Boreal

Remembering Uzza

If the story of Islam was told to me in a pub

(2nd draft)

1.4 A Shirley Temple Anyone?

Archie: So what will it be; tea, coffee, orange juice, a glass of water or maybe a glass of milk?

Uzza: I think I will have what they're having [pointing to Gerry and Bob who are drinking beer].

Archie: I thought you said you had read the sign?

Uzza: No I didn't!

Archie: Well, if you had, you would not be asking me to serve you a drink containing alcohol.

Uzza: I can't win can I?

Archie: No, I'm sorry, you can't.

Uzza: Fine, do you have apple juice?

Archie: Looks a lot like some white wine we serve, or light beer. Are you sure?

Uzza: Of course!

Archie: It's your funeral. It might be safer if I give it to you in a cup.

Uzza: Nobody drinks apple juice from a cup except children.

Archie: In a water glass then, a small one.

[Archie brings Uzza an apple juice just as the head of a balding bearded man appears at the top of the stairs leading into the pub. Just behind him, the outline of a head in a lightly wound hijab. The eyes behind a face-covering-veil, the niqab, move from side to side like a Cylon's as it slowly makes its way up the stair. From the neck down the figure is cloaked in a bulky burka-like covering. Black cloves complete the cloak which, except for the eyes, leave everything to the imagination.

The cloaked figure is taller than the short man. Both the balding, bearded man and the impressive form which now towers over him make their way to the bar and stop to survey the range of bottles on shelves in front of a bar-length mirror.]

Archie: Can I pour you a Holy Warrior my friend. [he knows better then to ask the cloaked figure what it wants, and to avoid eye contact even though its eyes, which have quit darting about, are fixated on him]

Balding, bearded man: I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND!

[After those pointed words, the bearded balding man and his cloaked companion proceed to the end of the bar where Uzza is sitting.]

Cloaked figure: [a quick hand grabs Uzza's apple juice which disappears beneath the cloak figure's niqab]

Bob: [Leaning over the bar, whispers to Archie] Is it going to drink Uzza's apple juice?

Archie: No, it is just sniffing it, checking for alcohol. That is why I warned her about the colour of her choice of beverage.

Cloaked figure: [returns Uzza's beverage, and in a hoarse whisper which everyone can hear] Whore!

[One last look around and both the cloaked figure and the balding bearded man disappear down the stairs.]

Gerry: That was creepy!

Archie: There was nothing to worry about, if they had been packing anything they would not have gotten pass the metal and explosives detector, and the bomb-proof doors would not have opened.

Gerry: That is not what I meant.

Archie: It's not like the old days when there was nobody at the door except the occasional doorman on busy nights to check for ID.

Gerry: Those were the day; and what the hell is a Holy Warrior?

Archie: It’s a mix of ginger, grenadine and orange juice.

Gerry: Isn’t that a Shirley Temple?

Archie: Not anymore. And let’s not mention it again. It’s now a man’s drink, the type of drink that men who believe that drinking alcohol is a sin drink, and you do not give a man’s drink a woman’s name where they come from.

Uzza: [sees this as opportunity to join the conversation] Did you know that ginger and grenadine or grenade which is French for pomegranate are mentioned in the Koran as some of the best foods Paradise has to offer.

Gerry: Sorry, what did you just say?

Uzza: [raising her voice] I said that… [but before she has a chance to repeat what she just said, Gerry is next to her]

Gerry: Hi, my name is Gerry, what is your name again.

Uzza: [hesitantly shakes his hand] Uzza.

Gerry: Nice to meet you Uzza. So Allah drinks Shirley Temples?

Uzza: Allah does not require food or drink, and you should not make fun of Him.

Gerry: Sorry. So how do you know that in Paradise you will have the makings of a Shirley Temple, I mean, eh, a Holy Warrior?

Uzza: There is no mention of oranges per se in the Koran, but Allah did reveal in surah 76, ayat 17 “And they are given therein to drink a cup whose mixture is ginger” and in ayat 55:68 he told the Prophet Muhammad that in Paradise there are palm trees and pomegranates.

Bob: What's a sir-ah, and what’s a hey-at.

Uzza: A surah is a chapter of the Koran and ayat means a verse which is also referred to as a revealed truth or revelation, an immutable fact made known to a mortal by a god.

Gerry: Beautiful, and can quote God too. I’m in love.

[Uzza is slightly embarrassed but finds Gerry’s charm hard to resist.]

