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As we always do, my wife and I sat down to watch the sixth season of Masterchef. (If you’re not familiar with the show, it is a fun cooking competition— and one of Gordon Ramsey’s 750 shows on Fox.) And among the season’s collection of chefs was a local Seattle girl in a hijab. 

Amanda Saab’s love of cooking was obvious, but I was drawn to the kindness, gentleness, and sincerity she exuded. I started really paying attention to the little things: how did she interact with and speak about her fellow competitors? How did she carry herself? How did she respond to winning and losing? It wasn’t too long before I was firmly team-Amanda, and like so many others, wept when she was inexplicably beaten by a cake.

I have since gotten to know both her and her husband, Hussein, and I couldn’t think more highly of them. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and check out her great food blog Amanda’s Plate.

I pitched the idea for this post and she jumped at the opportunity to share her heart and her faith. And I’m excited for you to get to know my friend Amanda. Here are 5 things she wishes Christians understood about Muslims. 

1. Islam means peace.

The base word for Islam is “salam” which is Arabic for peace.

I grew up going to our local mosque and also attended Islamic school. There I was taught to show compassion and respect to all people. I was also taught to be kind and generous, to helpthe poor and needy, and to volunteer my free time and dedicate it to the betterment of society.

In Islam’s Holy Book, the Quran, it reads: “if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the wholeof mankind…” [5:32].

Contrary to the media perpetuation, fundamentalists are not considered Muslims according to Islam. One of the five core pillars of Islam is to give to the poor and needy. So, growing up we volunteered at a soup kitchen in the heart of Detroit. It is required of Muslims to donate of their surplus money at the end of each year to charity! Imagine if everyone adapted this practice, there would be no homeless or hungry in the world. These acts of kindness, generosity and love are my way of practicing Islam.

2. We love Jesus and his mother Virgin Mary

That’s right. Jesus (Peace be Upon Him) is a very important Prophet in Islam. He is mentioned 25 times in the Quran, which is more than the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him).

The miracle of Jesus’ birth to a virgin mother is told in our Holy Book and his virgin mother, Mary, has an entire chapter devoted to her; Maryam, Chapter 19.

“O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah]. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.” [3:45-46]

The Virgin Mary is highly regarded in Islam. She is one of the four most pious women in history, according to Islam. Muslim women veiling themselves with hijab is adopted from Mary.

3. And we love you too!

We are taught to love and respect all of humanity, regardless of their race, faith, or ethnicity.

Imam Ali (the successor to the Prophet Mohammed, Peace be Upon Him), said: “People are of two kinds, either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity.”

Also, in the Quran Chapter 49 verse 13 “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that you may despise each other).”

4. Islamophobia is real

And what an unfortunate reality it is. With many American Muslims being murdered, attacked, profiled and discriminated against in schools, places of employment and their own homes, it is impossible to deny that the media has shaped America’s perception of Muslims.

There have been many incidents of Islamophobia here in the Land of the Free. In Chapel Hill North Carolina, Deah, Yusor and Razan were murdered in their own home by a neighbor. In Irving Texas, a 14 year old boy named Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after a teacher thought his homemade clock was a bomb. In Sterling Heights, Michigan the zoning committee and city council ruled unanimously against the building of a mosque, after their mayor made several Islamophobic remarks on social media.

I turn to my Christian brothers and sisters to help combat this and to reject the notion that Muslim Americans are inferior. Together, we can overcome all forms of injustice!

5. There are some amazing Muslims contributing to society in really cool ways!

Aside from all the great historical contributions Muslims have made to the world (the first hospital was started by Ahmad ibn Tulun in Cairo, Alegbra by Al-Kwarizmi and the world’s first university by Muslim women Fatima and Mariam Al-Firhi in Morocco; Considine, C.), there are many American Muslims contributing to the greater good of society.

It is estimated that there are 50,000 American Muslim Physicians in the US (ISPU report, 2012) and I feel that number is consistently increasing as demonstrated by our countless friends who are in medical school or in residency.

Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Ibtihaj Muhammad is training to win an Olympic Gold for the USA Fencing team, and Rashisa Tlaib Michigan State Legislature, Kadra Mohamed a hijab wearing police officer in Minnesota, Melanie El-Turk the founder and CEO of Haute Hijab who has recently written for Elle Magazine. And these are only some of the Muslim women doing awesome things!

I’d like for us all to focus on we, the children of Abraham, have in common, rather than the minute differences. If we choose to focus on the differences, we will not be able to work together for the betterment of society.

“The thing that separates Christians from Muslims is perception! I can’t fly a plane and I do not own a gun and yet those things are done in my name, I carry them as an American. The problem is Americans carry less of the weight because we see ourselves as separate individuals first, but do not afford Muslims the same identity.” (Burton, Winifred, 2015).

In the end, when we reflect on life and our purpose, we should strive to accept, love, and respect one another.

Amanda Saab completed her Masters Degree in Social Work at Wayne State University before moving to Seattle with her husband Hussein. She is a passionate social worker, practicing in a Seattle hospital. In her free time about is a food blogger at amandasplate.com   Her love for food led her to compete on MasterChef on Fox. Amanda’s recipes have been featured on the Huffington Post, Seattle Magazine, Fox 2 Detroit, Q13 Seattle and The Detroit News.

If you’re interested in understanding your Muslim neighbors better, you can check out Al-Islam.org and the Five Pillars of Islam.

You can also leave a comment or question for myself or Amanda. Bear in mind that Amanda is my friend, and rude comments (as defined by me) will not see the light of day.

Peace!