“You’re strange Grandma This is not Pakistan zindabad or whatever grandma, eat what you want, no one’s going to chop your hands for eating non halaal, keep up, this is America. ” Nadia told her grandmother without a care for how her words or tone would wound her.
Qaala RasulALLAH SAW – Bada Al-Islamu ghariban Wa sa ya-‘udhu ghariban kama bada`aa
Fa tooba lil ghuraba (rawaahu Muslim)
Rasul ALLAH SAW said; Certainly, Islam began as something strange (in the eyes of people). And it will return to being strange just as it began. So glad tidings for the ‘strangers’!”
Two days later. University of Southern California, America.(March 2001)
Carl ran out of the shade of the campus awning into the glow of the sunshine , spotting his friend. “Hey Alex! Wait up man.”
“Carl, what’s up? want to grab a bite before the next lecture?” Alex said, slowing down.
“Nah, I’m good, I ate at recess. Did you see Zane? I need to give him these files that I borrowed.”
“ Talk of the devil, there he is, stuffing his face as usual.” Alex smiled wryly, as Zane ambled over to them.]
Alex bemusedly thought of how tight the 3 of them were despite their outward differences. He was the son of a single black mom who fought and worked tooth and nail to try and get her son out of the ghetto and a better life than she had. Carl was the typical product of a picket fence middle class white America except since his parents split, he wasn’t such a poster child and Zane was 1st generation Asian who was doing things his parents never dreamt of back in their home country.
“Whadija say Alex?” Zane mumbled through his hot dog. “ Hey Carl, you got my notes,cool.”
“ Yeah,thanks man.” Carl answered ,placing the files somewhere between Zane’s back up hot dog and Coke.
“No problem Carl, anytime. Hey did you guys hear about the talk that’s happening today on campus?” “No? Who’s the speaker?” Alex queried.
“This afghan dude, Rahmatullah Hashimi,the ambassador for the Taliban.”
Carl thoughtfully paused. “Wonder what he has to say, probably came to defend them blowing up the statues.”
“yeah that was a crazy thing to do, I mean live and let live, respect all religions I say.” Zane replied disinterestedly.
Alex looked at his uninterested friend. “I don’t think they were disrespecting anyone’s religion, coz no one actually was praying at those statues if you know what I mean, I’m surprised at your view Zane, with you being Muzlim.”
Carl was surprised. “You’re Muslim??? No way man, I never knew that.”
“Yeah I am, well my parents are, so I guess I am.”
“ Wow you’re nothing like what a Muslim guy is supposed to be like, I know you for years and I never seen you doing any of the prayer stuff or not eating, how did you twig he was Muslim Alex?” Carl said.
“I swung by his house yesterday and his gran was there, she was wearing a headscarf and refused to shake my hand.” Alex raised an eyebrow.
Zane cringed “Yeah, she’s embarrassing like that,she’s stuck in a time warp, thank goodness she doesn’t come to visit very often, she’s always on my case to pray, hell the last time I prayed was when my grandfather kicked it, think I was 5 years old.”
(Surah Baqarah Verse 16);These are they who buy misguidance in (exchange) for the guidance, so their bargain shall bring no gain, nor are they the followers of the right direction.
Carl’s expression changed to a winter like sadness. “ Dont be so flippant Zane, what wouldn’t I do to see my Dad more often…only now I wish I hadn’t pushed him away when he tried to get closer.”
“Sorry man, you should contact him Carl, make the first move.” Alex put a hand on his friends shoulder.
“It’s messed up man.” Carl mused
“ Heavy yeah and Zane frankly I think it’s cool to have a culture or faith or whatever, otherwise what do you fall back on in tough times?” Alex chimed
“Yeah, yeah,yeah , what time are we meeting up to catch the new movie?” Zane zoned back into the convo. Talk about faith got him uncomfy.
Carl looked at his best friends. “ Let’s decide after the ambassadors talk.”
The speaker was someone who they were not expecting AT ALL. Okay he was dressed up with that thing around his head. Have to admit,it made him look like the warriors of the glorious past,like the pictures Carl’s dad used to show him. But he was darn young! And absolutely eloquent and witty. And he could also be smartly sarcastic to boot. This wasn’t the Taliban the media showed them.
He had them riveted and now he was wrapping up his talk.
Sayed; We have not attacked the British. We have not attacked the Russians. It was them who attacked us. So the problems in Afghanistan you see is not our creation. That reflects the image of the world. If you don t like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror; break your face
The United States tried to kill a man without even giving him a fair trial. In 1998, they just sent cruise missiles into Afghanistan and announced that they were trying to kill Osama bin Laden. We didn’t know Osama then. He was just a simple man. 75 cruise missiles and trying to kill one man. And they missed that man; killed 19 other students and never apologized.
