Friday, December 2, 2016

The Exclusion Principle

At some point I got tired of Chris. I was tired of the people and the pushing and the donkeys and the carts and the beggars and the shopkeepers imploring you to look at their stuff and the stupidity of setting up makeshift tables to sell junk and take up what tiny space there was to pass through, and everything started to look the same and I stopped caring that this or that was centuries old and I just wanted to be able to breathe. We had reached the big mosque of Fes el Bali, the Karaouine Mosque, and there were so many people you literally couldn’t stop to look at it without getting pushed, and you could hardly look at it anyway because it is stuffed in the heart of the medina with such narrow passages that you can’t even see the building, just the walls immediately surrounding you.

I chose to include this one to show how crowded it was around the most famous mosque, Al-Karaouine - the ornate doorway is the entrance

Trigger warning: This post criticizes the state of Islam today (not Islam itself), Christian evangelicalism (not Christianity itself), and fascism and authoritarianism (definitely themselves), and it advocates for world peace. Instead of getting offended, why not think?

The University of Al-Karaouine is the oldest university in the world. It was founded in 859 by a woman, ironic given that only male Muslims can now attend this religious school. One of the entrance requirements is to have memorized the entire Quran, said to be a skill of the most devout. (Rote memorization is not scholarship and reflection. This is a problem.)

They had the doors open so you could see inside but as foreigners, we are not welcome. Glancing inside was nothing special anyway, I told myself, just white blankness with red carpets, a sort of vapidness that reflected the entirety of the situation in stark contrast to the ornate doorways that reminded you of Morocco’s imperial days. Chris tried to enter though I had told him several times that foreigners are not welcome in any mosque in Morocco except the Grand Mosque in Casablanca, and of course he was denied entry. It’s a very exclusionary religion. I suppose keeping out different backgrounds and ideas is a way to keep control of the flock. You’ll find that different backgrounds and ideas creep in anyway, but the modern trend is to bring in bad ideas like Salafism, which is where all that jihadi crap comes from. Islam desperately needs more rationalist scholarship and less rote memorization and jingoism, but the trend has been in the opposite direction over the last century. Even in this horrific time of nihilistic jihad, there are not enough loud Muslim voices calling for forward thinking and intellectualism within Islam, as there was in the time of Islam’s Golden Age. That age seems more like fiction these days, like something from 1001 Nights. This refusal to adapt and the subsequent consequences of jihad has helped to bring us to the brink of another holy war, more crusades, with neofascist regimes already taking over in the UK and the US (and France could be the next to elect a crusader) in response. The American form of conservative Christianity, with its want of control of society's "morals," coupled with its support for war and its hatred of other religions, is not different from conservative Islam, especially when it comes to the lack of religious scholarship that evangelicalism runs on. And no talk of world order is complete without mentioning Putin, who is trying right now to wipe out Sunnis in Syria because he’s BFFs with Assad the Alawite, which is really just a polite way of hiding Assad’s neo-Soviet Baathist ideology. Oh, and there’s also commuatheist China vying for global domination, which is trying to wipe out its own Muslims and has been for decades. The world is in a sorry state right now.

It’s such a mess. You’d think they’d want to invite foreigners to experience their holy places so that we can have a better understanding of their culture and their people, which would lead to less conflict. If there’s one life lesson I value more than any other, it’s the one I learned working at the peace center in Ireland – excluding groups from the peacemaking process ensures that no peace will ever be made. It wasn’t until the British government started including the IRA in peace talks that peace was finally achieved.

Oddly enough, it was the crusades that brought Europe out of the Dark Ages, as crusaders encountered new ideas and new technologies from Muslims in the Middle East and brought them back to Europe, eventually leading to the European Enlightenment. Somehow, though, I think a new crusade will only set both of our civilizations on the path to a new Dark Age.

So I got annoyed with the exclusion from the historic site and with Chris for being disrespectful and just being slow and lashing out at me, and I walked without stopping every ten feet to wait for his ailing self. We were soon were separated. Normally that would not be a big deal but his phone is from the iDark Ages and texts and emails weren’t getting through. I found the tanneries that are one of the most visited sites in Fes el Bali and texted him to meet me there but got no response to my texts so I had no idea if he would be able to find me. I had his wallet and the card with the name of the hotel, so he had no money and no idea where we were staying.

To be continued…

No comments:

Post a Comment