The Cost of Unconscious Bias

unconscious bias

In May 2018, Starbucks closed up all their coffee shops in order to have “Unconscious Bias” training after the arrest of two Black gentlemen, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson  at a coffee shop in Philadelphia. Reports stated that the men showed up 10 minutes early to the coffee shop for a business meeting, asked for the restrooms and were told by the white employee that the facilities were for paying customers only. According to the Washington Post article, “After Nelson returned to the table where Robinson was sitting, the white manager approached them to ask whether she could help get them drinks or water.Two minutes later, she called the police to report “two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.”

coffee lifestyle starbucks coffee shop
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

The men were so gracious that they settled with Starbucks for the token sum of ONE DOLLAR each – merely to show that their intention was to get the company to fix what was broken. As a part of the agreement, Starbucks announced it would close 8,000 stores for anti-racial-bias training on May 29. Johnson (CEO) and Schultz (chairman) met with Nelson and Robinson personally to apologize.

All this because of ONE employee… this did not need to happen.

Unconscious Bias is something we all have. It resides in the background of our brains and comes out at unexpected times and places. It may look like an extreme emotional reaction to someone or it could look like a “gut feel” to not hire someone. Either way, it’s there, lurking and unless we realize that this is something we can all fall victim to, it will not get addressed or go away.

So, how does one deal with this?

Harvard has an amazing tool that I assign to my undergraduate business students called the “Implicit Association Test (IAT).” It is free for personal use and it exists to help people realize that we all have blind spots. I get at least one student per semester who writes me a terse e-mail, telling me that they do not appreciate me pointing out that they are prejudiced. I normally reply back simply by writing back “We ALL have prejudice!” It’s good to become aware of the things that might trigger a reaction, much like the one the Starbucks employee had upon watching two African American men sit down at an empty table. I’m not excusing her behavior, I’m merely pointing out that something went terribly wrong in this exchange and it happened to revolve around the people’s race and ethnicity.

We all have physical blind spots in our optic nerve (blocks peripheral vision — that’s why we need side view mirrors on cars!), so why don’t we believe that we have mental blind spots as well? The more we encourage one another to think about matters of DIVERSITY & INCLUSION, the better off we will be as an organization and as a society.

If you’d like to know more about this topic, contact me! 🙂

Advertisements

Diversity, HR & Ramadan

61vjixp1wil-_sy500_

As a Human Resources Professional and a former Muslim, I get many questions about how to handle the limitations of Ramadan for Muslim employees. When I was working full time and tried to fast during Ramadan, it was next to impossible for me. There were doughnuts at the morning meetings, lunch meetings catered by my favorite restaurants, more lunch meetings with clients and dinner mixers. You could also forget trying to pray five times a day in the middle of these and other obligations as a senior level manager! Today with the increased awareness of the Diversity that exists, Muslims are not as ready as I was to quietly go through the day to fast or pray. Ramadan can present a challenge especially for Human Resources and employees that is confusing. Those outside the Muslim faith don’t quite understand the issues or the flexibility in a religion that looks quite inflexible on the outside. Some try to compare this to the Lenten season, but not all Christians practice fasting for Lent and even then, many Catholics give up meat on one day. Christian fasting is also different as there is no set day. Christians can fast anytime, however they like. It is a discipline to draw them closer to God – not to fulfill any religious obligations. Furthermore, Christian fasts do not make up any meals. If you give up a meal, it is gone.

I describe Ramadan fasting as a flipping of day with night. Meals are not eaten during the day (no water or liquids either). However, at night, you can eat or drink to your heart’s content. We would get up before sunrise and eat a breakfast. You can then eat again after sunset. It’s the daylight hours that present the challenge. I have written other blog posts on this topic: Ramadan Demystified and the Christian’s Guide to Ramadan.

So… what is an employer to do?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says:

“In addition, the Act  requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and  employees,  unless  doing so would  cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer’s business. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments  lateral transfers, and exceptions to dress or grooming rules are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.”

