President Barack Obama shakes hands with Palestinian children during a visit to the Church of the Nativity in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, March 22, 2013. (ATEF SAFADI-POOL/GETTY IMAGES)
Lebanese Kurds wave the Kurdish flag and a flag picturing Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during Persian New Year, or Noruz, celebrations in Beirut, March 21, 2013. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lipid (c) with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned his position after being indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, at the Feb. 5 swearing in of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Israeli soldiers take pictures of each other in front of Israel’s illegal apartheid wall near the Qalandia checkpoint outside Ramallah, March 30, 2013. Israeli troops earlier had clashed with Palestinian demonstrators commemorating the 37th anniversary of “Land Day.” (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Clay, Babylon, Mesopotamia, after 539 BCE D x H: 7.8-10 x 21.9-22.8 cm British Museum, London, ME 90920 Photo: ©The Trustees of the British Museum
Prosthetic legs for wounded American soldiers at the Center for Intrepid rehabilitation gym at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX, Aug. 7, 2012. (JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES)
May/June 2011, Page 64
Baptists, Ismaili Texans Get to Know Each Other, Thanks to Becky Miller
"I think the Ismailis are a remarkable people," said Becky Miller, a former mayor of the City of Carrollton, Texas. On Jan. 17 Miller and eight representatives of the First Baptist Church of Carrollton visited Headquarters Jamatkhana in Dallas, TX, where the local Ismaili community in Carrollton worship. The Shi'i Imami Ismaili Muslims, generally known as the Ismailis, belong to the Shi'i branch of Islam—the other major branch being Sunni. Though a minority, their focus on balancing spiritual and material lives has made the Ismaili community socially conscious, with a strong work ethic.
The Baptists came expecting to see a place of worship, but they soon found themselves engaged in a dialogue of understanding and cooperation. The Ismailis, along with other Muslims, firmly believe in the dignity of all mankind and regard other faith communities as People of the Book, Ahl al Kitab, to be respected and treated as brothers and sisters, all created by the one God.
"It was a magnificent experience," Miller said. "As Christians, sometimes we think that everyone should be Christian, but frankly that's just not going to happen, and doesn't need to. What we do need is to understand other religious communities, and if we do that we can see that we are in fact more alike than we could have imagined."
One of the main objectives of this visit was to explore the role of women in Islam and examine the misconceived notion that women are ill-treated. "It is they who run the household and they are professionals just like us," Miller said. Women within the Muslim world, and this specific community, are encouraged to work hard, educate themselves, become professionals and volunteer to help others.
Hosting the Baptist visitors is the first of many future events that participants hope will help forge a relationship. "What better way to extend a hand in friendship than to invite someone over to your space; your sanctuary?" asked Salima Dhamani, program manager for this event. The openness of the event allowed everyone to question their stereotypes and learn more about each other.
Congressman Peter King recently held congressional hearings on American Muslims, determined to prove that religious extremism prevails in the American Muslim community. This, Miller said, is simply unacceptable and uncalled for. "Just because someone looks some way or believes something doesn't necessarily mean they are dangerous…it just makes the issue even worse. "There really is a fear still out there...people are afraid of Muslims," Miller added, "and I tell people that there are good people and bad people and that happens in every religion and that's just the way it is. I always remind people of all the Muslims who were killed in the towers." Miller said she felt the Baptist visitors all walked away with a better understanding of the Ismaili community and "they really want to reach out and work together."