Thursday, October 28, 2010

Diversity in Kuala Lumpur

I spent the day in the company of a 40 year old Muslim woman. She has her own successful tour coordinator business. She is an intelligent business person and speaks at least 3 languages. She was my guide and took me to such places as the Batu Caves, a Hindu holy temple, the King’s palace and a Buddhist temple. She even gave a rubber tree tapping demonstration (kind of like molasses extraction). We ended our day with a visit to the largest Muslim mosque in Malaysia. As I am not a travel writer, it would be fair to ask, “So what?” My point is to convey that I do not have negativity toward Muslims.

This morning before she arrived to pick me up, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast in the large hotel restaurant. Looking around the room, I saw people that were probably Korean, Japanese, Australian, Thai, Malaysian and a host of other nationalities. I knew there were numerous religions represented in this common space. Having lived for over 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area, I am very comfortable in such a setting. There were business types in suites, tourist in shorts and sandals, men in flowing robes. One young woman was wearing very short shorts and a tank top, not that I noticed.

I was cognizant and appreciative of the sense of trust shared by such a diverse group. We could ignore one another because we had no negative concerns with each other.

At this point a young couple came in and was seated not far from my table. They had a cute little boy barely old enough to sit up in a high chair. The young father was fit and handsome. The mother was wearing a black Burka. Nothing was visible except a partial glimpse of her eyes through the Burka’s slit. In that instant, my emotion went from harmonious to white hot. One word instantaneously overpowered my every thought. That word was ENEMY. This man, not the woman, was my ENEMY. If you do not understand this, I beg you to spend as little as one hour reading about Sharia law.

My tour guide, under Sharia law, could be stoned to death by her husband, father and brothers for being seen in my company. Under Sharia law, a woman who is raped has dishonored her father, brothers or husband and may be put to death. This week, Osama Bin Laden threatened France because of its ban on Burkas.

This intense negativity was fleeting, lasting for less than 5 seconds. However, I thought to myself, thank goodness I do not work for NPR.

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