I travelled to the Muslim world in the not too distant past and before heading off to understand more about Islam and the various cultures that hold this religious belief I thought it best to get better educated by reading a few books on the subject. I read No God but God and The Zealot by Reza Aslan. When folks I know heard I was travelling to the these various countries in Asia and the Middle East many thought I was crazy but no, I had a wish to discover more about this amazing planet and our history as a people. l saw and learned so much!
I hooked up with a young, intelligent businessman I met in a hotel lobby from Pakistan and shared two full days exploring the countryside and talking about life, our families, global politics, and our homelands. He couldn’t have been nicer, more interested in my perspective on things, and curious about life in Canada. Another day I sat on the dusty steps of a FedEx office with the locales scurrying past me seemingly in a hurry to get to their destination chatting with a former secret service agent now owner of said establishment and his friend, a pharmacist educated in Italy. They were extremely interested in my thoughts and opinions of the Canada’s relationship with the United States of America, and my hopes and dreams for my children. We spent three hours on those steps laughing and listening to each each other. What a wonderful moment in time it was! Everywhere I went I met kind, helpful, caring, people who respected me and shared their stories with me. I remember Yassad, my taxi/chaffeur who took me on a day trip out into the desert to see archeological sites not often visited by foreigners. I met a group of young university students at a dig site and they kindly showed me around and explained the work they were doing. The day was hot and dry, and Yassad had filled his trunk with bottled water in a cooler for me to drink. Although we had challenges understanding each other at times it was one of those special those days I will never forget. And how about the guard at the airport gate entry who told me to hurry up so I could carry on-board two bottles of flower oil I purchased as a gift for my two daughters at an oasis in the desert before the other passengers arrived. After 911 airport security had changed drastically and even small bottles of liquid were often suspect.
I met so many nice people and the only times (two times) I had a red flag go up for me were in both cases Western Europeans who had engaged me in conversation. Something told me to listen to my gut and get the hell away from these individuals as quickly as possible. I thought that said a lot about the lessons to be learned from this journey and as always, keep an open mind.
We are not so different when one “peels back the layers of the onion.” Our hopes, our dreams, our needs, and wants are surprisingly similar. We are closer than we think and we are truly brothers and sisters sharing our time and space on this planet. Yes, there are bad people in every walk of life and culture in society but the vast majority of people on our planet are in my experience good, decent human beings. Don’t let the minority colour your view of the majority. We’re in this together and together we will succeed as a people or god forbid, if we don’t learn to live in harmony perish from the face of the earth!