(SNN) - So I was down at the local watering hole having two and a juice to start my day and the young barkeep was reading the paper. He was one of those immigrant types. His name was Amar and I always gave him a hard time calling his place, “Amar’s Bar”, like the chocolate bar, you know? He’s a nice enough chap although he’s a swarthy fella, if you know what I mean. He even had one of those towels on his head.
“Look at that,” muttered Amar. “Those Islamic extremists make my blood boil!”
“You’re wearing laundry on your head and you’re mad at those guys?” I chuckled. “I thought they were on your side.”
“What are you talking about?” Amar shot back. “I’m not a Muslim. I’m a Sikh.”
“You say tomato, I say wild-eyed nutbar,” I shrugged. “What’s the difference?”
“You don’t know what a Sikh is?” asked the barkeep incredulously, like I didn’t know who had won the Stanley Cup. “Are you serious?”
“I never claimed to be an authority on religion,” I replied defensively. “I got my religion and it’s the only one that matters. Maybe I only go to church for weddings and funerals but it’s obviously the right one. If you have ever seen a picture of Jesus, you’ll notice he is a white guy.”
“Well, you know,” Amar began kind of tentatively. “We that are Sikh follow our beliefs because of a guy a lot like Jesus in our history. His name was Siddhartha. Before him, there were no Sikhs, just the Hindu nation trying to live peacefully. Unfortunately, we often faced attacks from Muslims who would force us to adopt Islam at the point of a sword. Then Siddhartha came along and made warriors out of the men to defend us from these evil incursions. The turban we wear is like a helmet. It is reputed to be able to withstand seven sword slashes. We wear our turbans proudly to symbolize the vigilance we must maintain in support of our culture and our religion.”
“So… you’re not the guys that are blowing themselves up everywhere and setting off bombs in public places?” My eyebrows shot up in surprise so high, they almost touched the ceiling fan.
“I am not saying we are perfect,” Amar cautioned. “There are extremists in just about every group.”
“Even the Red Hat Ladies?” I joked.
“Especially the Red Hat Ladies!” Amar returned with a grin. “Seriously, though, there are extremists in every religion, yes, even Sikhs, Buddhists and Seventh Day Adventists.”
“Oh yeah,” I grunted. “You hear reports every day about those extremist Presbyterians with their subversive “box socials” and wicked “bingo nights” in the basement of the church.”
“Three words, buddy,” Amar retorted. “’Westboro Baptist Church’.”
“Okay,” I allowed. “You may have a point there.”
“Here’s another three words,” the turbaned one continued. “’Pastor Terry Jones’.”
“I thought he would be your buddy,” I smirked. “He hates Muslims as much as you do.”
“I do not hate Muslims,” he shot back. “I hate people who would force their beliefs on me. Pastor Jones’ intolerance would be just as evil no matter what faith he singled out. There are a billion and a half Muslims who are not evil. Probability dictates with the size of the population, there will be more Islamic wing nuts than say, Sikh wing nuts given there are only 28 million of us. ”
“And they all work at the airport,” I put in, tiring of the lecture. “They cluster up in cities like women off to the biffy at the bar. Why don’t they just become normal?”
“Are you normal? Am I?” challenged Amar. “What is this normal you speak of? Wanting a safe environment to raise our families? Making sure we have some kind of retirement plan? Defending and supporting the people we love? Every group is normal in practically every way, except extremists. One should never judge any group by the extremists in their midst. The reason we ghettoize ourselves is for protection from people who distrust us; who fear us. To guard against people who think we’re Islamic extremists. If you moved to India, wouldn’t you be attracted to a white neighborhood that understood you when you spoke?”
“I guess,” I agreed uncertainly. The guy was starting to get to me. “Gimme another brewski. I’ve had enough of this religion talk for one day.”
“Here you go, my friend,” Amar slid a cold one across the bar. “This one’s on me.”
“You’re buying me a beer after I just shut you up?” I asked, scratching my John Deere cap in confusion.
“I’m buying you a beer for listening as long as you did,” he smiled cheerfully. “I expected to be ignored after the first five words or so. You listened for a good five minutes. Around here, that’s a pretty open mind.”
Photo by: Dick O'Brien flickr photostream, Some Rights Reserved, The Sage nor this article endorsed.
DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.