world a more just and loving place?

The work of the religious person, of Jews, of Unitarian Universalists, of any religious person, is never done. Now, always now, is our sacred journey in time. L’chiam!

The UU Church is a beautiful place, filled with compassionate people who care about each other and the world. They are beacons of light and peace, and it always uplifts me when I am there. I was first drawn to the building – a historic old church on Benefit Street in Providence, built in 1850 or so – and then kept going because of the warmth of the people and the philosophies expressed by the preachers and congregation. That religions are tossed around so freely, only serving to teach and spread peace and understanding, is an amazing leap of spiritual evolution. The UU is not the first organization to promote this idea that all religions, all spiritual paths, are really the same. The UU simply puts that idea front and center, and uses it as a cornerstone of the organization.

The only thing that can follow acceptance, understanding, and empathy is love towards one another. It’s that simple.

Next stop: AS220

The rest of my Sunday continued to be one of the most inspiring days I have had in a while: I attended a How to be a Muslim Ally talk at AS220. I don’t have a false sense of being a hero just by showing up. But I do believe in small actions, and know that each one of us can do one little thing, and that those little things add up. This was my contribution towards a more peaceful, enlighted society. Showing up and listening.

My notes are as follows – these are not answers, or complete thoughts, just notes. The meeting was structured in 3 parts. The first part is teaching the basics of Islam so we are not so ignorant about the practices and lifestyles of Muslims.

Part 1: Teach

  • How is Islam different than Christianity? How old is Islam? Is the Qur’an any more violent than the Bible?

  • Why do women wear hijab? It is because God knows. God wants you to protect yourself.

  • What rules that you follow are you proud of? Not drinking, love thy neighbor, not cracking knuckles! (leads to arthritis).

  • What is the difference between Sunni, Shi’ite, Ahmadiyyas?


  • What does your daily routine look like?

Part 2: Share

  • Thanks Donald Trump for bringing us together. Shaking us, waking us. Motivating us. Organizing us. Preparing us.

  • Why are so many people scared of Muslims?

  • Same reason Germans feared Jews: ignorance.

  • Thus, education is the solution. Make Muslim friends. Recognize our humanity. We are people.

  • Islam is not monolithic. Saudi Arabia Sharia is not Islam.

  • The most dangerous among us are those that already know everything, and don’t want to learn.

Part 3: Plan

(my notes sound like the share part above…“plan” then should be, how can we plan to be Muslim allys? Can we spread knowledge of the culture, the people? Can we cut through ignorance and show we are all human?)

  • Get to know the culture and people of Islam

  • Music:

  • Kominas, Awasdu, Haram

  • Kash on HuffPo

  • Hw: Go home and listen to Muslim voices. Pay attention.

  • Information is not valuable unless you share it.

How did we get into this problem of misinformation? The mindset of: “We don’t want to learn, we want someone to tell us. The best way to learn is to go to the source. Read the whole book, don’t take it out of context. That’s when things get misinterpreted…ex: Islam is violent, God wants this or that…did you read the whole book?!


  • Dorcas



  • Linda Sarsour

  • Eboo Patel


  • Qur’an

Thanks to AS220, the organizers and to the presenters for hosting this great meeting. This is what needs to happen to move forward in society, to cut through ignorance, and move towards peace.

Now it is time to make this useful, to spread this information. If you notice ignorance, hate, fear, approach it and overcome it. If you notice a Muslim being antagonized, being misunderstood, step in and help.

Guide to Help Muslims Against Islamophobia Guide to Help Muslims against Islamophobia

ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the KKK has to do with Christianity

  • Dalia Mogahed

Video from TrueIslam: