Rosetta Stone

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Religious Idiots

I’m not trying here to offend religious people or anyone, in fact I do consider myself religious in a way! I’m talking about another kind of religious people, well, it actually depends your own perception of the words “religious people” whether they are people who just follow a certain religion or people who fulfill all their religious duties or people who take religion to the extreme. I didn’t make up my mind on a proper definition yet. But I do believe that the latter have the tendency of turning into bigots and brainwashed morons.

I spent an average portion of my life as a “Muslim” by birth, I knew nothing of my religion and I haven’t practiced it except when I was a kid and my dad dragged me around to Friday prayers. Then at the early parts of growing-up I turned into an atheist, rejecting all thoughts of the All-mighty existence. It was part of my college Marxist period, but it was a short one thank God. Afterwards, then I kept thinking that we all need to have faith in something as part of our lives and then I turned agnostic. Until a certain life-changing point in my life that made me think and read more about Islam and I turned to what you may call a “born-again” Muslim. Although, I’m not a perfect Muslim (I do have my long list of sins), I became so deeply involved in learning and grasping Islam but it never changed my liberal ideology and it never became imposing on others.

I wrote about how about radicals and Salafist recruit young people who usually come from poor backgrounds and unable to function socially. This time, the subject doesn’t fall into this common profiling, as he comes from a rich family, employed and he was what we consider as a Cairo socialite.

S.A. (I will only use his initials) is an old buddy of mine from school days... although we weren’t very close but he was one of the shella (gang) pillars. He was a great guy to hang out with, he was funny, smart, the chicks loved him, and the adventurous type. We went to different Universities but we stayed in touch and hanged out a lot… although this period of time we all did all sort of crazy and wild things but he walked the extra mile... he became addicted to all sorts of drugs and his drinking habits became uncontrollable. After, graduation we all went to the professional parts of our lives... but he sunk down more in his partying life as he couldn’t get rid of that wild college boy persona… 2 years ago I met him at La Bodega (a pub/restaurant in Zamalek), there was this lost look in his eyes, his hands were shaken, he was stuttering and couldn’t finish a sentence. I felt sorry for him but I couldn’t be there for him or any of our other friends we just walked away from him… and it was the last I heard of him… well, till yesterday.

As it became a Saturday routine, my fiancé drags me around Cairo malls and galleries looking for items to furnish our love nest with, I pumped into SA while I was parking in front of a shop in Mohandseen. I was shocked as I didn’t recognize him first… he was wearing a white jalabya with a casserole-style white hat and he had a 12 inches of dangling scrubby beard and a large spot of dead skin on his forehead we call it prayer zebiba (it happens from too much praying on a straw carpet). When I called on him, he was also surprised to see me… he coldly shook my hands, instead of the usual hugs and cheek kiss that normally Egyptian friends do when they meet each other after a long time ( but actually I was relived because his beard looked like flea friendly grounds). My fiancé recognized him, as we were all part of one group, so she moved forward and extended her hands to greet him… his face turned pale and he recoiled backwards saying “Sorry, but I don’t shake women hands anymore.” Her face turned into multi-colors and she was deeply embarrassed and I was standing there like an idiot, I don’t know how to react or what to say, I just shook my head in amazement… I knew at that moment that I lost SA one more time and probably for good. He asked me how am I doing, I briefly replied but my fiancé stormed away without a word into the shop leaving us there. This is when he sarcastically told me “are you still wearing gold?” pointing at my engagement ring... I nodded my head and smiled “yes” while pulling my T-shirt sleeves down. This when he said “May Allah guide to the true path”… and I replied with “Is it the path of silver?” my smile and my cynical reply didn’t catch… so I told him that I have to go and it was nice seeing him again. He tapped on my shoulders and told me “Magdy, listen to me your lifestyle will lead you into nothing but hell doors…” (I was thinking for wearing Gold????) but before he finishes his mini-speech I interrupted him “Hold on. Only Allah decides who goes to hell, so its not your call or the call of the clerics who turned you like this... sorry but I have to go now. Have a nice life” and I entered the shop.

I walked away but I was torn from inside, seeing a friend turning into a radical! I walked away on him twice but there was nothing I could’ve done this time. I feel so guilty somehow, this guy was on a self-destructive mission, he reached to the extreme sides of both ends, I realized that there were no middle grounds for him, so anything I’ll say now will never change his mind. It’s so saddening to see a great guy like this lost to the world of addiction and then lost again to the world of fanaticism. The first time he was about to lose his life but this time he lost his spirit.

Posted by MG :: 1:07 AM ::