Saturday, September 19, 2015

You Gonna Eat With That?

Many years ago my whole family went to the Mosque in Tempe, Arizona. It was Ramadan (the month of fasting for Muslims) and we went to the Mosque to break our fast with other members of the community.  Muslims fast from just before sun-up until just after the sun goes down, for 30 days. Islam is based on the lunar calendar so the months are about 11 Gregorian calendar days shorter every year. That year Ramadan fell in December.

So we went to the Mosque about 5pm-ish.  The lower level of the Mosque, usually the meeting area, was transformed into a giant table on the floor with plastic sheets covering the room from wall to wall. We all sat down on the sheets with our plastic plates after we filled them to capacity with rice, chicken, and salad.

As the room filled up with women excited to eat their dinner (or break-fast meal) and my family sat on one side of the room, a women sudden started yelling from across the room. The room is quite large, about the size of a large classroom.  She spoke in Arabic, which I did not know at the time, so I had no idea what she was yelling.  Then I see everyone looking at my side of the room, specifically at my pre-teen niece.  My niece puts down her plate, I could see tears in her eyes, and she leaves the room. 

My niece is left-handed. Despite attempts by her family, she cannot control silverware with her right hand - it will be a mess without her getting very much food in her mouth.

Muslims, like many Christians (it’s in the Bible), believe eating with the left hand is a sin, or at the very least wrong in some way.  Schools in the United States, particularly Catholic schools, used to punish children for doing things with their left hand.

I myself have always eaten exclusively with my right hand as long as I can remember, though I never remember actually being taught to do so.  Then again, I am naturally right handed, so it would never have been an issue for me.

But I have no interest in talking about whether a person should eat with their left hand or not. The part of the story that stuck with me was the very rude and inconsiderate woman at the other end of the room that believed it was appropriate to yell across the room at my niece.

That she thought she was justified in her gross humiliation of another human being, especially a child, still blows my mind.

I’ve got news for you.  Her actions were way more offensive to God than anyone eating with the left hand could ever be. Even correction, which too many people live for, has standards of conduct. Taking a person aside and privately explaining the concept is a good start. Even minding her own business, keeping her mouth shut, would have been better than pointing out the minor offense in a loud and public way. She really missed the essence of of Islam, much less the essence of God.

Unfortunately, some people think they are so pious that they can nit-pick the actions of others – funny how they usually pick the small details and keep their mouth shut on the really important ones (whole other post).  Others will admit they are “only human and make mistakes” but feel it is their religious obligation to correct others, and jump at the chance to show off their “knowledge.”   What they show is they neither have knowledge nor any understanding of God - and that is no minor offense.