Today, I wandered on to the No Quarter site. Why, you ask? For the same reason we pick at a scab, or probe that aching tooth: sometimes I just want to see how low people can go.
The latest on-dit on that site is the picture of a school enrollment form from Obama's school in Indonesia. And there is so much hate and misinformation about the fact that his father wrote in his religion as Muslim, and how he MAY have been seen going to a mosque, and how he said he knew the Muslim call to prayer and once said that it was a beautiful sound.
I don't know how much of this is true, but I wanted to share a perspective that most people who grew up in this country may not have. When I read the stories of Obama's childhood in Indonesia, I fully understand how he could have attended a Muslim school or have gone to a mosque.
I spent my childhood in India in a Hindu family. I left when I was 12. My north indian city was full of people from many religions. Every few years, riots would break out between the Hindus and the Muslims, and there would be curfews and days when we could not leave our home in the evenings. Yet, some of my families closest friends were Muslims. I called one lady, who was Muslim and the principal of the school where my aunt taught, my aunt, and the whole family treated her as one of their own.
I went to a Catholic school, because that was the best education available. I learned to say the Lord's prayer, attended church occasionally, sang Christian hymns, and even received mass a few times. As did the approximately 1000 other Hindu children in the school. That did not make me a Christian, but it did make me respect the Catholic religion, which I still do today.
Every morning and evening, the local mosques would call the faithful to evening prayer over loudspeakers. After years of listening to this twice a day, every day, I too can recite the Muslim call to prayer. And yes, I agree with Obama: at the end of a hot Indian summer day, with the sun setting, the haunting call to prayer sung by a melodious Muezzin can be almost heartbreakingly beautiful.
And by the way, because I had Muslim friends, I attended Mosques with them a couple of times. They brought sweets to our home during the Hindu festival of Diwali, and we took sweets to their homes during Id.
My childhood was fairly normal for a middle-class Indian. But since I came to the United States, I can see how someone who grew up here could NEVER understand how one can attend schools from different religions, pray with people from different religions, yet be true to their own beliefs.
Yet I can see a young Obama in a situation similar to mine; living in a pre-dominantly Muslim country, and as a child, sharing in the religious traditions of that country. But some people can never understand that: to them, the world is black and white, and you are either "with us or with them".
Updated: to replace the word "Imam" with "Muezzin"