Wednesday, July 17, 2013


My new Muslim friends                 “It’ll take about an hour,” said Carmela, the very busy women seated in my Mom’s wheelchair van. Although she was dressed in a red Ilderton Dodge polo and comfortable black jeans, she was imposing. She asked for my keys, took charge of the van, answered a few of my questions, dismissed me. As I stepped aside, I noted that she was 5’2” or 3” only because she was wearing five or six inch high black pumps. To me, that was reassuring; a woman whose name began with C-A-R should be a take-charge type.

Knowing I had at least an hour, I walked toward Main Street and turned right in the direction of blocks of once bustling furniture display rooms. As I passed empty buildings and unkempt boxwoods and flowerbeds, I sighed. Memories returned of time spent working in High Point during its heyday while I was on break from college.

My reverie ended when an item in the window of a small nameless shop caught my attention. About two feet square, the stained glass piece was a perfect image of a horse’s head. Since the door appeared to be open, I walked in. Immediately, an older man whose graying whiskers matched his stubble greeted me. About my height and size, dressed in jeans, he asked whether he could help me. His accented voice reminded me of India. Had he been wearing a turban, I would have been sure of that.

Within minutes, he was showing me wares of his eleven or twelve foot wide shop. At the back, about thirty-five feet from the door, I noticed a boy of about thirteen or fourteen sitting behind a desk watching a cricket match on TV. An older young man, shorter with a black mustache and an American accent, joined us.

“Business is not good here,” said the older man, as he motioned to an inventory of furniture and furnishings that wouldn’t have filled a small garage. With a quick glance, I looked out the front window and saw no traffic on the street. I turned and noticed stacks of Persian carpets on either side of the middle of the room. A few large rugs that rested on a large workbench in the center of the room near the television were being repaired.

“My father is restoring them,” said the young man who had joined us. He spoke with a discernible pride. “He makes them look like new.”

Moving closer, I looked at his careful work. Indeed, the ragged edge of a very old hand-knotted rug was being made to look as it had originally. “Extraordinary,” I said to the older man, in a way that suggested I wanted to see more.

He obliged. On the other side of the bench was another vintage rug that had been badly torn, leaving a sizable hole. He was weaving into that section he’d removed a new but matching piece. Much of the work had already been done; it was impossible to tell that part had been patched. His work was that good.

Customers from Virginia and Carolina brought rugs to him. In one section were rugs already repaired. “This one has been paid for, but hasn’t been picked up for more than four years.” He followed that with the entire story, fascinating me.

“And this one,” he began, as his older son unrolled it, “was poorly repaired in Iran. I told the man not to buy it, but…” he shrugged, as if to suggest that some people couldn’t be helped.

Another one was an eighteen-foot long runner that a man had traded for a three thousand dollar debt. “I told him it wasn’t real, that it was a Karastan. He was taken,”
he said, shaking his head.

Seeing that I was intrigued, both the man and his son guided me to other items, real treasures that included an antique hand made copper pot I wanted to buy. Apologetically, the father told me that one of his customers had spoken for it.

Against a wall, he pointed to a stunning oriental room divider screen in four sections, hand-carved and painted in gold leaf. On its back was an equally elegant but simpler pattern, stunning too.

“And these teakwood benches,” he said, acknowledging them as works of art. I agreed. Although I appreciated what had been a wonderful tour, I knew I had to leave soon. I looked at my phone. An hour had passed.

“Is there a good Indian restaurant here?” I asked.

“Not really,” the father answered, “but there is a buffet that serves Indian-Pakistani food across from Wal-Mart.” He pointed down the street. “About four miles.”

Hearing that made me realize he was probably from Pakistan, probably Muslim. [PakistanPaedia - Religions in Pakistan  Christians are the largest religious minority community in Pakistan, numbering only around 1.6 million people, or 1% of Pakistan's entire population, ...] I asked whether he was, whether the politics of that country was a concern to him. “When was your last trip home?” I asked.

“Almost twenty years ago,” he said, then mentioned how politics had mixed with religion, that Muslims were misunderstood. Intently, he began to explain that all religions were the same, that Jesus and Moses were in the Koran, that Muslims were poorly treated.

His son joined in. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re Sunni or Shia,” he said cheerfully. He explained that his friends in high school didn’t care that he was a Muslim. I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t told me.

“I have a book for you that a friend of mine wrote,” said the father. His son hurried to get it. Seconds later, he handed me a copy of Would You Like To Know Something About Islam?

“Thank you,” I said to both of them. “I lecture about Islam in my class. This will be a help.”

I handed my card to the son, told them both that I’m Jewish. “I agree with you that we could all work together,” I said, “but I must tell you that I was upset when I went to the Temple Mount while I was in Israel. Before I entered, I was made to remove any Jewish religious symbols. They aren’t allowed near the Dome of the Rock.”

The younger man was shocked. “It shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

I agreed, appreciated his opinion. Then I flipped through the book his father had given me. On page 346, I saw a paragraph that I knew the son would find interesting.

“Although it’s claimed that there’s no compulsion in the Islamic religion, listen to this,” I said as I began reading:

            “In the holy Qur’an, Allah reminds Jews and Christians about the teachings of Musa [Moses]and Isa [Jesus] and commands that, if they are truthful to them, they must have faith in Prophet Muhammad for ultimate success. [5:12] Many truthful Jews and Christians knew---through their respective books---the signs of Prophet Muhammad and so, at his coming, they embraced Islam.[Qur’an 61:6]”

Taken aback, the younger man, a senior in high school, commented that the passage sounded as if they wanted to convert Christians and Jews. It was as if he hadn’t realized the intent. I knew that many Muslims suffered from a similar lack of clarity; they were typical Americans as a result.

That said, I knew I would return to visit again with my new Muslim friends.

As I said goodbye, the father asked whether he could drive me to Ilderton. I was touched by that. “Thank you,” I said, “but it’s a short walk, only a few blocks.” We shook hands and I left.

Later, as I read news from international sources, I saw headlines from Pakistan that my new friends would, I’m sure, also regard as alarming. I’d explained to them that I teach my students why such events take place; I do that so that my students can recognize Muslims who would never think of causing such harm.

Jul 16, 2013 08:36 pm

Asian Human Right Commission:
Arifa, a mother of two, has been stoned to death on the orders of Panchayat (a tribal court) for possessing a cell phone. She was executed on 11 July in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province. The victim was stoned to death by her uncle and relatives on the orders of Panchayat after she was found to have a mobile phone.
According to media reports her uncle, cousins and other relatives threw stones and bricks at her until she died. She was buried without informing anyone. Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the Panchayat but no one has been arrested. She was buried in a desert far away from her village and nobody (not even her children) was allowed to participate in the funeral. Her husband is unknown.
Women are often victimized by these illegal judicial systems. This incident is a demonstration of the strong patriarchal society in Pakistan, and women are forced to remain in their clutches. Because of the absence of a proper criminal justice system, the powerful sections of society have complete impunity when they enforce their will…

Jul 16, 2013 07:01 am | Robert
This is the kind of law that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its Leftist allies want to bring to Western countries. "Pak Christian man gets life term for sending blasphemous SMSs," from PTI, July 14 (thanks to all who sent this in): LAHORE: A Christian man in Pakistan's...

Jul 16, 2013 11:14 am | Robert
It's a time of renewed piety, after all, and many Muslims see terrorizing the non-observant -- striking terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah (cf. Qur'an 8:60) as a manifestation of piety. Video thanks to Pamela Geller....

                                                B.Koplen 7/17/13

No comments:

Post a Comment