*”Undue Hardship” on Employer = costly, compromises safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on other employees’ rights or requires others to pick up their task of burdensome work.

*Undue hardship also may be shown if the request for an accommodation violates others’ job rights established through a collective bargaining agreement or seniority system.

*Prohibits religious harassment of employees, such as offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices (hostile or offensive work environment) or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

Of course, the EEOC guidelines are to be followed, but a good rule of thumb is to practice Diversity awareness and allow employees to openly have a conversation about what is Ramadan and why it is practiced – if they are willing. This way, it will not become a taboo topic where people are walking on eggshells or ignoring it. In addition, allowing a little flexibility in hours is not only kind but appreciated by all employees (granted in retail sales, call centers and manufacturing, that is more difficult to do).

The same kindness should also be shown to others who have differing religious beliefs- including Christians. I find now as a Christian, it is the flip side of the coin, where people are not willing to share their Christian faith for fear or repercussion – a man I know did not even feel he could put a cross in his office without being ridiculed.  Religious accommodations can be made, but decisions should be made with respect to overall productivity and efficiency of the organization. If all employees on the team are willing to pitch in, then it will become a win-win for everyone – especially if others want to take a religious day off for their practice in the future.

Open dialogue, questions to reach an understanding and a willingness to help — these are all hallmarks of organizations that are open to diversity and create a culture of learning.

 

Living in a Bubble

bubble

It’s the same routine everyday: go from my little bubble in Edmond, Oklahoma, in my little bubble of a car, to my bubble of work, or to my Bible Study bubble, back to my car bubble and back home. It’s almost the same daily – I just get to change a few of the bubbles around as the week progresses. I used to have different friends but one day, I suddenly realized that I chose to hang out with my Christian girlfriends because they like to do Bible Study or Bible Journaling or talk about Jesus. How did that happen?

It is difficult to go and hang out with others who do not share the same beliefs as you and even look down upon you as being (as my mom put it) “over-religious!” I took it as a compliment when she said that and she told me repeatedly “that is most definitely NOT a compliment!” So why do it? Why should you seek out others who don’t share the same views as you?

Well, the plain and simple answer is that all people need DIVERSITY in their life! Diversity keeps things rich and stimulating. It’s good to share your views and then have them be challenged by others who may not believe the same way or even (gasp!) tell you that you are wrong. That’s what happened to Jesus and also to the early church. They reached out to others who were not like them in love. They wanted to share the love of God and the Good News of the Gospel. They were not comfortable or even in a little bubble. God did not call them to be “comfortable,” just as God does not call us to be “comfortable!” If they had remained there, the Gospel would not have spread and the Christian church would not be as diverse as it is today!

So many of my church friends look at Christianity from a Western view. They see the Church as made up on mainly white people. That is true in some areas, but not in all parts of the world. A few years ago, my husband and I got to go to the Leader’s Conference for RZIM. One evening was a formal dinner. I wore my black, silk Sari with gold embroidery. I knew I would not be the only one in a Sari that evening because my friend Ruth (Indian) was also going to wear one. When we showed up to dinner, we saw that the Africans were wearing their African clothes, the Malays were wearing their clothes, several Indians were in Saris and others were donned in their country’s finery. It was so sweet… It was wonderful to see all nations coming together under one leader: Christ.

IMG_3293

Just as we tell our children to go and sit with other kids during lunchtime at school, we need to remember that we need to do the same. At work, do you sit with the same people? Have you asked any of your coworkers to come over to share a meal at your home? I asked that at a session I spoke at this week and people laughed nervously, then got serious and shook their heads, no! We are SO SCARED to let people into our homes! Why is that? Are you scared that they might see your laundry on the couch? Do you honestly think they don’t have a pile of laundry sitting around somewhere in their own home (in case you are wondering: yes, I do… big piles – come over and help me sort them out!)?

