I found myself today in a debate of sorts. You might even have called it a clash of cultures. I have Eid to thank for it, the festive day following the supposed solemn days of Ramadan.
I had decided to pay a visit to an old friend who I had not seen in sometime. He is a devout Muslim. Although it was Eid that was not so much the impetus for my visit as opposed to it just seeming convenient, and I was in the mood.
My friend greeted me in his apartment with a collection of flatmates and their comrades. It was thus that the debate ensued. My hosts were all friendly gentlemen from Kerela and they engaged me in conversation that took on very much the character of an intense cultural exchange. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my views on Bush, Iraq, Iran and, the most intense topic to surface, religion and Islam.
I suppose in accordance with their duty as Muslims, these men sought to enlighten me on the character and basis of the Islamic faith--as much as can be done in such an impromptu setting. Although I was, in a manner of speaking, not having any of it--that is, I have my own views to the contrary which make perfect sense in my own mind--I admired the valor of these gentlemen. Even more so I admired their courtesy to realize when enough was enough and the discussion moved on to a new topic.
If only cultures would always clash in such a congenial fashion. Clearly we were of different backgrounds, with different beliefs, values and lifestyles. But we shared a mutual respect and interest in one another's cultures. I, myself, had visited Kerala and the home of my old friend some years past. There was nothing more interesting to me than experiencing the diversity of the culture there--not only diverse in how it differed from my own, but also in how it manifested itself in the diverging Muslim, Hindu and Christian traditions which coexist there.
Back to the living room of my hosts, we continued to discuss a range of topics--some personal, some general and many with regard to life in the UAE. I explained at one point that one reason Islamic culture seemed distant and alien to me, even though I live within an Islamic and Arabic society, is that many of its key elements seem closed off to me. For example, as a non-Muslim I am not permitted to enter a mosque. Therefore in time I have learned to not only ignore the many mosques that dot the terrain but also other aspects of Islamic culture. It is there I know, but I also know that I am not really welcome within it, unless of course I convert--of which I intend to have no part!
In the end the gentlemen informed me that Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai does have an open door policy of sorts. That I suppose, was a fitting nugget of information to pick up on a day of Eid.
Open a printable copy, in a new window.
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