Some people in the Muslim community have the misconception that we should isolate ourselves from non-Muslims, and only surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs. But friendship is a beautiful thing, and it’s by building relationships in our communities that we can change the narrative of Islam in the bigger picture. We cannot do that if we isolate ourselves from people who have different backgrounds or beliefs than we do.
I am amazingly grateful to have many non-Muslim friends who support my choice, share my values, and encourage me to be a better person. I benefit from their friendships because they not only support me, they challenge me. They ask questions of me that I may not ask of myself, and they walk patiently with me while I find the answers. I truly believe that the ONLY effective way to change public perceptions is through one on one dialogue, through exploring each others values, and creating a safe place to challenge each other. I can only hope that my actions represent an Islam that proves the opposite of the current public perception of the religion.
While friendships with people who share our faith is imperative to our spiritual health, Islam is about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters, be them Muslim or non-Muslim. We have a responsibility to anyone who wants to be a part of our lives. We need to open our hearts to the good in anyone, and embrace everyone who reaches out to us regardless of their faith, their color, their sexual orientation, or any other marks of judgement. It’s the best and only way to pave a path for the next Muslim convert, immigrant, or anyone who was ever made to feel out of place because of their beliefs.