A phrase you wouldn't expect to say
I know that story isn't exactly new news (since it happened earlier this week), but I just had to have my say about this.
I have a good friend from Teacher's College who happens to be Muslim. She wears a headscarf, doesn't drink or swear, and doesn't socialize with men without her husband being around. These things are COMPLETELY by choice - she started wearing a headscarf during her time in university. Anyway, my point is that she chooses to follow her religion in this way and is more devout in her beliefs than anybody else I know. She is also extremely open-minded and welcomed (and often encouraged) every one of my many questions about Islam and her religious views.
I worry about the effect that the aforementioned phrase will have upon her and her family. Born in Kuwait, she has experienced life in both worlds, and has a unique viewpoint on all of the western world vs. middle east stuff.
After spending time with her in public, I've seen firsthand the reaction some people have to an Islamic person. Some made comments (yes actual insulting comments), a lot stared, and others pretended she wasn't there. It really bothered me that this stuff was happening, and whenever she would mention feeling left out this year by people in our program who didn't even try to change their plans so she could socialize with everybody too. Some people might ask "she lives in Canada, so why does she expect us to change for her?" Since she never once insisted that we belief in what she did, or act how she acted, I can say that her complaint was a result of people not bothering to remember the fact that she was not able to go hang out at bars.
I've never been friends with a person who's beliefs were so different from mine. We used to joke about it all the time - how I'm a beer drinking hockey-watcher, who loves hanging out in pubs, drinks regularly and a swears-like-a-trucker-when-she's-angry type of chick and she's the nice girl who doesn't drink or party. I live a pretty unexciting life, yet compared to hers it seemed practically wild.
I'm getting away from the point of this post.
With the discovery of the terrorist plot from right here in Southern Ontario, I immediately thought of my friend and wondered how it will affect how she is treated. She mentioned losing a lot of friends after 9/11 - a tragedy to her as well as everybody else. With all of the media attention on Islamic extremists, it's getting harder and harder not to become prejudiced towards people of this culture. People are suspicious of them, and don't feel comfortable around them. I can't imagine my well-educated and open-minded friend even somewhat condoning the actions of the Extremists (she is in fact just as horrified as I am about what these people are doing). Problem is, a growing number of people who don't know her will feel like she supports these terrorists simply because they don't know any better.
I can't help but wonder about the Muslims in the Toronto area now. The people who love Canada and would never support terrorist activity, the people who just want to fit in here and live their lives in peace. How are they being treated? Is it worse than before this news came out? Have they lost friends or the respect of others because of what happened?
I personally was always intimidated by the people of her culture, especially the men. I thought the women were oppressed and forced to be subservient. As I learned more about her, I realized how wrong my pre-concieved notions were, and since then have tried to learn as much about her beliefs as I could without seeming rude.
Maybe I'm naive to believe that a little understanding between our cultures would pave the way to peace. I am still baffled by many of my friend's beliefs (and probably she by mine) but I was still able to like and respect her. We still laughed at silly things and were able to have long conversations about anything - even if we disagreed on some topics. She and I will likely be friends for a long time.
It's amazing what an open mind can do.
I pray that something will happen to make things start to get better. The way things are going though, it will probably get much worse before this happens.