Uzza: Muslim children are expected to have read the Koran from cover to cover by the age of seven, and if they attend a madrassa, that is a Muslim school, spend at least an hour every day memorizing the Koran. Today, it's much longer since madrassas are no longer subjected to the old provincial educational laws.

Gerry: So Uzza, [continuing his Sam Malone impression] when did a good looking woman like you become a Muslim?

Uzza: There are as many beautiful Muslim girls as there are beautiful unbelieving girls.

Gerry: Sorry, that is not what I meant.

Uzza: I know. I was born a Muslim. A child born to Muslim parents is born a Muslim.

Archie: But you're not fat?

Uzza: [taken aback] WHAT do you mean?

Archie: Like the cloaked woman we just saw, which are everywhere these days. Was she fat or is it just me?

Gerry: It's just you, Archie.

Uzza: Maybe not...

Gerry: What???

Uzza: What you called a "cloaked women" does not get much sun. A home quarantine, combined with clothing that leaves no exposed skin when venturing outside, deprives the occupant of necessary sun exposure, especially in Canada if they don't take advantage of the warmer months to fill up on vitamin D. A lack or shortage of this essential vitamin can lead to a shorten lifespan; but not before experiencing weight gain, headaches, bladder issues, constipation, diarrhea etc.

Archie: Too much information, thank you.

Uzza: Muslims come in all sizes, cloaked or not. It's unfortunate that more Muslim women are not aware of the health concerns associated with a lack of sunlight,  which may not have been an issue in the sunbaked Arabian peninsula when Allah mandated that women wear what some refer to disparagingly as a portable tent when venturing outside the main one. In fact, it may have been a good thing for the time and place.

Archie: Maybe it's not that they don't know, but prefer believing in Doctor Allah?

Gerry: Don't be rude.

Uzza: [answering in kind] Perhaps, but they are definitely not as obsessive as Christian parents who don't believe in blood transfusions even when their children's life is at stake. Many Muslim women who cover up take vitamin D supplements, which I am sure Dr. Allah would approve.

Gerry: Good one, Uzza!

Bob: [pipes in on a different subject] I heard that if you don’t want to be a Muslim anymore they kill you.

Uzza: Allah revealed that He preferred a community of believers be slaughtered rather than be allowed to leave Islam, "sedition is worse than slaughter" revelation 2:191. Muhammad said: "If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him."  But what of it?

Bob: [not expecting the curt response] Nothing, sorry I asked.

Uzza: Nehru said: "we have to remember the age in which it (the scripture) was written, the environment and mental climate in which it grew, the vast distance in time and thought and experience that separates it from us. We have to forget the trappings of ritual and religious usage in which it is wrapped, and remember the social background in which it expanded. Many of the problems of human life have a permanence and a touch of eternity about them, and hence the abiding interest in these ancient books. But they dealt with other problems also, limited to their particular age."

The Koran and the sayings and example of Muhammad may be meant for their particular age. Like many Muslims who no longer dare admit to it, this I believe. But, they are still part of my heritage. I will not deny my heritage, if that is what you want me to do. It is what it is.

Johnny: [sensing unease in Uzza, Johnny limps over and introduces himself]. Don't mind him. Hi, my name is...

Uzza: You're Johnny MacDonald; it is so nice to meet you. 

Johnny: You're not afraid to shake my hand?

Uzza: Of course not, and I must apologize.

Johnny: Apologize for what?

Uzza: For you getting shot.

Johnny: You did not shoot me, and if you had...

Uzza: I mean, apologize on behalf of Muslims who would not do a thing like that. Who believe in freedom of speech even where religion is concerned; especially where religion is concerned.

Archie: That is you and who else?

Johnny: Let her finish, and don't be mean.

Uzza: Thank you. I understand why you feel that way Archie. May I call you Archie.

Archie: Sure, why not.

Uzza: All my grandparents wanted when they came to Canada from Pakistan was to live like Canadians. To be able to send their kids to school where god was not omnipresent so that they might learn to think for themselves and not be afraid to speak their mind about both the sacred and the profane without the threat of physical harm, or worse. To live under a legal system which at least attempted, even if it was not always successful, to be fair to both sexes without prejudice or bias towards either. To live in a place where the legal tradition did not consider women chattel but persons in their own right free to chose without regard for the feelings of god and men.

Then it happened. YOU LET IT HAPPEN!

Bob: What did we let happen?