We’ve all heard the phrase since we were children, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet in all honesty practically none of us ever heed the message. Here is a case in point from a slightly different perspective than you’ve seen ad nauseam on the news:
I belong to a local gym where I go do some basic exercises three times a week. The gym, while open to the public, is almost exclusively muslim due to a nearby mosque. The ladies have their heads covered while on the treadmill etc. I go because it is a convenient drive from my house. As is typical with most public places – people basically have nothing to do with each other. You smile in an acknowledgement, say an occasional hello and that’s it. They don’t know my name and I don’t know theirs.
Many, like myself, listen to music in headphones while struggling to get skinny. I have noticed one particular young man in the gym who clearly has a rather intense dislike for me despite the fact I’ve never had any interaction with him.
I’ve heard him speak Arabic before. Although I’ve forgotten most of it now, I myself have studied Arabic in the past and for a rather unusual reason. It wasn’t because I wanted to work in counter terrorism etc. it was because I really liked the Lebanese singer Magida El Roumi and I wanted to understand the lyrics to her music.
You see my father traveled to Egypt back in the 60s/70s as a tourist. As a little girl he told me a story about being stopped at a gas station and a lady next to him had a car stereo blasting the most incredible music he had ever heard. Of course he had no idea what it was, just that it was something Arabic. It had a fantastic beat and was just fantastic. So as a teenager I wanted to discover this wonder my father had witnessed so I began trying to find out about Arabic music.
Mind you these were the days before the internet. I would scour radio stations for world music programs where I would pick up names of singers. Later in university when the internet was just starting I would search the names and find these obscure little online stores that sold CDs of their music. That’s where it all began. I’m sure many of these shops were a bit confused when they got orders from someone whose last name is really long and ends in -berg. Ironically it’s a Norwegian name not of Jewish origin although I’m sure like most people no one ever assumed that. Nevertheless I have quite the collection and still enjoy listening to it today.
So as this fellow is glaring at me, little does he know that what I’m listening to on my little ipod shuffle is not just classical, Russian and Ukrainian but also a fair bit of music in his own language. No one wants to be pre-judged. We can’t let the hate that is all around us penetrate our ability and willingness to see beyond our perceptions of surface realities.