I fell asleep on a train this morning and woke up in Morocco.
All joking aside — and no disrespect intended — that’s exactly how I felt today when I walked into the Grande Mosquée de Paris. Crossing the threshold from the rue de Desplas into Paris’ largest mosque felt like stepping into a different world.
I don’t think I can improve on my friend Corey’s description of the place: It is an oasis (both figurative and literal) in the middle of Paris’ crowds and noise. In fact, I was so overtaken by the mosque’s beauty that I almost fell into one of the reflective pools.
But walking among the mosque’s beautiful halls also made me a bit pensive. I thought about the rich history of the French, and the equally rich Muslim tradition, and I mused about their delicate détente.
If there are any cultural tensions, they were not evident today: Every person I met greeted me with a friendly “Bonjour, madame,” and a couple of the passers-by turned on lights for me in the library and offered to interpret the scriptures.
At first glance, the mosque seemed a bit empty and austere.
But upon closer inspection, I marveled at the exquisite craftsmanship that adorned almost every square inch.
It’s incredible what we humans can accomplish when we’re moved by hope and faith.
And as if to confirm this thought, a final meditation greeted me as I walked back outside toward Paris’ crowded streets: “God is most certainly powerful over all things.”
I hope that will hold true as Paris continues to grow and evolve. In spite of our cultural and historical differences, we have more in common than we realize.