Monday, September 18, 2006

Why The Pope was Wrong

A lot of people seem to have a problem understanding why Muslims think the Pope was wrong for publicly saying what he did. Maybe the following story-in-a-story will help them understand.

I once lived in Kiryat Araba - Hebron. Several times a week I would walk down to the center of the Arab city where the central bus station was located and took an Arab taxi (Sherut) to Jerusalem. As I frequently traveled the same time day after day I often traveled with the same drivers, some of which I "befriended" to the extent that we had ongoing conversations of Jews & Arabs and the relations between the two.

One day I mentioned some item in the news expressing my lack of understanding of the motivations of the individuals involved. My driver that day, Achmed, laughed at my lack of understanding and explained that if I understood the Arab mind I would not find it difficult. My Arab mentor then proceeded to tell me this Arab "fable" to help me appreciate the Arab mind:

Youssef was hot and tired and decided to take a mid-day nap in the shade of his back porch. Just as he got comfortable the local kids charged into the yard to play some game. Their noise and confusion were not conducive to the rest he desired and he tried yelling at them to go somewhere else. Nothing he could do convinced them to leave. After a moment of reflection he decided that threatening them wasn't working, he'd try a different approach.

Calling the kids to him, he asked with all the sincerity he could muster why they were playing here in the yard, and why were they not down at the marketplace. When they asked him, why would they want to be at the marketplace he explained that right at that moment the vendors were giving away fresh dates to people for free! After a moment or two of reflection, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the kids en mass rushed out of the yard on their way to the marketplace. Youssef laid back to enjoy his newly found peace and quiet to start his mid-day nap.

Not a few minutes went by and Youssef could be seen getting up and hurriedly rushing out of the yard on his way to the marketplace. How could he just lie around when the vendors were giving away dates for free.
I'm not certain what my "mentor" intended me to understand from this story. I know that it described to me an individual, Youssef, for whom the distinction between objective reality and subjective imagination were blurred if not totally confused.

You see, it doesn't matter what the Pope actually said, all that matters is what the Arab/Muslim imagines the Pope said