Okay, fine, I'm back. I totally meant to post more pictures and stories while I was there, but trust me - there was too much to do and too much to see, and I couldn't spend my spare minutes on the computer. However, now that I'm home, I can write all about my fabulous trip to Dar al Islam in New Mexico! You've already seen the beautiful campus where I spent 95% of my time going to lectures and working on projects. Here are some extra special pics of the surrounding landscape:
Views from Dar al Islam Campus:Here are some pics of "Plaza Blanca," or The White Place made famous by Georgia O'Keefe. Turns out these beautiful volcanic tuft structures were ON Dar al Islam's property and I walked to them every morning!
And, on our trip to Taos, we passed a beautiful Echo Ampitheater and just had to stop to check it out. Here are some pics of that beautiful gem:
I spent one day in Taos, which was wonderful, and another day (my birthday!) in Santa Fe where I went to the world's largest folk art festival. I bought all kinds of nifty souveniers from all over the world, including a great hat for Chud Muffin and a brass plate for myself.
Our second week was filled with more and more and more lectures, lots of enlightening information, and some great relationships on which to depend as we all crusade into this school year. I can honestly say that I have a much more sympathetic view of Muslims (or any deeply religious group of people, for that matter) and I plan to make my classroom a place where important discussions take place.
I'm going to do my best to recreate Dr. Shafi's closing remarks from our banquet Saturday night. Before you read it, keep in mind, he is a Muslim scholar and business man from Pakistan who has made a successful life for his beautiful family in New Mexico, where he began the Dar al Islam institute twenty years ago to combat prejudice and wage peace. Here's what he said:
"When I was a child, my mother taught me a prayer. Every night, before we went to bed, we said this prayer. After we asked God to bless our mother and father - and their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers - the very next person we asked God to bless....was our teacher - and their teachers, and their teachers." This is where he got a bit choked up. "The reason we asked God to bless our teacher was because we expecting big things from them." Then he started to cry and said, "We expected our teachers to tell us....the truth." I started thinking about how hard it must have been to grow up as a Muslim in this country, and I also started to wonder how many of my students have ever prayed for me (not many, I'm sure). Then he continued, "We expected them to give us the answers, to be our guides - and to NOT make us the enemy." At this point I lost it. I thought of my two, adorable, Muslim students from the last couple of years - the Jaloudi brothers - who always have so much life and so much love in their eyes. I started to cry for their futures - for the "random" stops they will get at the airport, the stares and glares they'll receive while they go grocery shopping with their mother in her hijab, and the prejudice they'll encounter as they go through high school and college in our disturbingly conservative community. After Dr. Shafi's closing remarks, I said a prayer for the Jaloudi boys. I know they will be successful and I pray that their future teachers will recognize the amazing contributions they have to give, regardless of their father's inability to speak English and their mother's fear of Parent-Teacher conferences.
I'm so glad I went to this institute. Now I'm afraid of being the only one I know who thinks that a mosque is beautiful, that Muslim prayers are just as sacred as anyone else's, and that the things happening in our world are so much more political than religious. I'll never know what it's like to be a Muslim, but I'll do my best to make sure that ALL of my students are comfortable asking questions and learning the truth - whether it's in the curriculum or not. God bless teachers and God bless the students who listen to them!