As I pulled out my small piece of paper with scribbled writing on both sides of it. I looked up and 600 eyes looked straight at me. No one else said a word. It was then that my hand started shaking and my carefully rehearsed 3 minutes and 15 second talk made no sense. I was nervous. Of course I was nervous there were over 300 people in the room. But I knew that that wasn’t it.
I was worried because these young people in the crowd were the same religion as me, more pious than I was (at least in appearance), and younger than myself. I feared that they would judge me and label me as a liberal Muslim and that I would be someone that they could not relate to. I hated the feeling of not fitting in my own community. I wondered if it were a room full of Jews or Christians, whether I would be more comfortable. I knew the answer and it haunted, I did feel more comfortable around those of other faiths.
A few days later, a few of the young people that were at that meeting attended an event and related that they had heard me talk and were excited about our work and that they could be a part of it. There was no awkwardness between us, no hesitation and no differences that made them uncomfortable with my so called “liberalism”.
It wasn’t until then that I realized that in my fear of being judged by them that perhaps I had judged them, all 300 of them; thus creating a barrier between us , the very barrier that I was working to bring down between religions. In this frenzy of judgement I had forgotten that we shared so much: our religion, our age, our desire for peace, and our love for Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). I was a stranger amongst my own because I judged them and not the other way around.
This reminded me of a very important lesson I learned from an evangelical Christian, that we are in this world to be a witness not a judge because only God can judge his creation.
"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" [Mathew 7:4]
"O you who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a sin." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 12]