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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

So Different, but Really Similar

I had a really interesting conversation last night. For the past two semesters, one of my classmates is a girl who is a religious Muslim. Last night we talked a bit about some of our theological similarities, of which there are a surprising number. She wears what she told me last night is a "hijab," a scarf that covers her head except for her face, and long robes. She explained the for modesty purposes, she is required to cover everything except her face and hands. Yesterday she was wearing pants, which she told me she is technically not allowed to do, but sometimes she gets tired of wearing skirts (gee, I don't know what that's like). I told her about our laws of tznius and how women cover their hair after marriage. She commented to me that a lot of people ask her if she is married. She thinks they probably have the association because of Jewish practice. Muslims also follow dietary laws, though they are not as strict as ours. No pork, meat must be slaughtered by a believer of G-d (which makes kosher meat okay), though the mixing of meat and dairy is allowed. Apparently some Muslims feel saying a blessing before eating meat of questionable slaughter is good enough, which possibly explains why I am always asked about my food being "blessed." She told me that her family typically gets their meat from kosher sources, or her father slaughters it himself. We talked a little bit about our respective mating rituals. What she described sounds very similar to Chasidic dating to me. They have almost identical concepts of yichud, and shomer negiah. She told me she has a friend who was married at the age of 14, and she was engaged at 16 (though it didn't work out). She is 19 now, and wants to wait until she is finished with school to get married, though she admitted that she gets pressure from her community to get married now. It was so interesting to hear about a different culture that has such parallels to my own. She wasn't at all amazed about the things I told her about Judaism, they were similar to the beliefs she holds. Sitting next to her in class the past two semesters, we have spoken often about general topics, and occasionally asked a quick question of each other. But we had never before spoken in such depth about our religious beliefs. I knew we had a lot in common just because of the fact that we are both more religious than the typical college student at my school, but I didn't realize what depth the commonalities held. We didn't discuss at all the politics that I am sure would separate us by miles. I really enjoyed trying to find similarities rather than differences with her. I find it empowering to be able to connect with someone who many would see as on the opposite side of the spectrum from myself. I am happy that we were able to see beyond our differences to be able to look for similarities.


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