Friday, November 13, 2009

An incident in Pakistan... waitaminute

The other night, our teacher told us about an experience he had in Pakistan. At least I thought so, but the incident involves Shi'a Muslims, which makes me think it must have been closer to Iran? Well, here's the story, which I found rather astonishing.

Our speaker, let's call him "Kirk", was a photographer. There was a ceremony, a rite, wherein many young Shi'a men flagellate themselves (there are real razor-blades and real blood), and Kirk was taking lots of pictures. This ceremony commemorates the death of two of the Prophet's grandons. At one point, Kirk got down off the roof or wall or whatever and headed into the street, where he was swept along with the crowd.

They were chanting, and Kirk was shooting embedded in the crowd and surrounded by these six-foot guys, and somebody near the front starts shouting "Death to America!" Now Kirk isn't a real large guy, maybe 5"5' and 150. As the wave of "Death to America!" rolled toward Kirk's location, his cultural guide said, "Let's get you out of here."

But there was no getting anywhere; this was a real mob scene. Right next to Kirk, this huge guy was waving an arm in rhythm with the chanting. It went like this: (arm waving) "Death to America!
Death to America!
You there -- where are you from?
Death to America!"

Kirk wondered briefly whether he could do a convincing French accent while speaking the local language. But then he thought to himself (you know he doesn't get killed, because we're hearing his story), "Well, I've had a lot of adventures, it's been a good life." He turned to this huge guy and replied that he was from the US.

The guy keeps chanting, waving his arm "Death to America!
-- Really?--
Death to America!
--Hey, my brother is in Chicago--
Death to America!
--can you help me get there?--
Death to America!
Death to America!"

Whew! The only damage Kirk suffered from this incident was when one of the guys was getting ready to scourge himself, and nicked the barrel of Kirk's wide-angle lens.

"And your point was...?"

Well, there really was one. I mean, besides the fact that things are not always what they seem. Here it is: Why do these guys hit themselves with these metallic things (Kirk said they were razor blades, and from the scars on these fellows' backs in photos Kirk shot, I believe it)?

They believe that Allah sees the blood of their sacrifice (though generally they don't bleed to death) and forgives their sins.

Don't look so shocked -- don't we say that the blood of Jesus our Lord washes our sins away? And didn't the Israelites sacrifice sheep and goats and bulls?

Kirk told us that it's a lot easier to talk with these folks than with typical American materialist/atheists. I believe it.

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