The Obligatory 9/11 Post

by cathrynbauer

Eucalyptus tree in the San Leandro hills up near Juvenile Hall.  Couldn’t get enough of the shimmering colors.

I have to admit that my concern today is not so much the memorialization of a pivotal, horrific event in U.S. history.  It’s for the Muslim citizens who undoubtedly are having a very uneasy, even fear-filled weekend.  I’m thinking a lot about a conversation I had a day or two after news of bin Laden’s death spread across the globe.  I was at one of the downtown Oakland courthouses buying coffee when Sultana, coffee cart panjandrum, suddenly starting talking about how sad she was that Americans saw bin Laden’s form of Islam as representative.   The Islam that she knew, practiced, and loved — and had studied at a law college in Teheran in her young adulthood — was life-loving.  She used the word “perverted” to describe bin Laden-style spirituality.   Sultana also told me that something I hadn’t known before: that some of the more extreme practices associated with Islam didn’t come from the religion at all.  Such practices as honor killings and seclusion of women came from national and regional tradition and custom, not the faith.  Still don’t know why me, but I’m glad to know what she told me.  I do not know any Muslim individuals well.  But I certainly have met Muslims, primarily in the course of my work, who had the feel to me of the genuinely spiritual individual.   I remember being anxious about captioning an advanced biology class for a hard-of-hearing student.  As we all were packing up at the end of the class, a lovely veiled lady who had been sitting on the other side of the room told me, “You know, you did a very good job.”  Well, I’d done my best for being without prep time, but it really was just pure kindness on her part.  I remember being between planes at Heathrow and deciding to check out the room set aside for Islamic prayer (I had never been in a mosque before).   I opened the door a little.  A service seemed to be just finishing up — several men were in various stages of meditation and rolling up their prayer mats — so I pulled back.  One of the worshipers came forward and said graciously, “Madame, please to come in.”  (I smiled and said I preferred not to intrude.)   I wish them all safety and peace on this difficult day.

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