Saturday, August 15, 2015


I met a man named Abdul yesterday. That isn't his real name, but I want to tell this story without infringing on his privacy.

I met a man named Abdul yesterday, by chance. I asked where he was from and he named a country in south Asia. I asked if he was Muslim and he said he was. And so, I had the poor fellow in my sights.

I wanted to communicate with him sincerely and openly in the few minutes we had to talk. Would he be willing?

Yes. He was. When we arrived at my destination, we sat and continued talking. We spent quite some time exchanging our

Abdul is a taxi driver, a married man with children. He drove a taxi in New York City and, on that fateful day, he saw the plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Centre.

Traffic was jammed up. He was stuck in traffic 
just a few blocks away from the catastrophe. Some cars managed to work their way through the traffic past him, in haste to get where they were going. Those drivers died.

And soon afterward, people started throwing rocks at Abdul's windshield. And so he came to Canada.

Abdul is a faithful Muslim worshipping in the traditional way every day. Living his life close to the Quran. His cell phone interrupted our conversation with the musical call to prayer. I asked if he had to go. He turned off the cell phone and we continued talking. No doubt there was time.

I asked Abdul if he made his wife wear the burqua. He said his wife wears the burqua. That led to a passionate exchange. I spoke openly about my feelings.

I explained to him how most western women feel about seeing a woman covered in a tent-like garment with her face covered. His wife does not cover her face, but he explained that some do because the men feel that the wife's beauty should be shared only by him.

I told him that western women are put off when we see a women with her face covered. We might want to meet her, want to know her. Perhaps be friends. But the face covering seems to say, "Keep away" - shutting out communication.

We talked about the role of his wife. I asked if she stays at home, washing dishes, cooking and cleaning. He said that is her role. He works all day to bring home money for their support and it is her role to cook and clean and take care of the children.

I said,
"Then she is a servant, not a partner".

He disagreed. He said God had designated this role for women.

All this was spoken in a straight forward tone with no anger or challenge.

I asked Abdul why his wife must wear the burqua. Does she want to wear it? He said she is happy to wear it. So I pressed to know the purpose of the burqua. I said that women might think they want to wear it because they have been taught to do so since birth. 

Abdul said a man must keep himself only for his wife and she must keep herself only for him, only for his eyes. He said that no other man should look upon his wife. He said it would be dangerous for women if they were not covered.

I said western women treasure our freedom. We dress in a variety of ways but we do not hide under a tent or wear a mask. If a man approaches us in a way that is threatening or offensive we have a great gift - We can say, "No!".

That turned on a light. Abdul made a good point that applies in middle eastern and African countries - but really does not apply here in the west.

He said that in countries like his, the woman can't say, "No". She can be raped or killed for saying "No"
 and many are.

There is a valid case for why women wear the hijab, the burqua or the niquab in those countries. They are not yet free to say, "No!" It is not safe to say "No!". It could cost them their lives.

But why wear the burqua in Canada?

"It is God's will."

Our conversation was warm and open, as if we had known each other as friends for a long time. I sat in the front passenger seat and, as we spoke, I touched Abdul's arm lightly two or three times, as I often do when I talk with friends. Woops!

A strange woman touching a religious Muslim man! He did not flinch.

I told him that if  had touched the arm of an Ultra Orthodox Jewish man, he would have died - or rushed off to wash himself and pray.

I hope I meet Abdul again. 

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