Monday, August 28, 2006

Islam, where have you taken my friend?

So the release of the two fox "journalists" by militants after being kidnapped in Gaza two weeks ago gives me hope. Are militants realizing that maybe their efforts in kidnapping are absolutely futile? That, you know, maybe there are more civil, logical ways of dealing with demands and frustrations?

Evidently the two men were "converted" to Islam before being released. After their release, they said it was not a "real" conversion. I mean, if all they wanted to do was convert a few shmos who work for Fox, they could have set up a little stand outside the Fox office hocking the Koran. No need to kidnap, really. Look at the Christians; they're doing wonders converting folks, and they're not kidnapping anyone.

On a similar note, I found that a friend of mine who took up Islam has disappeared, in a way. That is, he went on some trip, to someplace, and even some of his closest friends don't know where he is. His exploration of Islam I first took as a wonderful thing. He'd been an athiest and we got along well without talking religion. But the few times after he took up his studies that we spoke (after moving out of the dorms, there was a lull in conversation after two years of spending time every day together), his resolve was mighty. Islam was the one true religion, the one religion that never treaded on any people, let alone did anything out of peace-loving character in the history of its existence. I opened my mouth to respond and he dismissed himself for his prayers -- this was before he and another friend were to attend shul services with me, out of curiosity. He said, after services, that he could understand a lot of the Hebrew, because there were similarities between the Arabic and the Hebrew. It was the only connection he and I had in the awkward last year and a half of college. I saw him at a party once, he had on the cap that I see many Muslim men wearing. My friend, with pale skin, freckles and blazing orange hair who I spent so many nights up late with, and I had nothing to say.

It's strange because I forced myself into his life freshman year. Those wipe-off marker boards that people attach to their doors for passersby to write obscene things on, became the welcome mat for me into his life. He was quiet, in his big, oversized red shoes. I started writing notes on his door and once he came to my room, asking to look at my calendar -- he didn't have one of his own, he said. We talked, awkwardly, and the next year he and one of my closest friends lived together. I spent every waking moment not at the newspaper or in class in their room. He had little crabs and at one point, a mouse. Before moving out that year, he brought his puppy to his dorm room. I visited him a few times that first year outside the dorms, but he started to change. I started to change. We changed simultaneously, but I embraced this truth and questioning philosophy of my religion, my faith. To me, he seemed to embrace an isolationist, definite quality to everything.

Last year I asked someone how he was. I saw him once in a blue moon and I heard he was "taking inventory" of his friends. Ridding himself of some, growing closer to others. He was throwing out the people he didn't think were necessary anymore. I don't know where or if I fit into that. So the last time I saw him was at that party. My final semester of college. He jumped up out of the chair he was idling in and greeted me so warmly. We exchanged "how're yous" and then other people walked up, started talking. The conversation moved into the kitchen and we kept looking at each other, smiling, this old sense of familiarity, but nothing. Others carried the conversation and when I decided to leave, I sort of half new it would be the last time I saw him. Maybe for now, maybe le olam. I remember walking back to my car, feeling distressed that I couldn't connect to him. But there was this automatic divide, and maybe he didn't notice it. Maybe it was our religion, our cultural adaptation to different ways of life. It's sad, though, because if two converts within two embattled faiths can't hold a conversation comfortably, how can we expect a born-Jew and born-Muslim to be warm with each other? Or maybe it's easier. I don't know.

I think often about him. I worry about him, and I worry what he'll become and what he may do. It's the fear of radicalism that scares me. The devoutness that consumes you into blindness. When I hear Bob Marley or ska music I think of him dancing around his room. Vegan delicacise make me think of the mush he'd sometimes eat in his room when the cafeteria failed him. There's so much about him I loved so dearly, I wonder if it's still there. But I can't bring myself to find him and ask, and I don't know why.