Get over yourself!

Just pop ONE bubble in your life and venture out. See what you might find and the types of friends you might make. I know that my own life is richer when I make friends with those who are not like me. They challenge me, provoke me, make me mad, frustrate me, but eventually cause me to go deeper into study and come out stronger as a Christian. Try it out and then tell me how it went for you!

International Women’s Day

 

 

gender1

Today is International Women’s Day was established in the early 1900’s to raise awareness of Women’s rights and issues around the world. With the technology we have today, it is much easier to address and raise that awareness. However, things still do not remain equal when it comes to gender bias, especially in the workplace.

Here are some statistics about women in the workplace that you may not know:

  1. It will take at least 100 years to close the wage gap between men & women in the US (money.cnn.com)
  2. As of Dec. 2017, the US fell to spot #49 in equal pay (mainly due to companies that don’t provide paid maternity leave) (www.pewresearch.org)
  3. Over 42% have experienced gender discrimination at work
  4. Over 22% of women say they have been sexually harassed at work
  5. 1 in 2 women experience discrimination as a result of being on maternity leave or after.
  6. For every dollar a male makes, women earn approximately 80 cents (or less if they are a female minority) (equal payback project).
  7. More than 1 in 8 women live in poverty.
womendegree
www.dol.gov

Now for a little bit better news (kind of):

  • In 2017, Women outnumber men for the first time in college: 56% to 44% men (US Dept of Education).
  • There is a substantial effort being made in education for empowering girls
  • Women are Integral to Today’s Workforce
    • There are 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force.
    • Almost 47 percent of U.S. workers are women.
    • More than 39 percent of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce.
    • Women own close to 10 million businesses, accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
    • Female veterans tend to continue their service in the labor force: About 3 out of 10 serve their country as government workers.

 

  • Trends in Women’s Employment  over Time
    • Women’s participation in the U.S. labor force has climbed since WWII: from 32.7 percent in 1948 to 56.8 percent in 2016.
    • The range of occupations women workers hold has also expanded, with women making notable gains in professional and managerial occupations. In 2016, more than one in three lawyers was a woman compared to fewer than 1 in 10 in 1974.
    • The unemployment rate for women is currently 4.8 percent, down from a peak of 9.0 percent in November 2010. (Source)

 

There’s still a lot of work to do and each one of us can step in to help another woman. Mentoring, supporting, encouraging women should be a duty for all of us! We can start easily:

  1. start at home – encourage your daughters with positive role models (no, I’m not talking about Pilot Barbie, but about learning about a REAL person like Amelia Earhart).
  2. start in your community – join a positive role model group like the Community of Christian Business Women in OKC!
  3. start at work – meet with women, build peer relationships and succession plan with awareness.

STOP complaining about it. START DOING!

 

Honor Thy (father &) MOTHER

doctornusrat
Dr. Mom at Graduation from Medical School

I wrote about my dad and the lessons of love I learned from him when growing up in a post titled “My Dad’s Chair.”  During the Women’s History Month, I would like to honor my mom and the strong woman she has always been. She was born into a family of five children with an very progressive father who believed in the value of education. This was shocking for the time (1950’s) in Pakistan -a small, third-world Muslim country that had only recently gained its independence from India.

Yet, my mom defied tradition by asking her parents not to have an arranged marriage because she wanted to go to college to become a Medical Doctor. To the sheer amazement of the community, my grandparents agreed that she should proceed with her goals. She was one a small handful of women in Medical School, with hundreds of men who did not share my grandparents’ opinions. Being a quiet, petite woman (barely 5’3″, weighing less than 100 lbs), she wasn’t exactly able to physically challenge anyone. Being a brilliant young woman with a sharp mind, she was a daunting force to be reckoned with. She and her tiny group of vigilante women banded together to study and achieve top marks in the class – exam after exam. This did not improve their popularity. Instead, it caused even more rancor within the male population of the town.

