Friday, June 30, 2006

Who are the Muslims we don't see on TV?

The Muslims we don't see on TV

By Anne McElvaine
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

S ANLIURFA, TURKEY — An incident occurred during our tour of Turkey with a group of 15 Mississippians on a trip sponsored by the Institute for Interfaith Dialog that I feel I must relate to others.
While we were at the village of Harran, where Abraham lived for a time (Genesis 11:31), we were served an Arab coffee called mirra. The batch from which my husband, Bob, and one other member of the group were served must have been contaminated with bacteria.
By the time we returned to Urfa, as this city is more commonly called, Bob was very ill.

Our Turkish hosts arranged for him to be taken to a clinic. Everyone at the clinic was so nice and concerned.

The doctor had been offered teaching jobs at two prestigious medical schools in the States. His brother is in Dallas and is involved with the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue.
The doctor decided that he was needed in Urfa and started a clinic for the people. The doctor and clinic wouldn't accept any money for their services to Bob.

After Serdal (one of the Turkish Muslims accompanying our group) and I got Bob out of the clinic, Bob insisted on going to visit the two main places we had come to Urfa to see: the Cave of Abraham, which is, according to Muslim tradition, the birthplace of Abraham, and the Carp Pool, which is said to be where King Nimrod had Abraham thrown onto a fire and God caused springs to flow up from the ground to extinguish it. The wood from the fire is said to have turned into fish.

By the time we got to the pool, Bob had taken a serious turn for the worse and had to rest.
A street cleaner asked Serdal if he could be of any help and said, "He is a visitor in our country and I will be sad that he is so ill."

Of course, when Serdal translated this for me, I shed some tears. A street cleaner - so concerned. A short time later, we needed his assistance in finding a rest room. He directed us to one in a quiet courtyard surrounding a mosque. There were several prayer rooms around the courtyard.
Serdal went into the mosque to pray. When he came out, the imam (pastor of the mosque) came out, too. Serdal asked the imam if Bob could lie down in one of the prayer rooms. The Imam opened a door without hesitation and went and got a pillow for him. He came back to offer to make an herbal tea for Bob. I told him that Bob really couldn't drink anything.

He brought the tea around so I could read the ingredients in English, perhaps thinking I didn't trust his tea. Then, I noticed that the imam was holding onto the iron grates on the window with his head bowed and praying - then did my tears flow!
The Imam said that he had to be gone for 30 minutes, but would check on us again. This time, he asked my permission to go into the room with Bob. He looked at him and bowed his head again and prayed. Crying, I now realized that he and I were praying to the same God for the same thing. I have never been so moved spiritually.

These are not the Muslims we see on television.
I believe that we were meant to have this experience with the imam and the street cleaner. This was where we were meant to be. And this all took place also a short distance from the Cave of Abraham, the common ancestor of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
After meeting all the wonderful people in Turkey, I want to help others to understand that the terrorists of 9-11 identified themselves as Muslims, but they do not represent Islam any more than many people who call themselves Christians the teachings of Jesus.

The vast majority of Muslims are not remotely terrorists. The parents want what we want for our children and grandchildren: peace and love and understanding.

[via Positive Muslim News (great blog!)]