Monday, September 3, 2012

gimme that old time religion

I see a lot of women strolling throughout the city, completely covered by an ominous black abaya, their heads contained in a matching niqab, only the tiniest of slits in the garment revealing a pair of dark eyes. I figure that these women are members of an extremely traditional Muslim sect, a counterpart in observance level to, say, Orthodox Jews. Although I am not a certified theologian, I can still surmise that the overwhelming majority of the world's religions teach some sort of message of "peace, understanding, forgiveness, love and compassion for your fellow human". Ergo, the more observant you are in your chosen faith, the more you abide by the message. (I think that is a reasonable assumption.)

Recently, I was walking up Market Street, just past the weary-looking Gallery Mall. The sidewalk was bustling with people carrying stuffed shopping bags, homeless prone on the cement with outstretched hands and unruly children dancing about and defying the orders of their frustrated parents. It was a familiar scene, one that plays out regularly in urban Philadelphia. My destination was the train station and eventually, my home. Just ahead of me were two young girls — the elder around eleven, her companion several years younger. They were each wearing shorts and solid color, though dingy, t-shirts. Both of their heads were swathed in a hijab, a traditional Muslim garment worn by women to preserve their modesty in the presence of non-related adult males (though not as concealing as the niqad, as the hijab allows the face to be uncovered). I can only assume, based on my narrow-minded, media-directed American way of thinking — accelerated in the days following September 11, 2001 — that if you're wearing a religious article of clothing out in the world, you take your religion pretty seriously. The fact that these girls were sporting hijabs led me to believe that they come from a fairly observant Muslim family. (I have become acquainted with several Muslims over the years, none of whom ever wore visible religious accoutrements.)

 The older of the girls was yakking non-stop on a cellphone pressed to her ear. In the other hand, she held a large, waxed paper cup emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo. The younger girl walked attentively by her side, swinging a bag full of purchases alongside her leg. Suddenly, the older girl cocked her arm and tossed the cup high in the air. It sailed in a lazy arc, its lid becoming loosened and its paltry remaining liquid contents spewing in the direction of its trajectory... until it landed with a smash on the sidewalk, yards from the nearest trash receptacle. The girl continued her electronic conversation, not turning at all toward the direction of her spent-beverage missile.

A man seated on a large cement planter, a foot or so from the cup's "ground zero" called out, "Hey! Come back here and pick that up!"

Without turning around, the young girl — this apparent student of the prophet Muhammad, who has studied hadith and pronounced the sacred words of the Shahada — screamed back at her accuser, "Fuck you, you fucking pussy!"

I wondered which part of the Qur'an includes that passage?

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