Rabbi Marc Schneier
Threading My Prayer Rug is a warm, wise and wonderful book that chronicles Sabeeha Rehman’s life journey from a sheltered Pakistani upbringing and an arranged marriage, to becoming an accomplished American career woman living in Staten Island, NY, and endeavoring together with her husband Khaled to fashion an embracing and sustainable Muslim-American identity for themselves and their two sons based on a synthesis of the highest Islamic and American ethical values. Ms. Rehman writes in wry and often humorous style that is understanding of human foibles, yet gently pushes readers of all backgrounds to become fuller and more engaged human beings; at once loyal to the faith in which they were born, yet evincing a willingness to engage in heartfelt interaction with people from other faith traditions.
As an Orthodox rabbi, who has spent the past ten years working to strengthen ties of communication and cooperation between Jews and Muslims, I was moved by Ms. Rehman’s account of her encounters with the Jewish community over the decades, stating in the 1970’s as a young wife and mother living as Muslims in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood Staten Island; grateful that her children could eat kosher (thereby halal) food and not feel deprived because they didn’t have a Christmas tree; to her involvement in Muslim-Jewish dialogue and coalition building efforts in recent years, some of them involving my own Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.
Ms. Rehman’s chronicle of the development of the American Muslim community is divided into pre-9/11 and post 9/11 sections, The first part is an explication of how her Pakistani immigrant community on Staten Island organized itself from scratch; built a beautiful mosque and figured out ways to raise its children to be both loyal Americans and proud Muslims who marry within in the faith—issues that have similarly impacted generations of American Jews. The second part of the book focuses on Ms. Rehman’s involvement in efforts to defend American Muslims against the attacks of hateful Islamophobes, while upholding a non-violent expression of Islam that is non-violent and embracing of the humanity of non-Muslims.
Indeed, the Islamic faith that has sustained Sabeeha Rehman on her life journey from Pakistan and New York is a life-affirming and loving religion that is light years from the hateful and violent cult of ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups. Non-Muslim Americans need to reach out to the vast majority of American Muslims who share the Islamic faith of peace and universal justice evoked so beautifully in Threading My Prayer Rug. Only by connecting on a human level and joining forces can we defeat the extremist zealots and ensure a peaceful and harmonious future for all of our children.