Wednesday, April 26, 2006

An afternoon with a Kurdish refugee

One afternoon, I went to the Central London Mosque and I met a Kurdish woman. She could not speak English and was speaking Arabic to me. When she saw that I wanted to pray, she gave me a scarf worn by Kurdish women. She put it on for me as I did not know how to do wear it. She then asked me where I was from. I could remember some words from my Arabic class many years back. From my limited comprehension of the language, I gathered that she was a Kurdish refugee. She thought I was from Malaysia and said "Anwar Ibrahim" (the charismatic former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia). I smiled and told her I was from Singapore but studying in Paris. She asked me about the Muslims in Singapore. Later she muttered something about Palestinians being killed by Israeli troops. I had the newspaper with me and showed her photos of Palestinian children killed in a recent shoot-out. She cried. She started praying to God, asking for peace and that God will protect the innocent. I might not know all the Arabic she was uttering but I could feel her pain. Perhaps she had lost loved ones or even her own children in the war. I looked away as I did not want her to see me tearing.

As I was leaving the prayer hall, I returned her scarf. She told me to keep it. I showed her my own scarf but she insisted. Her final words to me were "You're like my own baby, take it and bring it back to Singapore". I never felt so touched before. Here was a 60-something year-old woman whose name remained unknown and whose tired face broke into a warm smile when talking to another Muslim sister. Here was someone who probably did not have much wealth but was willing to part with something she had so that someone else could have it. The scarf might not worth much but it was enough to make me realise that in the eyes of God, it is the sincerity of the heart that matters.

[September 2000]

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