Bob Prater and Emad Meerza debate anything from what to order for breakfast to what the intent of sharia is.
Prater and Meerza host the podcast “A Christian and a Muslim Walk into a Studio,” where both past Bakersfield religious leaders discuss what they term “hot-button issues” from their respective perspectives. Prater is a former evangelical pastor, who now leads a small group of Christians through change in their personal lives, and Meerza is the previous president of the Islamic Shoura Council of Bakersfield.
But they weren’t always best friends able to have calm banter about religion. After meeting on a radio talk show, where they were guests talking about the rift between Christianity and Islam, Prater asked to buy Meerza coffee.
“I said, ‘Why would I want to do that?’” Meerza said.
Reluctantly, Meerza accepted and after a few more thrilling coffee get-togethers, which often turned into debates, “A Christian and a Muslim Walk into a Studio” was born.
In the beginning, Prater asked the questions that many conservatives would want to ask, drilling Meerza on the horrific practices cited in the Quran.
But it got to a breaking point – Meerza said that the narrative was hurting him and Muslims.
“It’s in the Quran just as it’s in the Bible,” Meerza said. “We have to watch this propaganda machine hurt us; it’s insanity.”
Prater also received flak from the Christian community. He said some accused him of sympathizing with terrorists, aiding vetting (and abetting?), and that Muslims were evil and trying to take over the world.
“People aren’t interested in peace; they’re interested in conflict,” Prater said. “Fear sells. If we were like everyone else, we would make a lot of money.”
(The worst thing anyone could tease Meerza for being Muslim, when he was a boy, was a “camel jockey,” but for his son some would call him a “terrorist.” “I’ve lived in Kern County since I was 5,” Meerza said. “I love fishing and hunting, but I am an Orthodox Muslim and it’s gut wrenching and heartbreaking to hear those things.”)
Both acknowledge that “A Christian and a Muslim Walk into a Studio” is not the most popular podcast in Kern County – however one video got 28,000 views in an hour from Middle Eastern viewers. Prater and Meerza are just happy to create a space for the dialogue.
In fact, Prater said that a prominent religious leader in Fresno had a change of heart toward Islam because of “A Christian and Muslim Walk into a Studio.”
As the show went on, Meerza and Prater made a conscious decision to create a dialogue that was purely informational and not in any way targeting either religion.
“I just want people to stop killing each other, the end,” Prater said.
The two decided to bring other areas that could have religious nuances, such as sports, onto the show and have guests on the show to add more to the dialogue. Meerza has recently returned with his family to reside in Kuwait, but both will continue the show through remote broadcasting. Prater is even in the process of creating another podcast called “A White guy and a Black guy walk into a studio.”
“We speak the language of agreement,” Prater said of him and Meerza. “It’s vital for us to have conversations like this. Proverbs 31:8 and 31:9 says, ‘There’s time for us to take a stand, speak up for those who are oppressed.’” ￼