MORE QUESTIONS FOR PRISCILLA
Priscilla, at the beginning of the book you say you weren't "sure whether [you] believed that God really existed." Your journey to faith, then, is arguably the longest. How did your uncertainty contribute to your experience as a member of the Faith Club? Do you think it was harder or easier for you to challenge yourself and your beliefs as a result of your doubt?
I think it was easy for me to open up to Suzanne and Ranya soon after I met them, to examine and question my beliefs, because I had no other choice. I was desperate to do so. I was in emotional pain and in the midst of a spiritual crisis. September 11 th had turned everyone's world upside down, and my world had been shaky to begin with, because of my history of panic attacks. My usual ways of coping seemed silly and ineffective. I was praying, but I had no idea why. And once I admitted that to Suzanne and Ranya, I felt liberated. I had nothing to lose. I was open to the theories and ideas they offered to me about faith and religious convictions. I could find out what worked for me and what didn't. I started out lost, so I was desperate to find myself on every level, at every meeting. I wanted to change the way I looked at the world, and in that way, my doubt and uncertainty fueled my spiritual growth.
On page 25 you say that you "wanted [your] learning experience to be a private, personal one." Yet as the Faith Club evolved, you became quite vocal in your defense of Ranya's political views, despite their unpopularity with many of your friends. How did your understanding of the "learning experience" change? Do you think that taking a public stand is necessary for the full development of one's faith?
My relationship with Ranya and Suzanne, odd as it may sound, is still private and personal to me, despite the fact that we wrote a book about it, because I carry what I learned deep in my heart. Every time I took a step toward understanding my faith, they were there to support me, challenge me, and illuminate things for me. Their faith rubbed off on me. I am a changed person for knowing them. I began to experience things differently. When I heard people talking about "Muslims" or "Palestinians," to me they were talking about Ranya, and I needed to speak out on her behalf, in her honor. Although I began to speak publicly, it came from a very private place. When I hear cruel, insensitive, or ignorant comments about Islam or Palestinians, those comments are not simply abstract concepts or political rhetoric. They are direct attacks on the beliefs and heritage of my dear friend, who has become like family to me. And when I speak out, I am trying to do justice to Ranya's humanity, her strong moral conscience and courage.
I don't feel that all people need to be public about their beliefs. I admire those who worship quietly and privately, as well as those who feel their personal faith requires them to take a moral stand on public issues. However, I do think it's crucial to be respectful of other people's beliefs at all times.