Growing up, I didn’t hear my grandfather talk too often, so when he spoke – we all listened! He had a favorite story he liked to tell of the village elders coming to see him one evening about taking his daughter out of medical college. He didn’t hold much sway with the townspeople, but as the only pharmacist in town, he did have some control. He told them that if they wanted their medications, they needed to leave him and his daughter alone. To add the proverbial insult to injury, he decided to teach his daughter to drive a car. This did not make either one of them popular but somehow they all left them alone.

Against all odds, my mother and her friends graduated from Medical School and went on to practice medicine successfully for decades. This lesson from my mom has taught me several things:

  1. Don’t let the world tell you what you can and cannot do!

  2. Teach your daughters and the next generation that God created them as equals, along with a beautiful mind that should be used.

  3. Don’t be a victim… she would have had hundreds of reasons to be a victim of the circumstances around her: other students, the Dean of the College, the community and even the culture and nation. She chose instead to focus on what she COULD do and that was to rise above the voices that told her “no!”

  4. Finish what you started. She still shares bits and pieces of her story of one obstacle after another. She also told me “Let your accomplishments speak for themselves.” She persisted. She took exam after exam and didn’t falter. At the end, she gained the respect of all her classmates, her professors, the Dean, and yes, the entire community that watched and learned.

What a legacy to leave for her daughters and what a legacy to leave the young girls in her town who watched this reserved young woman walk across the stage at graduation, while all stood for applause!

Mom… if you ever read this, I pray that you know how much I love you and how much you have taught me about perseverance.

 

Women’s History Month!

Women's History Month

It’s MARCH!

I wanted to shine the light on WOMEN all over the world as we celebrate contributions, discuss women’s issues (gender disparity, education, etc), and of course, discuss Diversity & Inclusion. My challenge to all my sisters out there is to go out there and SERVE another!

Some say that we should not have one month to focus on women’s rights and issues, but that it should be a focus 365 days. I agree – however, I think it’s good to have at least some time to highlight and bring special awareness. It is my hope that this month will give you a chance to explore ministries or choose an area for advocacy… not just to “talk about it,” but to actually DO something!

By the way, International Women’s Day is March 8 – being an “International Woman,” I have a special highlight article for that day!

Stay Tuned…

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

Macy’s Launches Hijab Fashion!

FASHION or OPPRESSION?

Macys-Hijab-02011-lt
RTT News Photo

On February 1, 2018 Macy’s announced a major decision to sell a fashionable line of Women’s Hijab. This line called the “Verona Collection” debuted a few days ago in stores and online. The news is being heralded as “groundbreaking” and as a “landmark” decision. The announcement comes on the heels of the Nike Hijab selling out like hotcakes.

For a former Muslim woman, I don’t get it… I don’t understand the hype and I don’t understand the desire to wear a man-made restriction on my head. As a Muslim who lived in the United States, I never wore a hijab nor was I ever made to wear one. I was the child of very educated, progressive mother who saw great oppression from the strict Islamic clerics while working in Saudi Arabia as a physician. She experienced first-hand what it was like to be pushed down when she was going to Medical School in the 60’s in Pakistan as well.

When we moved to the US, my mother literally breathed a sigh of freedom. Both of my parents allowed us to have many blessings that come from living here, including being raised with education, being outspoken and as strong women. When we would see another Muslim woman in a hijab, we would all wonder (sometimes out loud) why she was wearing one here where the rules of society did not mandate it?

Therein lies the conundrum. For centuries, women have been forced to take the veil in Muslim countries – not all, but many. Today, younger women are fighting more for a visible ethnic identity than anything else. Diversity is wonderful and it brings out a rich expression in our country, however it is my belief that Muslim women in America are CHOOSING to be set apart for their religious beliefs. Instead of Inclusion, it is a call for Exclusion by the Muslim community. Many Muslim women I have talked to see it as showing the half-naked women in the West that they are more pious, modest, and they belong to a special class of private women.

dokhtaran-en

Some American Muslim women have gone as far to say that this is an overt way they show their freedom to choose how they wish to express themselves, while in Tehran only a few weeks ago, 29 women were arrested for taking off their hijab as a protest for not having any freedom or rights — this is nothing new. Over 100,000 were arrested in Iran in 1978 during a similar protest!

