Thursday, July 2, 2009

Diverse Hawaii: Islam Day

Welcome Back to
"To understand Barack, you have to understand the Hawaii he grew up in."
Michelle Obama

“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

Charles "the Great" de Montesquieu

“I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street.”
Malcolm X

“Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. Love others as well as you love yourself.”


“I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else - I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
Elizabeth II

“Brotherhood is not just a Bible word. Out of comradeship can come and will come the happy life for all.”
Heywood C. Broun

Hawaii people pride ourselves on our Aloha Spirit by which many cultures share these tiny islands amicably. We eat each others foods, use each others languages in our pidgin, observe each others holidays, and our island habit of intermarriage was a "problem" for some when Hawaii statehood was making it's way through the US Senate.

Yes, there is something alive here that turned me from a "get out of my way!" East Coast person into a much more patient driver and citizen. Tolerance is a nice, safe concept when living as a majority person. It is something else entirely when you have neighbors, co-workers, and even, perhaps, a boss from a very different culture from your own. Unexamined assumptions on both sides can cause very interesting issues to arise. I know that I am a better person for these sorts of life experiences.

And here we celebrate everything!

The Hawaii State Legislature has even provided official recognition to various days with religious connections:

Asian Lunar New Year Commemoration Week
Bodhi Day
Buddha Day
Baha'i New Year's Day
Confucius Day**
Father Damien De Veuster Day
Good Friday*
Islam Day**
Makahiki Commemoration Day

[* Official state holidays
** Recognized by resolution, not in Hawaii law]

And this doesn't include Mayoral and Gubernatorial proclamations honoring Israeli Independence Day and the like.

The coming weekend will find me celebrating Korean culture at a festival here in Waikiki, and this blog is full of my exploits enjoying Chinese New Year, Shinto ceremonies, and Makahiki Season (Hawaiian New Year).

Shall we all sing "Kumbayah" now?

Not yet!

If exclamation points appeared over your head when you read "Islam Day" you are not alone.

According to the Honolulu Star Bulletin of May 15:

"Muslims are a tiny minority in Hawaii, roughly 4,000 residents, but they feel welcome here, said Hakim Ouansafi, chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, who asked (State Senator) Berg to introduce the (Islam Day) resolution.
"Fortunately for us, we're inundated with calls of support and encouragement, not just now, but after 9/11," he said. "This is the Aloha State. We live together, respect each other, love each other. We know that no people should be judged based on the actions of a few."
The terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks have continued bombing campaigns in Muslim countries, he noted. "It's a common enemy, and it's killing more Muslims than non-Muslims," Ouansafi said. "The Pakistan army is in full war against the terrorists on behalf of the world."
He said the Hawaii Legislature's move is helping build a bridge to Muslims, generating positive comments about America from viewers and readers of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, major Arabic-language news organizations.
"It's reaching the far, far corners of the world in a positive manner," he said. "The legislators have done in one resolution more to plant seeds of understanding than anyone could dream."

But leave it to 2 of our notorious republican senators to begin foaming at the mouth and spouting absurdities that show the very NEED for such a non-religious day to learn more about our neighbors' culture. Once Fox (Faux) News covered the story in their trademark "even & balanced" fashion there were calls to State tourism officials threatening to cancel travel plans. Lucky for us, I thought, that those folks are staying away. They should perhaps vacation in the colonial 19th Century, eh? All the "different" people here might upset their mind-set! LOL.

Though Good Friday is an official paid State holiday here, Islam Day (which mandated no official observance) was denied on the basis of the "wall of separation between church & state" that Jefferson wrote about.

Today I was at an early morning meeting where Mr. Ouansafi and a lawyer from the ACLU presented their points of view. The ACLU had testified against the senate resolution on the basis of the wall of separation while ignoring the Good Friday holiday as "before my time."

The law really IS an ass!

Hakim told us that Muslim media throughout the world carried the story of Hawaii's attempt to honor their culture and that it was very positive coverage despite the ultimate outcome. (No Islam Day) One writer in Saudi Arabia even proposed that his own country establish a "Christian Day!"

This is the power of Aloha.

Even when it is denied by misguided locals, it still permeates our culture here, thanks to our host Hawaiian culture.

I admit to being reflexively wary of Muslims and their culture. Visiting Chicago on business a few years back, I was involuntarily shocked that everyone from my taxi driver to the toll booth person was greeting with a Salam Alaikum. Did they look down on me as a woman? What would they think if they thought of me as Jewish? It's very uncomfortable supposing that others hate you without knowing you. I suppose that was Hakim's intention behind Islam Day: more mutual understanding here in the isles.

Today I listened to a leader of Hawaii's Muslim community and heard a brother speaking.

A L O H A ? Cloudia