Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Break: A Story! (1)

While I am busy gathering Qur'anic verses that might incriminate violence (actually no, I'm not: I could probably finish the blog post promised in half an hour if I really tried, but I haven't!) I thought I might give you a (hopefully) pleasant diversion.

It's a story I might add to, an edit of something I've already posted on one of my Facebook notes, inspired by a font no less!

Here you go.


There was once a man who had a knack for blending into a crowd. Tall as he was, and thin, and insistent upon wearing black, he wove himself in seamlessly as you like into whatever group of people you put him in; or, rather, into their background. Among the colorful dresses and jaunty feathered hats of this particular peasant marketplace he caused no disturbance, regardless of the difference between he and them. He did not exactly flit from shadow to shadow; he was a shadow, one you would rather ignore than investigate. It was a gift the man had, a gift that would have to be inherent rather than learned, an instinct.

Well... a little dust on the black suit also helped. People paid so much less attention to you when they thought you were poor.

The man in black, whose name happened to be Zlatan for this particular mission, went along for quite a while unnoticed until he ducked into a stall almost as nondescript as himself. Inside he was vociferously accosted by the stall's owner as soon as he'd given the laid-out wares a paltry glance.

The owner was portly, his suspiciously raven-black hair slicked with olive oil and combed so finely you could see the gleaming tracks his morning toilet had left. In an obviously put-on French accent he exclaimed: "Excellent choice! C'est excellent, mon ami," and widened his greasy grin even further. "'Ow would you like..."

Zlatan wasted no time. "Drop the pantoime, Victor, I'm here on official business," he said, not bothering to raise his voice above the din from outside, or to meet the other man's eyes. "You're ordered by the Baron to close your shop for a short time in order to relay your report verbally."

Victor took a deep breath as though in protest. However, he was composed and still by the exhale, and by the time he took another breath Victor had become another person entirely. His hair still shined faux under the dim lights of the stall, but cunning was in his face where there had not been cunning before. His eyes narrowed, his back straightened just a bit; he cast a careful glance around before taking a ring of keys out of his pocket. He darted to the front of the store, with a speed belying his portliness, and drew a rusted steel mesh gate across the stall's opening - with a loud screech - before locking it.

Finally he drew a ragged, oil-stained grey curtain across the door, and beckoned for Zlatan to follow him to the back of the store and through a door that led to a back space which was common to all stalls in this marketplace. It was usually used as storage for wares, for a workroom where private accounts could be settled, and in some cases it even doubled for living quarters.

He entered a narrow corridor, Zlatan just behind him, whose walls were completely covered in stacks of cardboard boxes that stretched up to the ceiling. Presumably, they contained wares - probably shoes - but judging on the appraising eye Zlatan cast upon them, they contained something that might be...

More volatile, we might say.

Far more volatile than any innocent shop-owner's merchandise.

Those boxes contained the reason Zlatan had been sent here. After all was said and done, one thing must be understood about the man in black: his comings did not always bring on joy.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Islam and Violence

My first topic will be Islam's relation to violence. That much is obvious; it's probably the most discussed thing about Islam today, the most controversial, the most vehemently argued. You hear contradictory things all the time about it - the media is either singing an "Islam is terrorism" mantra or "a religion of peace" mantra.

Obviously I disagree completely with the terrorism=Muslims thing because it is untrue and I can prove it. However, I'm not comfortable with the blindfolded "religion of peace" stuff either.

Now, that argument is perfect for TV spots with limited time, used by well-meaning people who don't have much in-depth knowledge or who don't have the time to elaborate, the ones who do know but are afraid it's too complicated to explain. This is the case most of the time.

Unfortunately, saying "Islam is a religion of peace," which is completely justifiable and totally correct - as I hope I can contribute to proving - leads you into a whole different kind of maze. It's become the kind of thing that 'So-called Experts On Islam' (hereby referred to as SEOI) just love to hear. Someone saying "Islam is the religion of peace" point-blank gives them the opportunity to brandish all the 'REAL TRUTH ABOUT ISLAM' stuff they have - verses, traditions, etc. - that appear to support their convoluted message: a message that says Islam = violence.

The SEOI's argument is, "Real Islam supports violence so real Muslims must also. If you do not support violence you must be one of those 'secular' Muslims, if you remain Muslim at all." Replace the word "violence" with any controversial Islamic topic and you will get what keeps me up gnashing my teeth at the laptop screen at night.

My argument will be that you can be a practicing Muslim who follows all mandates of the Qur'an and of the Prophet Muhammad, and not support unwarranted violence in anyone's name.

Coming up -
Islam and Violence: The Verses.
Are there any verses in the Qur'an that you, in fact, feel a tad uncomfortable reading? Please feel free to contribute. I'm going to try to go through them one by one.