Friday, 24 October 2008

Cousins Make Dozens

Justin and I were plotting as usual. We have so much fun when we play...we plot and scheme. He’s not actually my friend. He belongs to Taz, an old Varsity mate of hers.
I met Justin, Shamima, Nicky and Yasmina three years ago when we went for coffee at Melrose Arch. I wasn’t actually invited, it was Taz’s Do but I gate-crashed anyway. So we got chatting and it was surprisingly easy and natural. We quickly found that we had a lot in common, considering that he is a White Jewish Male that is 2 years younger than I am.

For one, we both have the same WHACKED sense of humour. We would sit and talk about all the things we could do to shock the HELL out of people. One of the scenarios involved me and him in Sandton Square on a Saturday night just before Ramadaan (or when it was guaranteed to be packed with Muslims or Jews). The scene would play out like this:

We wanted to start a fight. We would begin by hurling insults at each other in public, a massive brawl would ensue. He would call me a Muslim terrorist and I would tell him he’s an arrogant Jewish Pig and that Israel deserved to be wiped off the map. Then we decided, for added effect, we would begin hurling chairs (and whatever else we could get our hands on) at each other…and then sit back and see who’d get involved and what events would transpire after that. Evil I know. But we laughed for hours over the stupid antics we plotted and never carried out.

My friendship with Justin got me thinking about our perception and reception of Jews in society. I remember when I was in Madressa (Islamic Classes) we were always taught to “hate” the Jews. I kid you Not. We were told by the leaders of our society and the people around us that they are evil and that they are responsible for killing the Muslims world-wide etc etc.

With this in mind, my initial reception of Justin was one of curiosity. My intrinsic reaction was like that of a kid examining a foreign object for the first time. I wanted to poke him to see if he felt any pain, to tickle him and see if he laughed…I was in awe. I also treaded with caution to make sure he wasn’t some Zobot coming to kill me and my family. But I quickly realized that for all my wisdom, I was an old fool. For one, the more I learned about Judaism, the more I found that I really knew nothing about the religion, customs and traditions of its people. I found this rather odd and ironic, considering that we’ve had Christianity shoved down our throats since infancy, without us even being fully aware of it. In some cases I know more about Christianity then some of the Christians do. I know about the various sects, how they differ from each other and I even know some of the freaking hymns that used to be sung at school.

But Judaism and the Jews? I knew nothing, nada, zip, zilch. We were never encouraged to learn about the religion, about their practices and beliefs, EVER. Ironic, since Justin knew a whole lot about Islam. He even wished us Eid Mubarak. So I had to go and Google Judaism to wish him a happy and blessed Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). (I find it amusing that they are the considered the “enemy”…should we not know our enemies? How else are we to defeat them?).

And the more I got to know about Judaism, the more I realised that it was very very similar to Islam. Their religious holidays almost always coincide with ours and they believe in the same things we do. We are more the same then we are different. People in South Africa say that the Jews are misers. Most Muslim Indians aren’t any better. They say the Jews are shrewd businessmen, show me an Indian who isn’t. In fact, the similarities are so many that they even seep down into the customs and traditions that both parties conform to ie. The male is the head of the house and the female is the neck that turns the head of the house.

So if we are so similar, why the negative sentiment world-wide? Two words…Israel and Palestine. This is the bone of contention for most people across all faiths. When I had the privilege of actually visiting Palestine in 2005, we were explicitly informed that the “Zionists” are the ones responsible for enforcing the Jewish state of Israel. However, NOT ALL JEWS ARE ZIONISTS. There are many Jews that are opposed to the atrocities that occur in Palestine/Israel and are vocal about it.

If you look at history, on all accounts, Islam and Judaism essentially began with two brothers, Ismail AS and Ishaaq AS (Ishmael and Isaac) who were the sons of Ebrahim AS (Abraham). So technically, the Arabs and Jews are cousins. Just like the French and the British. It’s somewhat disturbing and very sad to see family members take their gripes with each other to such great lengths and over centuries...building whole nations to fight with each other over arbitrary and ambiguous issues. If only we could exert that much effort into building our relationships with people and our Creator SWT.

In retrospect, our hatred has been misplaced, unwarranted and unjustified. And as a consequence, we have denied and ostracized ourselves. There is not a single scripture or command in Islam that states “Hate Thy Jew”. Our Prophet SWA himself had Jewish acquaintances and said that we could eat with them, but not sleep in their homes i.e. trust them. He never said that we shouldn’t talk to them. I must admit, I found Justin to be a wonderful person…his beliefs, traditions and customs are intriguing and I love sharing stupid stories with him. But for some reason, there’s always that twinge of caution, an intuition that doesn’t allow me to trust him.