So… which one is it?

Is it a symbol of oppression or is it a symbol of ethnic identity?

Macy’s happens to think it is a symbol of fashion and a way to make money.

2 Cor3:16-18 

16but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

All Ways Lead to God?

7cfaf7895dcb1300b4a1ff490e34efbd-christian-humor-christian-life

When I share my testimony with others, I share John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Most times, I am speaking at Christian gatherings, yet within the crowd I will almost always get someone who wants to speak with me afterwards about how offensive it was to them that I stated that the only way to God is through Christ Jesus. Again… speaking at CHRISTIAN gatherings.

I am not sure when the idea of tolerance included getting away from scripture. If you are a Christian and you believe in the sanctity of the written revelation of God through the Bible, then you cannot dispute Jesus Christ’s own words. Either you believe or you don’t believe. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

At this point, I usually get called “narrow-minded” or “arrogant” to have that view. I am told that the world is not black and white. There is no real right or wrong way of thinking.

As someone who has a real desire to be liked, it is difficult to be called “offensive, narrow-minded, and arrogant.” Yet, we are told that the world will hate us (see John 15:18). Paul even tells us that we are fools for Christ’s sake in 1 Corinthians 4:10  and this is usually how the rest of my own family views me for believing in Christ as I do. The world wants you to choose a watered down Gospel. They want you to agree with them and say there are many roads to heaven and God. At the same time, they don’t realize that this is an arrogant view to take because they are saying “You are wrong for believing in one way. You need to believe the way I believe.” They are also narrow-minded, for they do not take into account that other religions do not believe in many ways to God – like Islam! Muslims, for one, would laugh at you if you took that approach with them and they would set you straight by telling you that the only way is through following the 5 pillars of faith and through good works in the name of Allah.

If you are in Christ, stand firm in the foundation of His WAY of grace as a free gift that no one has earned through works, His TRUTH as revealed in the Gospel, and the eternal LIFE only He has paid for through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Amen.

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

gettyimages-470453670_sq-c16913932282771d7e11c6df349b407655faed70-s300-c85

I know Muslim homes around the world were cringing yesterday when a Muslim man’s name was announced for the terrorist attacks in Spain. My family gets really agitated and worked up each time there is an attack. They don’t want to hear it was a Muslim person yet again who was driving into people, killing at random.

Most of my family and friends are “Cultural Muslims.” They will tell you that they are not terrorists. In fact, this is what I used to go and speak about as a Muslim woman after the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community sees itself as a peaceful, working class group – just like any other patriotic citizen.  There is a desire to fit into the culture, yet be set apart from it due to the religion and what it entails. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a fight I had within myself as I grew up Muslim in America.

The freedoms you have in the West do not compare to the oppression from Islamic nations. It’s really easy here to get used to being able to talk freely to everyone (including men), to speak your mind and share opinion without repercussions and to practice your religion – even at work. I enjoyed all these freedoms!

When faced with the media and portrayal of Muslims, I find a broad-brush statement like  “all Muslims are terrorists” or even “all terrorists are Muslims.” The frustration for others comes when Muslims do not stand up and deny that Islam teaches this type of behavior. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t come from this culture to understand what’s going on in the background.

Muslims – even cultural Muslims will not condemn what ISIS is doing because ISIS is indeed going by what the Quran says (see Quran 3:32, 48:29, 5:23, 9:29, 9:73, 9:111, etc). Orthodox Muslims will tell you that ISIS is those who are holding true to the Quran = real, authentic Muslims. In fact, Orthodox Muslims say that the Cultural Muslims are not real Muslims and have denounced them. 

