There is no question about it – when life becomes unpredictable many of us start to get a bit nervous. Our daily routine might be interrupted, or we might come across people from a different culture. Differences are noted, from the language spoken, the faith practiced...and those we meet might dress differently. What is actually being presented to us is opportunity. We are called upon to open ourselves to new thinking and new experiences. Life can become much richer.
The lives of many actually became enriched several days ago in Dartmouth in spite of tremendous loss. An apartment building at 81 Primrose Street was destroyed by fire. One life was lost, but there could have been much greater loss of life. John Demont, a columnist with The Chronicle Herald told how a group of people, who might be viewed as different, happened to end up saving lives...and then brought comfort to those same people.
In the wee hours of the morning of May 19 a small group of Muslims were waking up in their apartments in that building. It was Ramadan, a time when fasting is strictly enforced from sunrise to sunset, and they wanted to have some food before heading out for morning prayers at the Dartmouth mosque. One individual smelled smoke and then flames were seen. The group ran through the halls, knocking on doors, and telling people to get out.
If not for those individuals who were getting up to observe this celebration of their faith there would certainly have been many deaths. One resident indicated false fire alarms do happen and often are ignored. It was the pounding on doors that brought people out of the building. But the good deeds performed by the people in the Muslim community goes even further.
The iman of the Darmouth mosque opened the doors of that building to provide warmth, food, and comfort. Even though those in the Muslim community could not eat or drink, they brought coffee, tea, donuts, muffins, sandwiches. The iman even prepared chicken soup and barbecued chicken was served in the afternoon.
At the time, these events were being reported I had just finished reading a book by King Abdullah II of Jordan. The title of the book is Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril. King Adullah tells of the efforts for peace made by his Great Grandfather, and of the 40 years spent by his father, King Hussein, trying to broker peace between Palestine and Israel. Those efforts are still ongoing.
Because I need to learn more about the Arabian cultures and the Muslim faith I look for information presented by those who are seen as moderates. King Abdullah has continued to seek peace. He has also done much to promote education for all of his citizens, including women. Human rights issues have been at the forefront of his efforts.
It is so necessary that we do not paint all who call themselves Muslim with the same brush. There are extremists in all faiths...those who would claim “the right” to do evil deeds under the guise of religion. One of the words King Abdullah used in describing his faith is Love. That same word describes the basis of Christianity. I have also heard that word expressed by those who practice Judaism.
Hmmm...maybe there are more similarities than differences among people. It might be that we just need to open ourselves to those experiences.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.