Monday, May 16, 2005
Country of Origin: Cairo, Egypt
Egypt is a 21 year old university student. He is very religious, prays five times a day, and sports a 3 year old beard. He always carries a small Quran in his bag to read from in the subway on his way to college. Sometimes he reads it out loud so that people around him will listen to Allah’s holy word. He doesn’t mind if Muslims who don’t want to hear and Christian passengers might not appreciate his squeaky voice, he is uttering Allah’s words after all.
Ahmed is active within the Islamist movement on campus. The university security personnel know him by name and they keep a constant eye on the young man lest he decides to do something they deem will compromise the delicate security situation in the university. Last week, Ahmed’s mother had to put drops in his eyes after they got very red and swollen from the tear gas that was used to curb the massive Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations he took part in.
Our friend Ahmed believes that Egypt’s problems stem from its abandoning of the true Islamic law. The full implementation of Islamic law will certainly pull the country out of its miseries, he always admonishes. Ahmed gets very angry when he sees his colleagues not keen on following all the strict religious guidelines he believes they should follow. He wants his male friends to accompany him to all daily prayers and to avoid mixing with the opposite sex, he also demands from them to stop watching Ruby’s promiscuous music video clips.
Ahmed believes that Islam is a religion and a state. The notion of separation between mosque and politics is heresy to him. He wants an Islamic state and so he doesn’t comprehend how Islam can function in a secular society. Whenever he hears the words “separation of religion and politics”, thoughts of gay marriage in the US and free cannabis in Holland rush through his mind.
Ahmed hates the US government with every fiber of his being, but sometimes when he is alone on bed at night, he starts to dream about how President Bush’s sudden quest for democracy in Egypt might help in empowering “noble righteous” men who will implement “the laws of Allah” in Egypt.
Country of origin: Gorgan, Iran
Meet Salman. Just like Ahmed, he is a very religious 21 year old university student. He hails from the beautiful city of Gorgan which is very near to the magnificent Caspian sea. Salman prays 5 times a day and reads his Quran on a daily basis. His mother is so happy that her young man is keen on keeping his prayers on schedule unlike many of Tehran’s youth who lost interest in religion and are just Muslim by name.
Salman hates his country’s rulers so much and he believes that they tarnished the image of Islam. He believes that personal freedom and humanity constitute the basic tenants of Islam. “The problem is in our repressive mullahs and not in Islam” Salman says. He wants his Iranian people to chose their religion and decide whether they want to be religious or not. He is completely against forcing his life style on others.
Salman believes that the current version of Islamic law needs a lot of reform in order to suit the 21st century. The harsh experience of his country taught him that laws that were passed hundreds of years ago cannot be applied today. In addition to that, Salman has no problem with the notion of separation of mosque and politics, he believes that this should be the case in Iran as long as clerics are not banned from going into politics if they wished to do so.
“Religion should not be used to control people. Our mullahs use it for their own personal reasons. It is a personal thing” Salman says. Like millions of Iranians, both observant and nonobservant, Salman longs for the day when his country shakes away the shackles of theocracy and create a secular democracy that will protect religion from politics and protect the people from those who use religion as a tool of oppression and manipulation.
Unfortunately, my compatriot is Ahmad and not Salman. Oh my wretched soul!!