While in London, I stayed at a hotel, that had a computer in the lobby, next to the bar.
I worked from this computer at night, when I got back for the day, sent out email, surfed a bit, and wrote a few shorts posts on this blog.
While doing this, the manager of the hotel and I struck up a conversation. He was Lebanese, and lived in London for the past 5 years. He was a from a small town on the outskirts of Beirut, and a Muslim. He was nicely dressed, and was very, very friendly. We struck up a conversation about how he had lived in New Jersey, with relatives, years ago. He chatted about issues such as-- his wife and kids, his job at the hotel -- (the owner of the hotel had suffered a heart attack on New Years Eve, and he has assumed many of his responsibilities.) The guy was cordial, and after all it was close to 10pm, and it was only the two of us in the lobby. He stood close to me while I was seated at the computer.
I surfed upon one of my favorite sites, covering the Mid-East, (quite intentionally) -- and asked him his opinion on its contents, and headlines. (it is a Israeli site)
He sat in my chair, adjusted his seat, and read for 5 minutes, very intently.
His first response, while I fiddled with my blackberry was...
"You know, I can't pinpoint it, but, there are large forces at play, to discredit, and harm Islam and the Muslims of the world...."
"Jews, Bush, your so called Democracy -- aimed at making us (Islam) look bad - and humiliate ourselves."
I said to him, "This is why I am alarmed, I consider you a MODERATE muslim, by the way you dress, your job, and your appearance - but can you cannot for one minute consider that it may be the Arab, and Muslim world responsible for many of its ills, problems, and failures?"
He did not disagree.
He readily admitted, and addressed the corruption and the crime perpetrated against the Arab community BY THE ARAB leadership - and claimed that the fundamentalist RISE - is directly attributed to the "average citizens" having no where else to turn. He also said in European countries, Muslim would relish to be treated as second class citizens, but their are so relegated to the bottom of the food chain, that they feel "less than human.."
I was stunned, into asking for a beer -- (which, the bar was 5 feet away, empty, no one but us in the bar/lobby area, and the hum of the beer refrigerator, the conversation, and the knowledge I was gaining, made me THIRST for a cold ALE)
The forces at work, "are aimed at turning us against ourselves, and destroying us (ISLAM) from within."
I poured my can of beer into a tall glass, he was sitting at the computer, in my chair, directly in front of the terminal -- with this site
, in his view, he called it propoganda -- but continued to glance at it...and read the headlines.
Hamas, 9-11-01, (9-11 was a inside job, NOT done by Arabs) -- to the entire, Iraq WAR -- every instance, every question was met with - this type of response.....
"this is the constant effort for the US and Israel, to discredit, and dominate Muslims, make us weak, look bad -- keep us below living standards of the world, and keep our only natural resource for the WEST ...OIL."
I sat in silence listening, for more than 10 minutes...his tone was NEVER agressive, (after all I was a customer) -- I think he felt as though he was educating me, and CONVERTING me to see his side -- which I was clearly GETTING his view. (not agreeing, but relishing the opportunity to hear his views)
At one point, I cut him off.
I said, as I sat forward in my chair -- "how did you feel last year, when those Russian schoolchildren were taken hostage, and murdered in their school, by the hundreds, in the name of Islam?"
I went on, "the beheading of innocents, the bus bombing in London, the train bombing in Madrid, (I purposely stayed away from Israel) -- these acts aimed at INNOCENT people who are not in the conflict...?"
Then, he said what stunned me, "WE ARE ALL IN THIS CONFLICT."
I had to pounce, and get for the first time, and little aggressive in this discussion...
"Is this a HOLY WAR, is this the beginning of a greater world conflict?"
His answer was that the US and Israel, have brought this upon the world -- and that Muslims are simply defending themselves.
The Hamas election victory, is just the beginning, he went on...Egypt will be next, and when the normally peaceful countries of Lebanon, Syrian and Jordan, will all fall to the "fundamentalist" forces --- the Muslim view of dominance can begin to DEFEND itself, against the "forces against it"....
I then realized, he and his religion, viewed themselves as VICTIMS -- out to defend their honor, their religion -- and NOT BRING SHAME, IN THEIR TIME ON THE EARTH, TO ISLAM. He clearly stated - that in centuries past, (he spoke about history a lot) --that this PARTICULIAR TIME WE ARE CURRENTLY IN, was the time of the RESURGENCE of Islam. THE TIME HAD ARRIVED, and was brought here not by Muslims...but by EVIL forces -- (read, Jews and U.S) -- Muslims were just defending their religion - and FINALLY STANDING UP FOR THEMSELVES.
He felt as though he was educating me. He was giving me what I constantly preach --"perception matters and little else.." He was giving me, a foreigner, his views, opinions, and insight into perceptions DIRECTLY - that I rarely get to hear.
It was my turn.
I won't bore you with the details, but I did constantly ask - "where are the moderate Muslims....why is the Islam being represented by these hooligans in the streets, burning, looting, and murdering in the name of the Prophet Muhammed?"
The silent majority, as we in the WEST like to call it, DOES NOT exist.
I'm here to tell you, based on my views and opinions WE NEED TO LISTEN to SPOKEN WORDS, actions and inaction -- and interperet, BASED ON THEIR VIEWS...not filtered through our images and culture...
The gulf is wide, between Muslims, and the rest of the world.
The believe they are VICTIMS defending themselves, against EVIL.
This cartoon about the Prophet Muhammed that has resulted in protests, death and destruction..... as well as Iranian Nuclear Weapons -- and Hamas winning landslide victory in Gaza and the West Bank -- should be WAKE UP calls, to TALK honestly, of what is going on, as it relates, to what THEY VIEW AND BELIEVE IS COMING --impending WAR.
Where are the moderates Muslims, I ask you?
Any group that you have seen, or know about, protesting the hijacking of Islam?
You won't, and here is why -- it, THEY DO NOT exist.
London is a beautiful city, I learned alot, but most of all - I took away the simple truth .... the PERCEPTION of Muslims versus the rest of the world, is tragic, and simply put....dangerous.