Do You Recognize This Girl? Read this and look again.
Essaouira, Morocco 8:30am
I had no idea what was waiting around the corner for me in that labyrinth city by the sea. The 5:30am Islamic call to prayer had signaled the day’s start hours earlier, but the sun had yet to burn the damp sea smell from the air.
For the first time since my arrival, I felt free to absorb the environment without interruption. All the aggressive salesmen that usually crowded the streets were still hidden behind closed doors. My new Aussie friend Albertine was sharing some sage wisdom from her two years of continuous travel when we came upon this.
Until this guy came along.
“It’s the dog park!” I shouted.
Albertine was a little taken aback by my American enthusiasm, but I couldn’t help it and she quickly caught the spirit. Until that point, Morocco was such a foreign place to me with its veiled women and dark tunneled streets. To see something so familiar and beloved was like a friendly hand guiding me into a strange world.Just as I do on leisurely afternoons in New York, I watched for a bit. I love to narrate the social interactions of dogs and their owners.
Most times pooches will scamper around until they’re dragged home, but there’s always that chunky one that doesn’t really move until forced.
It was clear one furry fellow was just that type after I watched a young woman run after him for a second time. He’d move a few feet and stared back at her. Before that my interactions with most Moroccans were so tentative, but this was a language I understood.
“Can I chase him?” I asked revving up.
The young woman nodded and I took off after the dog. He did not care that I was a stranger. He moved a few feet and looked back at me like, “Oh you think so?”
In the meantime, Albertine had figured out that the other guy in attendance was the town veterinarian.
Puppy Love knows no borders .
Considering I was attracted to these people because they were happy pet owners, it seems incidental to mention that they are both Muslim, but that’s the point isn’t it?
Islam is the second most popular religion in the world after Christianity, but many of us only know about its most miserable, malicious practitioners.
Pet owners, veterinarians, shoe makers and bread bakers are the hidden Muslim majority that live their lives every day going to work, picking up their kids from school and worrying about what’s for dinner just like everyone else, but you never hear about them because The Muslim Identity Has Been Hijacked.
Our screens are dominated by those who abuse their religion to justify violence and hatred. A practice perpetrated by religious zealots of every make and model since we started counting time.
As a traveler, I feel a great responsibility because I stand on the other side of the screen living outside the margins of the camera lens where there is no news just a friendly girl taking her dogs for a walk.
When I asked if I could take her picture, she beamed and cradled her pooch. Albertine helped me find just the right light and our models were happy to oblige when we asked for angle changes. I couldn’t help but think: I know this girl. In fact we all know this girl: perfect make up, quick to smile, and a bustling energy that makes everyone feel comfortable.
As I watched her shoo her two dogs inside her home, I thought: She’s probably heading to work and that will never make the news This is part of our problem.
At your next kitchen table discussion about retaliation and refugees remember these two and ask yourself: If only the most miserable members of my community served as my representatives, would anyone recognize me?