Tuesday, December 26, 2006


in memory of dr C...

Ah, today is 25th dec. that means Christmas time to Christians and since I’m not one by a very very long shot and in fact Christian dogma is completely REPUGNANT to me… I don’t celebrate it. But there’s no escaping it (at least the commercial aspects of Christmas) but don’t get me wrong. Although the dogma per se is an anathema to me as a muslim (this over emphasis on jesus -instead of on GOD-, trinity and all that), and like Dracula I find the Christian iconography and especially the sign of a cross very distasteful and in fact I absolutely detest it, I actually have the deepest respect for Christians’ attitude towards charity, forgiveness and love. So do forgive me for my views on Christian dogma and belief and iconography which you’ll no doubt think over simplistic and wrong.

About two years ago I went to the US with this very mild soft spoken Chinese friend of mine. He was an authority on some kind of scientific discipline which is needed by my company and I impressed the people in the head quarters enough to convince them to allow me to bring this gentleman to visit our main office and research facilities. And while there I rented a car, brought him to a few places and we drove along parts of the great lakes and around some very beautiful and scenic small towns along the way. He mentioned that the huge lake which looked like sea to me is in fact filled with fresh water and I had to stop the car and went down and actually took a handful and tasted it. And of course he was right. If I were him I would get very pissed off for not believing him but he just smiled and did not even say ‘I told you so’.

Another time we stopped at a building which turned out to be a small church in the middle of nowhere as I had this urgent need to have a piss and I don’t want to be rude in America and pissing away at any old place by the roadside. And I made a comment to him and wondered why so many Chinese now have forsaken their culture, they have English sounding first names (Dr C don’t ) and behave like westerners and some even become Christians and leaving their perfectly beautiful ancestor worship, Taoism and Buddhism and start believing in some kooky mind boggling and illogical Christian dogmas. And as usual he didn’t argue but just smiled it away.

The only time he showed some excitement was when I asked him if he liked art and he mentioned that he never entered an art gallery before and as we were in Indianapolis at the time I brought him to one of the famous art museums there- that was founded by Eli Lilly – and when we entered the lady at the door mentioned something about how lucky we were as they were currently having exhibition on ‘malay’ paintings and their influence on van gogh…and I was completely taken by surprise – I don’t know THAT!- until I realized that she was referring to millet .

But I was actually pleasantly taken by surprise when I found that among the permanent collections there was this painting by one of my favorite 17th century still life painters , the great willem kalf. I told Dr C… that this genre – 17th/18th century dutch and Flemish still life paintings has been one of my favorites for some time now but he commented that he can’t understand art at all. No need to understand anything I said. Just appreciate the beauty of it all , you don’t analyze the beauty of flowers do you? Or women?, well women may be a bit, some people like big tits and some small well rounded ones and all that and I went on in that light vein for a while and I told him I’m glad that I’ve now introduced him to paintings as this is one of the things one should appreciate before one dies and the good thing is that the best are often for free as what you need to do is just visit good museums and art galleries….

Several months after coming back from the trip I was all the way up in Sapa, a small hill town in the northern part of north Vietnam, quite near the chinese border .This place is famous for it’s cool temperature, beautiful upland sceneries, colorful ethnic minorities and especially well known for the ‘marriage market’ which is held on certain days of the month among these minority people. I remembered my Vietnamese friend and I were in one minority village when I got a call saying that dr C had just passed away. The manner was particularly tragic as he apparently had a massive heart attack while in the middle of giving a paper in a scientific seminar in the Hague.

When I came back from this trip I immediately went to his house and there I was again completely taken by surprise. When I arrived they were in the middle of some Christian service and I saw his casket was decorated with a huge cross at the head. So, he was in fact a Christian after all but didn’t even say a bad word to me when I vilified Christianity when we stopped at that church in the middle of nowhere. I know only a good strong Christian can do this. Just try doing the same even to a non practicing muslim and he’ll be at your throat in ten seconds.

I now began to understand a little of Montgomery Watt’s comment when asked in one interview why he was not a muslim despite such high praise and respect he had towards Islamic theology particularly Sufism . I couldn’t remember the exact words but he said to the effect that one just don’t only look at the intellectual aspects of the religion…

And now I can’t go back and look up his exact words in that particular interview as I recently discovered that all my books on Sufism and shiism and watt’s translations of some sufi tracts and Islamic magazine on the interview were all eaten up by termites … and I’m still battling with this problem right now…but this other interview nicely encapsulates his thinking about islam and it’s relation to christianity….

and on this day of Christian holy day my memory goes to dr C. you were a good man... and incidently the rev montgomerry watt just passed away a couple of months ago so, as we muslims say…may you both be counted among the people that god favors…amen…

And as I am typing these I’m listening to Sting’s fragile …such a sad song ...

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