By Mindy Ragan Wood
A woman who was born in the Middle East to a Muslim family dispelled the false notions the West and East have about each other during a recent church service in Yukon.
Mona Sabah Earnest converted to Christianity several years ago. When she is not sharing her testimony with Muslims and Christians, she teaches cultural diversity as a consultant for corporations. She is promoting a new book, “Reaching Muslims.”
“One hundred percent of Muslims believe in the virgin birth,” she told congregants at Canadian Hills Church of the Nazarene in Yukon last Sunday. “According to a Pew Research not 100 percent of Christians believe in the virgin birth. They (Muslims) don’t believe in the crucifixion because that would be shame and Allah would not allow a prophet to be shamed. You ask them who is coming back on judgement day? Jesus.”
Earnest described most Muslims in America as “cultural” Muslims or Islamic in name only. Far from the devout believers, in her experience most followers do not fast during Ramadan, pray five times a day or speak the sacred language of the Quran, which is Arabic.
“We were taught to lie,” Earnest said. “If people would ask us if we fasted during Ramadan, our parents would tell us to say that we fasted. You save the face of the family and community at all costs…make sure the outside world does not know what’s going on.”
If someone is born to a Muslim family, they are automatically Islamic, she said. Earnest pointed out that they view Christians the same way. Anyone born in the West is a Christian.
“So, Washington politicians? Christian….Hollywood? Christian. Hitler? He was a Christian,” she said.
Myths about the two cultures runs both ways across the world. She discussed the beliefs about the Middle East and that all men in her culture abuse their wives and daughters, but Earnest described a much different family environment.
“If you read the (Quran) chapter on how to treat women, my mother would have beat my father if he had treated her that way,” she said, with a laugh.
Earnest described a loving, doting father and a mother who was independent.
“My father was an engineer and my mother was a doctor,” she said. “So, I could tell you stories about her being a doctor in a Muslim country…That’s one of the reasons she agreed to move to America…for the American dream.”
She and her sisters were given many freedoms but denied others like the right to choose their own spouse. They were allowed to dress in American clothes but shorts and a tank top were too immodest.
In other ways she said her family was loyal to the faith, such as the moment she announced she would marry a white Christian man from Texas.
“That was the first time I was disowned,” she said.
Her parents eventually restored their relationship with her after they realized that her husband would not force her to convert to Christianity and allowed her to have a Muslim wedding.
Her journey to the Christian faith did not begin with marrying Steven Earnest, who like herself, did not practice the Christian faith any more than she and her family practiced their own religion.
After the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy struck Earnest with horror and disbelief, she began to question her faith.
“Is this really what Muslims believe?” she asked herself after the attack.
What she did not know about the Quran became apparent after 9/11 while she was speaking with a group of attorneys. During a cultural presentation, one peppered her with questions about the violent passages in the Quran, but she had no answer.
“She (the attorney) asked me, ‘shouldn’t you know if you are answering questions about the Quran…shouldn’t you know what it says?’”
Earnest said she was not alone. Most Muslims rely on the Imam’s interpretation of the Quran because the mosque’s spiritual leaders read passages in Arabic and the prayers are in Arabic even though 84 percent of believers worldwide do not speak the language, she said.
She did not let the language barrier stop her. For the next three years she studied the Quran in English.
Earnest immersed herself in the demands of her faith, attempting to pray five times a day, fast and do good deeds like giving money to those in need.
As she studied, Earnest had a lot of questions. She asked her mother, who speaks Arabic, why Mohammed did not perform miracles as Jesus did and why Mohammed was not saved from pneumonia while the Quran stated Jesus was spared crucifixion.
“She told me she knew why I had all these questions, that I was possessed by Satan and I needed to shut up,” Earnest said.
Her questions about Christ led her to seek answers with a pastor who shared the Gospel with her. After the meeting, she and Steven committed themselves to the Christian faith.
She challenged the Yukon congregation Sunday to share their faith with Muslims and not to be afraid of them. Steven and Mona urged the audience to invite Muslims to their homes for a meal or tea and ask them about their faith.
“Political correctness only exists for Americans,” Mona said. “The rest of the world didn’t get that memo. My parents who lived here forever and ever are not politically correct…you can actually have a real conversation and Muslims actually like talking about God. They want to talk about God which is shocking for most Americans because they don’t want to talk about God…people are starving for real conversation.”
Earnest showed a recent photograph of her parents with her immediate family as they shared a tender moment at the Earnests’ son’s high school graduation.
“My dad is giving my mom their first public kiss…this is the image I want you to have in your head. Will you not have the 9/11 terrorist picture in your head? This is a picture of Muslims families. They’re cute, they’re sweet and loving as can be, they’re stubborn and they’ve got issues just like we do. If you will replace it with a picture like this of people who are made in the image of God…the majority of Muslims in the United States are just trying to live their lives and so are we,” she said.
The presentation was followed by a Pakistani catered lunch from Farshid Amim and a question and answer session. Amim, who is a convert and Baptist church pastor, works on starting churches in Iran.
Steven and Mona Earnest live in Edmond where they have started a Christian church in their home.