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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Being Neighborly

After several cold and windy days, yesterday was warm and sunny, with New Mexico's gorgeous blue skies above.

So I decided to take my dogs for a long walk -- a thought shared by lots of other people. As we were walking through a neighborhood in Corrales, a bearded man in the driveway of his house said hello. His three kids seemed curious about my dogs, so I stopped and he asked about my dogs, his young children looking on.

New Mexico doesn't have a large Muslim population, and I can't recall ever seeing anyone who is obviously Muslim in my nearly 7 years in this state, aside from a trip to a Turkish restaurant and grocery store a few years ago.

So my first thought upon seeing a man with a beard wasn't that he was Muslim. After all, many men have beards. And men with bushy beards aren't that uncommon. Several of my guides during trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have bushy beards. So only when this man's wife arrived with a baby carriage, and dressed in black from head to toe, aside from her face and hands, did it become apparent that this family is Muslim.

The husband and I chatted briefly, then we went on our way. The family appeared to be getting ready to go for a walk as well. The kids were interested in my dogs, but stayed a respectful distance away. I know that many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean and to be avoided, so I did not invite the kids to pet my dogs.

I remember encounters with two Muslim families in my neighborhood in California. In one case, the woman glared at me every time she saw me, presumably because I was wearing shorts. When the kids saw me walking my dogs, they shrieked and ran away. In the other case, a Muslim mother, dressed in robes, asked whether her kids could meet my dogs. This happened a couple of times, and Tia and Jack were happy for the attention.

I would love to get to know this Corrales family and hear what they think about Trumplethinskin and his anti-Muslim policies. Last year when a boorish woman starting verbally assaulting a Muslim woman in a grocery store, several other shoppers and employees stepped up to defend her. The assailant was thrown out of the store, and the Muslim woman was escorted to her car to make sure she got there safely. A guy on a Facebook post by a friend of a friend told me I condone terrorism because I have a Turkish friend who is Muslim. What an absurd comment. My friend is no more a terrorist -- and is just as revolted by terrorism as am I and millions of others around the world -- than I am. The poster of the original comment (she is no longer a friend) stated that we should boycott Chobani yogurt because the company was founded by a Turkish Kurd who makes a point of hiring recent immigrants to the United States. Another absurd comment.

What I saw that spring morning was not a terrorist family, but a family taking their kids on a walk on a beautiful day. What the shoppers in Albuquerque saw was a woman going about her business and being verbally assaulted because of how she was dressed. Maybe if more people take a couple of minutes to chat with their neighbors, stand up when they see an injustice, and stop judging people by the clothes they wear or the place they were born, the world will become a nicer place.