On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that if we could only accept each other for who we are, without expectations, without judgments and prejudices, we would be a much happier world.

That said, I have one more prank up my sleeve. I spoke to Justin about it and we thought it would be cool to bring him home and introduce him to my Dad as my fiancĂ©. But then again, Daddy has been under pressure lately and I don’t want to give him a heart attack :D


  1. i speed read this. I LOVE THE TITLE. LOLz. will have to come back for a full read of it!

    and i love the ending. shame man. little girls can be evil with dads. anyway. i have a somewhat real story regards taking someone potentially unlikely to meet the folks. sigh. later later. maybe i shud leave that to chat, lest i offend any sensitive viewers :P

  2. I have a friend who lives in Israel (she is originally from SA) and she is a jew and she is one of the sweetest most kindest people I know.
    My Dads' boss is Jewish as well and he is just awesome...

    Yes i remember in Madressa when we were told that we should hate jews...luckily I grew up and went out into the real world and got to experience different religions.

    Not ALL jews are the enemy...people should not generalise or pigeon-hole certain groups based on what some of their members do...

    Have a great weekend Azra :-)

  3. For Blog Action Day, I was googling different religions' approach to charity. I came across the the jewish concept of Tzedakah. sounds familiar eh:)

  4. Great read just wish more people would be open to the idea of sharing not only their religion and beleifs with others but learning from others as well coz no matter what none of us are perfect and we could learn so much if we could just get past Prejudices that have been installed in us

  5. hhmmm.sounds like fun.... in the malls i think ull def get arrested if u plot something like that ....
    which madressa did you go to ?? probably a good diea to get hold of the leaders that taught you to hate and have a discussion on it.It might still be taught in the institute to hate...perhaps you could change that.

  6. Shafinaaz - We chat later ;D

    TCQ - I think one of the problems is the Way Muslims approach the subject of Jews. Everyone is too ready to fight for a cause they have no knowledge of. We have to realise that when we approach them less aggressively, it will make them less defensive...its up to us as a Muslim nation to lead with peace...we dont have to agree with everything they do, say and believe in. But there is a certain manner in which we can deal with it, ithout resorting to tactics that further taint Islam as a religion. We are always coming up short...looking like the bad guys...the "terrorists". This is NOT Islam and people should be made aware of that.

    Saleeha - Tzedakah...very similar to Zakaat :) I was intially shocked to the core when I found out about the number of similarities between us...its astounding.

    Yusuf & Speedy - Unfortunately we live in a society that is filled with propoganda and many of our so-called leaders approach Islam in a very Dogmatic manner. There is no reasoning with them. They are not open or interested in seeking the truth. Alot of them drive their own agenda's and have molded the religion in accordance to what suits them. Basically when it comes down to it, they believe that they are right, regardless of the fact that their ideologies have no basis in true Islam and are absurd in nature. And to argue with them over that according to them is "Kufr"...I'd rather argue with a brick.

    Nooj - Thanx Girla...

  7. in my opinion, organized religion has been one of the greatest divisive forces in the world. I have no issues with people practicing religion, i do too, but when it becomes us against them, it only brings misery and heart ache for all involved. Both Muslims and Jews suffer from the same sense of entitlement that they are God's chosen people and they are suffering because everyone is conspiring against them.

  8. it's sad that the madressa you went to taught you to hate jews. Mine on the other hand taught me that we were very closely linked and the respect people of all religions. Alhumdulilah, I have been lucky.

    Jewish people like christian people and Muslim people, are at the end of the day just people and to teach young kid's to hate them because of the war in the middle east is extremely narrow minded.

    Whilst I am happy to befriend, respect and talk to jewish people, I will never look the same way at zionists. There is a very vast difference between zionism and judism and one I urge people to never forget.

    At the end of the day, I dont think blind hate of anyone or anything is a good idea. First get an education on the subject you wihs to pass judgement over, find out the facts and by all means, knock yourself out after you have the facts.

    Long Live Falasteen!

  9. It is sad, but governments/organisations use peoples beliefs systems against them. The Israeli/Palestine thing is much more complicated than just hatred.

    Religion was political in the past, there are many examples of this like the whole church of England story. Today we can divide politics and religion…but people use this to their own advantage.

  10. I had a jewish friend at campus and sadly we drifted after that. But i always stood by the reason that until you know a person you can't judge one by the other. If that was true every time they called a muslim a terrorist i would be left friendless.
    Also we have to remember that those who truly believe in the book do not take the part of those in Israel. There is a clear and distinct difference between Judaism and Zionism and those handing out the atrocities in Israel are Zionists.

    O and i had/have an awesome work colleague who is a Jew and we still friends :)