When I was a Muslim and we showed up to the Mosque, I would inevitably get the 20 questions routine (I have blogged about this before). There is a battery of questions asked unashamedly by others. I was usually asked what my name was, my parents’ names, where we were from (city), if I was married, husband’s name (this was a kicker when I was married to an American, but remained a Muslim), if I kept all the fasts for Ramadan, if I prayed 5 times a day, on and on. They weren’t trying to be nosy – they were trying to figure out what kind of a Muslim I was. The reason why they asked is because we were not regulars to the Mosque! Should’ve been obvious we were not Orthodox in our beliefs. The question and answer session usually concluded with the person looking down at me in disdain.

Nevertheless, even the Cultural Muslims will not come out against what another Muslim is doing, especially if they have no clue as to whether or not the Quran supports it (for many have not read the Quran or have only read it in Arabic when it was not their native language). The condemnation only comes from the Orthodox Muslims for the rest of the Muslim world to follow what they are doing. This is not only scary for the Cultural Muslims (because they actually want to live in Western countries and want to work and be “normal”) but also for the rest of the population for the US and Europe. Did you follow that? Orthodox Islam condemns Cultural Muslims for their flimsy, watered-down beliefs. 

There is a definite call to follow Orthodox Islam. Saudi Arabia sets the tone for the rest of the world because it is the heart of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslim world looks to Saudi Arabia for everything from when the moon is in the right phase for the start of Ramadan to dictates that they set (especially Sharia law). In 2007, Saudi Arabia launched an official website for issuing of “Fatwas” (religious decrees and mandates put forth by Islamic scholars on a council, including who was an enemy of Islam).

When I speak publicly about growing up Muslim and becoming a Christian, I get responses like “well, the Muslims I know are nice people and not terrorists.” My response is that my own family is made up of nice people and not terrorists, but that isn’t the point. The point is that to say you are a Muslim, you have to believe 100% of what is in the Quran. You cannot say “I don’t believe in the violent passages of the Quran.” That is not possible. As a Muslim, it’s black or white. Either you believe or you are not a Muslim. This is the choice I was faced with when I started to read the Quran. I didn’t know there were passages about violence against women. I didn’t know that there were passages about violence against non-believers and that they were the enemy of Islam. I didn’t want to believe that. The problem was I could not then say I was a Muslim. I knew either I believed it or I did not.

Here’s just a small sample of what the Muslim Scholars say about a Muslim who doesn’t pray 5 times a day:

If the one who does not pray does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, even though he is aware that Allah has commanded that prayer be established, then he is a kaafir and an apostate according to the consensus of the ummah. 

If a person does not pray because he denies that it is obligatory out of ignorance on his part that it is obligatory, such as one who is new in Islam, he is not deemed to be a kaafir, but he is to be taught and instructed to pray. 

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the one who denies that prayer is obligatory is a kaafir who is to be executed if he does not repent from that kufr. However they differed concerning the one who affirms that it is obligatory but deliberately does not do it even though he is able to.

End quote from al-Istidhkaar, 2/149 

NOTE: Kaafir = Unbeliever (usually used as an offensive word)

The choice I had to make was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I was led to a church, where the pastor shared the definition of GRACE with me. He also explained that Jesus was the only one who was sinless and could bridge the gap between us and God, thus giving us assurance of heaven. Muslims do not have assurance. They only have works. Either they do good deeds or they go to the fiery place and burn for an eternity. There is no Savior – it’s all up to you. This is why Jihad is so alluring. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to Paradise (Quran 4:95 & 3:169-170). It’s an act of desperation – of knowing you cannot make it to heaven because you have sinned. You cannot do it on your own, so you drive a van into a crowd.

Christians need to use this opportunity to share the message of Grace with a Muslim -that God offers us His mercy and pardon from sin as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. It’s not what we do, but what Christ does that brings us to a place of peace and restoration with God and thus, with the world. The Muslim world is not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.  How much better would the world be if we realized we are not to hate your enemies but to love them and offer them peace found in Jesus Christ?

