I have always prided myself on being open-minded and fair, so it was with both surprise and shock that I read Mona Shadia's weekly column, "Unveiled: A Muslim Girl in O.C."
I almost couldn't believe what I was reading: A Muslim telling me, a Christian, that she and people of her religion give some credence to Jesus.
Shadia refers to passages within the Koran regarding Jesus that reflect the very same beliefs that I hold.
Because, like most Americans, I hold deep-seeded preconceptions and prejudices, I first read the column with more than a little skepticism. I couldn't help but think, "Is she putting me on? What's her game?" I couldn't help but remember Muslims scoffing at my Bible, and now one of them says they include Jesus Christ in theirs?
As I read, I remembered an imam I saw on TV who told his flock, not only before him, but to the whole Muslim world, not to tell the truth to the infidels, we Christians, because we are not worthy, that in fact it is the Muslims' duty to mislead and lie to the infidel.
When I read the column again, I thought, "This couldn't be what that imam meant. Shadia couldn't/wouldn't be putting this in print for all the world to see it she didn't believe it, if it didn't have some level of truth to it, knowing she could and perhaps would, by those Islamic radical terrorists, be killed for saying such things that go against Muslims and their/her religion and their sacred bible, the Koran."
You might want to know that I have been one of those individuals who since 9/11 felt justified in believing that Muslims are a people never to be trusted, especially after hearing that imam. I have seen and heard things that has reinforced and ingrained this belief very deeply.
While still fighting the urge to read something hidden between the lines, Shadia's column makes me think, and perhaps informs me that, first, I am very likely not as open and fair as I've always prided and purported myself to be.
The column also tells me that I may not have all the right facts, and that perhaps I've misunderstood some of the things I've seen and heard.
I guess more than anything else, the column exposed some of the depth of my own ignorance.
So before I could respond, I had to sort things out in my mind, something I am only able to do when I sit quietly and separate mixed emotions from logical analysis.
Knowing little or nothing about Islam, how did I arrive at the thoughts, emotions and conclusions I have about Muslims? What are the sources of the justification of my prejudices?
I've never actually stood in front of, nor been in earshot of a Muslim venting the hatreds of Christians I've heard so much about from both the media and others venially spewing accusations of plots of terrorism and hatred.
My only source for the basis of my prejudices, and especially considering the political environment at this time, come from the least trustworthy, least believable of all sources: the media, printed and electronic.
Then there are those I've encountered who continue to spew the very same prejudices, but most, if not all, have not interacted with Muslims. Their sources are the same as mine. I couldn't help but also hear these same people recounting, as though it was first hand, what I had told them about that imam. I was then forced to remember and admit that is how reputations are created.
I have become embarrassed for myself and most of those we live and work with every day. We really have become a nation of sheep.
The point is, I feel I owe it, first to myself and second to the Muslim Americans, to know who and what Muslims are, before jumping, as I have, to what might be ill-conceived conclusions.
Shadia also makes the statement that, "This information tends to surprise my Christian friends."
Well, the fact is, especially with me, this is a gross understatement. I am to say the least, totally shocked as I know might also be the same reaction of many of my Christian friends. I have been left with the belief that to the Muslim, Jesus was at best just another man, a self-proclaimed prophet. And so, it pleases me to think and perhaps learn that we actually just might believe some of the very same things regarding Jesus Christ.
PATERIK TOBIAS is a Costa Mesa resident.