If we were to go and send 75 cruise missiles into the United States and say that we were going to kill a man that we thought not believed that we thought was responsible for our embassy,missed that man, and killed 19 other Americans what would the United States do? An instant declaration of war. But we were polite. We didn’t declare war.
Alex shouted “Yeah that’s right” to applause. Nodding enthusiastically in agreement.
Sayed; We have said, if anybody can give us proof or evidence about his involvement in the Tanzania bombings, we will punish him. Nobody gave us evidence. America needs a bogey man at all times and I think that’s what they’re going to turn Osama into, so their people will feel they need protection.
The Americans have experts who can’t even talk our language or have been to our country to see what the problems are, yet THEY want to set benchmarks for us to achieve.
Speaker; We will now open the floor to questions from the audience
“I heard on the radio that the Taliban have blown up the buddhist statues, does that mean the statues of the hindus and Sikhs are under threat in your country?” A young man asked in a sarcasm laden tone.
Sayid; . Thank you and unfortunately again, the first question is the statues. These statues belonged to the Buddhists a thousand years ago and there is no Buddhist living in Afghanistan, so it is no offence to them. We are not against any religion. I am getting a headache being asked so much about these statues that if I go back to Afghanistan, I will blow them up myself.
The audience laughed at his sardonic tone.
“ What about the UN and other countries offering millions to maintain them?” Someone bleated indignantly.
Sayid; Again about the statues! Kofi Anan, you know him, secretary general of the UN,he came to Pakistan to talk about the statues but not about the sanctions your government has put on us that is responsible for the death of 7 million children, you cry for a stone but what about innocent humans dying?
A pale man stood. “Why do you guys hate women?”
Sayid; Why do you beat your wife up?
“ I don’t beat my wife!”
Sayid; We don’t hate women. Stop assuming.
A lady in a burqa took the mic. “Is it true that a lady is never allowed to move around without a male escort in Afghanistan?”
Sayid; I am here in America and my wife is shopping in Kandahar, so it’s not true. Yes we had initially restricted women from moving about alone in certain cities because the country was at war and you have ganglords who operate with rape,so it was for their safety not to oppress them.
“Why do you force women to wear the burka, I’m going to pull mine off right now!!” She replied,working herself into a rage as she ripped it off.
Without missing a beat Sayid replied dryily. “ I feel sorry for your husband lady, you probably give him a difficult time.”
Carl put his hand up.; So will the Taliban change their decision to blow up the statues if it means America will stop the sanctions?”
Sayid; I’m sure these sanctions which are imposed on our government will never change us, because for us, our ideology is everything. To try to change our ideology with economic sanctions will never work. It may work in the United States, where the economy is everything, but for us, our ideology, our Deen… is everything. And we believe that it is better to die for something than to live for nothing.
Later that afternoon the boys were discussing what went down.
Zand who usually couldn’t be bothered,was animated. “Woah how was that dude when he told the lady that her husband must be having a hard time with her? The girls thought it was pretty chauvinist of him.”
“Ooh big words huh?” Carl teased him
“I can tell you this much, that lady could have ripped off her burka anywhere,she’s living in America , no one’s forcing her to wear it here,why didn’t she leave it at home if she doesn’t wanna wear it? She was just trying to make a statement and cause a stir, his reaction shut her up well and good.” Alex said thoughtfully.
“you can bet your pants that the women’s lib groups are going to go up in arms about it.” Carl replied
“They’re a bunch of idiots honestly. Penny for your thoughts Zane?”
Zane looked at them. “ Nah, nothing much just thinking about how he said the sanctions will never change them and how for us the economy is everything and for them , their religion is everything.”
Alex nodded. “ And it’s better to die for something than to live for nothing…hmm , that really made me pause. I can’t imagine what it is to have your heart so full of something that you can withstand anything.”
Zane jogged to his car “Right guys, I’ll catch you later! See you at the movies at 8 sharp!
Later that night outside the cinema,Carl excitedly ran upto his best friends,
“ You brought me caramel donuts??” Zane replied hopefully.
Carl shoved him “oh shurrup, My dad emailed me! He asked if I could meet him in Manhattan in September! He said we could tour New York and even check out the observatory deck at the Twin Towers! How cool is that?? Its been 5years since I last met him, He already booked the ticket for me.”
“That’s fantastic man!” Alex hig fived him
“what date are you going? Maybe we can join you and make a week out of it ,if we’re free.” Zane chipped in
Carl hugged them sideways “ I could never make such a trip without you guys hmm, let me check… 11th of September 2001.”
Alex fatefully replied…. “9/11, hmm bet you it will be a day to remember.”
One can find the transcript of the entire talk elsewhere on this site or google Sayed Hashimi.
May Allah guide us. Ameen