February 16, 2006

sui generis

We've been hearing lots of generalizations lately about what Islam is, and what Islam believes, etc. I think they are as much the bunk as similar generalizations about Christians would be. You never hear them from people who are actually dealing with Moslems--they always write about character of the people in the local town or tribe or ethnic group.

Blogger Dennis the Peasant is an advisor to the Somali Community Association of Ohio, which represents about 30,000 Somali refugees in central Ohio. He's started a series of posts about his adventures working with them. They are certainly some odd ducks, but don't resemble any Moslem stereotypes I've ever heard...

The latest post is about an election the association held in 2002. Their first election, and the first election of any kind for most of them.

....Happily, as the campaign season progressed, the atmosphere seemed to grow less tense, if not more relaxed. That isn’t to say the intensity of the electioneering diminished. It didn’t. But as the weeks passed and the Somalis saw that the candidates were actually soliciting their votes, that there were no spies, that there were no goons or killings or bombs, it began to dawn on them that this was really going to happen... they were really going to have a voice. And once they began to believe, the anger, distrust and suspicion turned to excitement. It was an amazing transformation to watch....

- - - - - - - - - - -

...For whatever reason, Somalis (or at least the Somalis I have dealt with) consider a closed door to be an invitation to come in unannounced and find if who or what they’re looking for happens to be around. It took a while for me to get used to people barging into whatever room I happened to be in when I was at the Association, but by the time this young Somali man, whom I had never seen before, came barreling through the door, I was used to it enough that I wasn’t really taken by surprise.

“Hello,” I said.

He was a young man, in his 20s, and quite handsome. He was tall and slender, but well built. An athlete. He didn’t respond to my greeting. He just stood there with the most amazing look on his face – a combination of excitement, exuberance and, quite frankly, what appeared to be rapture – and his eyes were as bright as a man’s could be.

He stared at me for a moment, smiled a huge smile and said, “We’re having an election!”

That was it. He turned around and was gone, slamming the door behind him.

I have not seen him since....
Posted by John Weidner at February 16, 2006 7:04 PM
Weblog by John Weidner