Pro-Human Extremist

Extremism in the defense of humanity is no vice

Eid saeed

with one comment

The Islamic month of Ramadan ended Monday, and yesterday was the beginning of the festival of Eid ul-Fitr, celebrating the end of the fasts of Ramadan. Thinking about Eid ul-Fitr this morning, I was reminded of one of my first encounters with Islam.

I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, and as a teenager I bicycled a lot in and around the city. One day, a friend showed me the Islamic Center of Washington, and I was impressed by the beauty of the mosque and grounds, and by the spiritual atmosphere of the space. Muted light came through latticework, there were lovely columns, and tilework with a beautiful blue-on-white arabesque. It fronted right on Massachusetts Avenue but was quiet and contemplative within.

Some weeks later, I was bicycling near the Islamic Center with another friend and I suggested we stop in. I showed him into the mosque, where we sat on a bench near the back. But even though we were trying to be quiet and respectful, a woman who was in there praying kept shooting us dirty looks. This weirded me out, because the last time I was there the people had struck me as friendly and welcoming.

While we sat there, she had a brief conversation with a man who then came over to speak to us. He welcomed us, and explained that we were wearing short pants and in Islam men did not bare their legs. The moment he said this, I remembered having heard about that and was ashamed for being so stupid. When my other friend first showed me the place, we must have been wearing long pants and it just hadn’t occurred to me this time that shorts would be a problem.

I apologized and said that we would leave right away, but he stopped me and in a tone of kindness said, “No, next time.” Even though we were clearly in the wrong, he didn’t want us to feel we had to leave—he just wanted us to remember how we should dress the next time we came.

His patience and compassion on top of the embarrassment I already felt moved me so much that I almost started to cry. He saw that I was fighting back tears, and I think that made him feel even worse about our being made uncomfortable as a result of our unintentional mistake. I probably attempted some explanation or reassurance, but what I really wanted to do was leave and stop offending people, which we did.

That was some thirty years ago, but thinking about his kindness still brings me almost to tears. It was one of the key experiences of my young life, and it has stuck with me as a model of how I should treat other people in similar circumstances.

© Joel Benington, 2011.


Written by Joel Benington

August 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Posted in humanity, religion

One Response

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  1. Hi Joel, I just remembered this post and shared the link in a Facebook group, “Libyans and Americans United for Friendship and Peace.”

    Jody F.

    September 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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