I was born and raised in America. When 9/11 happened, I was 23 and had never heard of Islam or even the term “Muslim”. I was terrified of what happened, and became a Christian the very next Sunday, because of that fear. I knew what it meant to be a Christian, but had never actually accepted it. However, I ran to the nearest church, dragging my 3 and 6 year olds with me. The moment they had the alter call, I went to the front and said, “Make us all Christians right now!”, and then proceeded to say, “If these crazy people come here and bomb us, I need to know we’re ‘saved’.”
I supported the war in Iraq, and was loudly advocating for it. I even had my kids sitting on my lap, the night we bombed Afghanistan, watching it live on television… telling them that it was a good thing we were doing this. I didn’t even know where the Middle East was. For all I knew, it could have been in Germany. I knew nothing about Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, any of it. And I certainly didn’t know a thing about Islam. But, it didn’t stop me from jumping on the bandwagon, and spending the next several years there, spreading hate and awful lies about people, places, and a religion that I knew nothing about. I was just happy to see “them” being bombed off the map.
When Obama was running for president for his first term, I swore I wasn’t going to let it happen because he was “Muslim” (at least, that’s what everyone was saying). In fact, I made it my life mission to single-handedly keep that from happening. I didn’t even want Muslims in our country, much less running it. However, I’d only seen 5 or 6 “hateful” verses from the Quran being passed around and when I asked questions to strengthen my argument, no one seemed to be able to give me any more than those same 5 or 6 verses. So, I decided to find the backup I needed on my own. I picked up a Quran and read it, with a pen and notebook next to me, looking for more ammunition, and ready to write down every single bit that I could find.
I supported the war in Iraq, and was loudly advocating for it.
It took me a week to read the entire book, and at the end of the week – my notebook was empty. I didn’t find what I was looking for. What I had set out to do, back fired. It completely changed my heart, and my entire life. I realized that the Quran didn’t teach hate like I had been led to believe. And having read four versions of the Bible cover to cover as a Christian, I saw just about every story I’d ever read in the Bible also in the Quran. The Quran actually made those people in the Bible stories, but most importantly God, more real to me than I could have ever thought possible, which caused me to love in ways I had never imagined I could before.
If you’re Christian and are reading this, and have read a Bible, I’m sure you are thinking, “That’s not possible. There’s no way I could love God, or Jesus, more than I do right now!” Trust me when I say that I thought the same. I was in church 3 times a week, attended every bible study, taught VBS, did the PowerPoint, etc. for quite a few years. I loved God, and Jesus, with everything in me. I would have never dreamed it were possible to love them more than I did then. But I do now, thanks to the Quran.
When I realized that the Quran could not possibly have anything to do with what was happening in the Middle East, I started researching to find out what was really going on in that region of the world. That is when I learned the truth about everything going on in the Middle East, and why. That these people, who we so proudly advocate for their cities to be bombed, are innocent people who didn’t deserve anything we were doing to them. I had been supporting their murders – celebrating them. When I learned the truth about what was happening (and why), and how manipulative our media can be, how they twist the stories to gain our support, along with many other Americans, I was sick for days. All of the innocent lives taken (and are still being taken), are because we Americans were and still are being lied to. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, or come to terms with. Just to look at myself in the mirror after understanding how wrong I had been was painful.
I have yet to forgive myself for it. I probably never will. But it was in that realization that I decided to start spreading the truth. To help more of my fellow Americans realize that we have been and still are being lied to. To show them that we have been led to hate people who are not our enemy. I pray to reach more people with the truth than I ever did with lies. I know I can’t single-handedly change the world, but I can be a voice. I was a voice in hatred but I can now be a voice in love and peace.
I read the Quran to validate my hatred for a people I knew nothing about, and for a religion that I allowed others to convince me was evil. Instead, I found a deep appreciation for those who follow it – along with contentment and peace of mind in what they follow. I found my true self, and my true purpose.