Imam Khalid Latif: A Muslim Wedding at Occupy Wall Street
It seems like the one question that’s on every marriage-seeker’s mind is, “Where do I meet someone?” I’ve heard people tell me stories filled with frustration of going to dinner after dinner, party after party, and a variety of speed dating, singles, and networking events with the expectation of meeting someone, and walking away more confused than when they had first ventured out. Nothing really seemed to make sense and so nothing that came after made sense either.
When I first met Emery Abdel-Latif and Micha Balon, it seemed like everything made sense about their story. They didn’t set out to find each other, but were drawn to Zuccotti park by their respective passion for social justice and activism. Many people spend months and even years looking for the right person amongst many wrong people. Good communication and compatibility just seem hard to find. For Emery and Micha, it didn’t take that long to find out what they needed to know about each other. They went into Zuccotti Park being themselves, found each other as they actually are, and let that be the basis of their relationship. They skipped past the pretenses that one assumes are necessary in a first, second or even 10th date. Their relationship grew organically and wasn’t forced to be something that it wasn’t meant to be. There is something special about people being drawn to each other because of their shared values. Even in their wedding it was clear to see a reflection of their worldview.
A lot of people will tell you that weddings are supposed to be about the bride. When I asked Micha about her wedding and why she wanted it to be at Zuccotti Park, she said she wanted it to be not just about her and Emery, but about people. And what better place to have it then at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that is about people. And so amongst the people this past Sunday morning, with a sea of tents in front of us, I sat with Emery and Micha as a “Mic Check” was called to get everyone’s attention — the wedding ceremony was about to begin.
We were sitting in a spiritual corner of sorts, used for worship and meditation by people of all backgrounds. I sat in between the couple and started my sermon. I spoke about the Qur’anic recommendation for love and mercy being the fundamental values that a marriage should build itself upon and how marriage becomes an opportunity for personal growth and development as it really is the ultimate test for one to show that they can honor the rights that someone else has over them. As I spoke, I looked at each of the faces sitting before me and saw how remarkably different one was from the next. People who were young and old, of every skin color, and social class sat attentively. The only thing that most seemed to share in common was the smiles they had on their faces and a genuine sense of joy that emanated from their beings. It was clear to see that each person there was genuinely happy for the couple and that to me is the way a wedding should be. Emery and Micha finding each other made sense, the venue of their wedding ceremony made sense, and a final critical component to their wedding also made sense: the guest list. It wasn’t made up of people who were “supposed” to be there, but of people who were meant to be there — people who had the best interest of the bride and groom in mind and extended nothing to them other than their most sincere of well wishes. At a time when popular culture has made weddings moreso about centerpieces, dresses, and who made your wedding cake, it was nice to be a part of a wedding that focused on kinship.
I’ve officiated a lot of weddings over the last few years, and each one is special in its own way. What made this one special was how right it felt from all angles. Values such as love, justice, compassion, and mercy are meant to transcend socially constructed differences and a wedding at Wall Street under occupation definitely combined all of these. It just made sense.