Debbie is a Christian and Hani is a Muslim (Egyptian). They were raising their children Jasmine (8) and Karim (7) as Christians. This was the agreement they came to when they were in the US. Because Hani was not a practicing Muslim at the time, he agreed to let Debbie raise the kids Christian and take them to church with her. Hani even went on a few occasions.
The family moved to Cairo in January of this year and Hani found himself living apart from Debbie for work reasons. Though he was still in Egypt, he did not see his family that often.
Hassan and I never posed the question on what religion the kids were because let's face it -- it's none of our business. Debbie had told me early on that the kids were being raised Christian and I thought that was really strange, because if a Christian woman marries an Egyptian man the children must be raised Muslim -- no two ways about it.
Debbie is a real independent woman. She decided to start taking the kids to a community style church in Maadi where there are a lot of non-Egyptians. Debbie felt an instant bond and even commented on how uplifting it made her feel. I was pleased she felt a sense of belonging in her new church and with her new friends she had made.
Not too long ago, maybe a few weeks, Hani started listening to and corresponding with a sheikh or professor of some kind in Islamic Studies. Hani started talking to Debbie on the phone non-stop about how the children were to be raised Muslim now that they are in Egypt and how Debbie must be convinced to convert to Islam. Debbie had a really difficult time with Hani's behavior. She felt as though she was being beat down by something -- a battle between good and evil of sorts.
She asked me for advice. I told her that after all these years, and no matter what I thought in the past as free-thinking as I may have been, it is very important to raise the children in the same religion as the parents. To have parents of two different faiths confuses children who end up not believing in anything.
After Hani's persistence, Debbie agreed to let the children convert. And she felt she really didn't have a choice in the matter. I believe she did have a choice in the matter, but it is easier to be Muslim in Egypt than Muslim in the US.
Debbie asked for my copy of the Quran. How could I refuse? Someone long ago had been generous to give me their copy. It was now my turn to pass it on to someone else who searching.
Debbie doesn't know if she will ever convert to Islam, I just tell her, "take it slow. Be careful. Study." I told Debbie that Islam teaches tolerance, respecting "people of the book" (Jews and Christians). There is no compulsion in Islam, everything in moderation. As I try to find answers for Debbie, I am finding answers to many of my own questions about Islam.
I told Debbie that Hani's just trying to right a wrong he made in letting the kids be raised Christian in the US. He wants to make things right, and what better time than now? Hani's intention is right -- but perhaps he came on a little too strong for Debbie.
Maybe that's what it's all about. Sharing what one knows with another, and learning and growing along the way.