Monday, 8 December 2008

POV: If Only....

Photograph © Jb Reed/NYT-All Rights Reserved

I'd like to start the week with a story that appeared in the New York Times' City section yesterday. After the mindless mayhem in Mumbai, stories such as this one are to be treasured and remembered.

An Indonesian Muslim, Dinar Puspita is a 17-year old exchange student currently attending school in Riverdale, New York. This is an increasingly Jewish Orthodox neighborhood with many synagogues, but no mosques. This made it extremely difficult for Dinar to perform her prayers as required by her faith, until her host contacted Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the Riverdale Jewish Center asking if Dinar could pray there since her school prohibits religious prayers.

The Rabbi agreed, and eventually surprised by the attention of the media, said "I never understood what the big deal was. Somebody’s child from halfway around the world needs a place to worship.”

In my view, Rabbi Rosenblatt and Dinar Puspita are the true representatives of their faiths.

Now if only the Muslim worshipers in Denpasar could read this, and atone for their angry indignation when I entered the mosque...only to find out later that I had as much right as they had to be in this Muslim place of worship, and realize how right I was when I chastised them for their offensive behavior.

If only the illiterate self-appointed "guardians" at the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, who wave me -and others- so insolently out of the mosque when it's prayer time, could read this and see how a young Muslim girl was welcomed to worship in a Jewish synagogue.

If only the so-called keepers at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul would read this, and realize that telling non-Muslims to enter the mosque from a small side door, is ridiculous...and not in keeping with Islam's tenets. Dinar entered the synagogue by its front door.

If only...

ps. I was justifiably taken to task by my friend and fellow photographer Asim Rafiqui by being too harsh (politely, he inserted the word "inadvertently" to minimize the criticism). He is right. The large majority of Muslims are good, kind and decent people, with unsurpassed generosity, unequaled hospitality and immense tolerance despite their many travails.. The examples I cited, while disturbing, are nevertheless aberrations, and I should have stated this with more clarity.