This weekend, I traveled to New York City for the wedding of my dear friend D from high school. The ceremony was held at a mosque in Queens, with a reception at a nearby Halal restaurant. Though I’ve been to innumerable Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian, and Jewish weddings, this was my first Muslim wedding ceremony, and it was beautiful. D wore a purple caftan hand-tailored in Pakistan, and her hands and feet were covered with intricate Moroccan designs in henna. Her new husband wore a suit and smiled from ear to ear. The imam, a friend of the couple, spoke about love and responsibility in marriage, and how each of them should bring out the best in the other. Then the couple read vows that they had written themselves and exchanged rings.
Before the ceremony, and later at the reception, I had the privilege of meeting several of D’s friends and colleagues–men and women of all races, from at least three continents, representing different nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations. In this microcosm, we talked about everything from travel to linguistic jokes, to women’s colleges to whitewater rafting. And the fact that we were all able to talk and laugh together, despite many of us only having met for the first time that day, gave me such a sense of hope. A union of this kind, between an American woman and an Egyptian man, with the love and support of both families in the midst of such a diverse and accepting crowd, could happen in very few places in the world. New York City is one of those places. And despite the bitter diatribes that have arisen in the city over the so-called “ground zero mosque” and the social fault lines that often arise over lines of color, ethnicity, and creed, beautiful moments of unity like this one still occur. It reminds me that for all its faults, the United States is still a place where people of different backgrounds can come together. It’s a reminder of the best that the country of my birth can be.