Do Muslims & Christians Pray to the Same God?

katarina-church-and-stockholm-mosque-1024x575
Katarina Church & Stockholm Mosque in Sweden

One of the frequent questions I get is “Do Muslims pray to the same God as us (Christians)?” If you would have asked me when I first became a Christian, my answer would have been unequivocally “YES!” Having been taught that Allah is the same God of Abraham (whom both Jews and Christians worship) for 35 years was the reasoning behind that answer at that time. I didn’t understand fully who God Almighty was and more specifically, who He was as revealed by Jesus Christ.

This year, I was mortified to learn that churches right here in Oklahoma City were allowing Muslims to come and pray with them. When I asked how prayers were being conducted, the two people I spoke to said that their Imam was leading the Muslim prayer with everyone there… in the church. Did I mention that this was IN THE CHURCH???

What’s wrong with that?

In my Muslim brain, I would not have seen any issues with that. Same God = Same God. No problem.

As a more mature Christian, my understanding of who we worship is very different! We, Christians worship ONE God in THREE persons: God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only begotten son and the Holy Spirit. All three separate persons who have existed together since the beginning of time (for there is no time for them – they are infinite!). They are three, but ONE.

This is not only completely different than what Muslims believe, it is also considered to be “Shirk.” Shirk is the ultimate sin of blasphemy that puts another equal to God. In Islam, the belief in Allah is called Tawhid. Tawhid comes from the Arabic root word for ONE “Wahid.” One means only one – not a father, no son and no Holy Spirit. In fact, in the Quran, the Trinity is called out by Isa (Jesus) in verse 5:116 (Yusuf Ali):

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah‘?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.

Yes… that’s right. The Quran points out that Christians believe the Trinity is Allah, Jesus and Mary. The next few lines say that is blasphemy and guess what… CHRISTIANS AGREE!  In fact, the Bible attests to this fact numerous times in both the Old & the New Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) ~ “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [NOTE: Jesus repeats this in Mark 12:29]

8:1 Corinthians 6 ~ yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In Islam, the five daily prayers (Salat) attest to the Muslim belief that Allah is only ONE and that there are no others equal to him. In fact, there is a beautiful prayer I used to recite each time  I prayed and that is called “Surah Fatiha (the beginning prayer).” The Fatiha is prayed at least 16 times a day and can also be prayed upwards of 48 times a day.  I would pray this prayer as often as I could as a Muslim.

It is important to note that just in one prayer (there are multiple prayers recited in Arabic during each of the 5 times of Salat), there is a denunciation of the Triune Christian God and also it says that Jews and Christians are going into the path of destruction. Again, I urge you to not just take my word for it, but to look it up for yourself (www.muslimconverts.com). Here’s a screenshot of the prayer with translation in English. Many Muslims have no clue what they are reciting because they have to pray in Arabic and don’t even speak the language.

fatihah
Repeated 16-48 times by every Muslim during the day

In the name of inclusion and diversity, people are willing to consider Islam as the same as Christianity.  It is not the same – that’s the beauty of real diversity in the United States – that we can worship how we want. I am 100% on board for people wanting to open their hearts to Muslims – we should not only open our hearts, but also our homes. The only caution I give is to not compromise when it comes to belief and worship. Worship of the LORD our God YHWH is sacred and should be kept that way. Christians cannot stand in our place of worship with someone next to them who is denying the Triune God and His Christ with his every word.

Instead of asking do Muslims worship the same God, I think we need to be clear that Christians DO NOT worship the same God. 

This is what I believe, along with the thousands before me (The Apostle’s Creed):

Amen and Amen…

*NOTE: “The holy catholic church” does not mean the Roman Catholic church. It is a term that means the Church Universal (the big “C” Church!)! 🙂