Journal Entry 1: Snapshots of Meknes


Right now, I sit near the window in my hotel room with my laptop, allowing me to look either at the people passing by in Meknes, Morocco, or to look at my newsfeed on Facebook, which is currently filled with outrage, mourning, and electioneering centered around the riots in Libya and Cairo. After a video mocking the Prophet Mohammed went viral, a series of protests broke out across North Africa and the Middle East, resulting in an attack on the US Embassy in Libya and Egypt. My heart breaks for the death of these people and the increased tension it will doubtlessly cause these next few weeks.

Judging from my newsfeed, these outbreaks of violence haveconfirmed the assumptions that many people make about the Muslim world. The attacks made by these extremists should make you want to scream, but maybe our scream has been misdirected these last couple days. As I’ve stayed in Morocco, I’ve tried to compare the Western portrayal of the Muslim world with my flesh-and-blood experience with Muslims. The Muslims I met do not represent the entirety of Islamic civilization, since no individual can represent any people group completely, but I write about them to show that the extremists in Libya and Cairo also don’t represent the entirety of Islamic civilization.

First, I’ll describe Rassif. Rassif sells cigarettes outside a Tea Shop right up the street from my hotel. If I stick my head out the window into the Moroccan afternoon, I can see the outdoor seating area where he sells. He noticed me come to this Tea Shop a few times do get reading done after class, and he started talking to me my second night in Morocco. Since then, I sit down and get tea with him once or twice a day. We talk a lot about his experience with Islam, but yesterday we talked about something far more intimidating to both of us: romance. I told him about my awkward attempts in the past, and he told me about a girl who lived up his street. He said she was beautiful, always smiling, and came from a good family.

“You should talk to her,” I told him.

“No no no no,” he said. “I’ve never talked to her.”

Second, I’ll tell about a man whose name I don’t know. My friend Nick and I got out of a taxi at an intersection we thought led to our hotel, but ended up discovering did not lead anywhere near our hotel. We wandered around Meknes, attempting to ask nearby waiters, walkers, and corner store workers for direction to Hotel Rif, but found that English bears little similarity to Arabic. Finally, we just said the words, “Hotel Rif” to anyone nearby who exhibited even the slightest sign of kindness. Finally a man nodded. “Oh yes,” he said, “Over here.”

As we walked with him, we discovered that we had left the taxi at least a mile and a half away from Hotel Rif. We apologized in French, but he just laughed and told us it was no problem. Outside that, neither of us understood the other’s language enough to carry on a complete conversation. As we neared the Hotel, I reached into my pocket to give him a few durhams for his trouble, and Nick did the same.

“No no no,” he said, shaking his head as he walked away. Nick and I insisted, but he just smiled, wished us well, and walked back up the street.

Outrage over any act of violence is justified. Continue the outrage. Work for a world where people truly do care for each other as neighbors, where we don’t make videos ridiculing each others’ leaders, and where we don’t respond to ridicule with acts of violence. But when that outrage becomes misdirected by a mixture of prejudices and half-thoughts, it becomes just as lethal as the injustice you’re decrying. Our fight isn’t against flesh-and-blood people, because they often end up more beautiful and deserving of respect than we could have imagined. It’s against the hatred that divides us, and for a Divine Love with the potential to unite us.

I just hope we can begin fighting the right fight. 


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