Published: November 22, 2012
Well, Bubba, if you missed the Sunday grand opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, all I have to say is you missed some good hummus. And the falafel was mighty fine, too.
We filed through the front door, signed the guest book surrounded by eager tweens and teens, wearing name tags with crescents on them, expressing their readiness to be of service.
We parked our shoes in cubicles built to accommodate everything from work boots to high heels and treated our tootsies to a plush red carpet in a large room full of tables.
Several of the speakers recounted the long, hard road to religious freedom without malice, but with absolute resolve that this hard-won victory shall not be overturned nor its application thwarted.
Not surprisingly, Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted at least four times, by my count.
The speakers were Catholic, Methodist and Muslim, and mention was made of support from the Jewish community.
“The Justice Department has your back,” U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee Jerry Martin said, and his D.C. supervisor, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, echoed that sentiment.
After being the subject of worldwide reportage and ridicule for years, Murfreesboro found itself on the receiving end of loving words that day. After all, it is “our town,” they said.
Three long tables full of handmade goodies awaited us, tasty treats made with meat and mint, sweet treats made with honey, pistachio nuts and feathery, flaky pastry.
Good Southerners that they are, the Muslim community made sure we all had plenty of sweet tea to wash down our edibles.
While we enjoyed the food, we walked around and admired some of the artistry of the building, its glistening green dome and its inlaid mosaics. The walls, mostly spartan for now, were covered with posters explaining various aspects of the faith and its connection with other religions.
For one day, with unmarked police cars discreetly parked at each end of the lot, we forgot lawsuits, headlines, protests and threats. We postponed our consideration of the crisis in Gaza for a few hours too.
While tradition abounded, the tradition of greeting strangers with “You ain’t from around these parts, are you, boy?” was nowhere in evidence.
We celebrated the first Thanksgiving of the year 2012, a Thanksgiving bringing together people of different colors and cultures, a Thanksgiving at which all could feast on food unfamiliar to the tongue and hear words unfamiliar to the ears without the slightest bit of trepidation.
This year, we have the privilege of celebrating two Thanksgivings with perhaps more in common than we know. In addition to stuffing ourselves with turkey and screaming at the substandard football games on TV, we can say “As-salamu alaykum, y’all.”
Come ye thankful people, come. Raise the song of harvest home and may peace be upon you.