I STAYED in Paris where I visited doctors, entered public libraries and watched the people in order to have a feel of the elite civilization, polite attitude, fine feelings, warm welcome, good behavior, low voices, keeping the dates and accurate life order. Whereas we, the Arabs, are rough and barbarians, as Ibn Khaldoun preceded me in describing us as such.
Actually, I am proud of being an Arab because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an Arab and the Holy Quran is written in Arabic. Had it not been the inspiration that modified and purified the attitude of believers, we would have kept on circuiting the grounds of Hobal, Allat and Manat. The more, we the Arabs, are away from pure Islamic directions, the more we are vulgar and tough. We are the societies of the rude and childish, except a few whom God has protected. (Sheikh Aayed Al-Qarni).
It was nearly 7:00 am when the plane touched the runway at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. It was cloudy and the light rain refreshed the mood. Charles de Gaulle is not a large airport and the movement there is smooth and easy. The entry procedures ended quickly and then I waited for a taxi to transport me to the hotel. The taxi was quite new and the French driver does not speak English but he knew the way to the hotel through the card I was holding. The traffic jam in the ‘City of Lights’ was light although it was rush hour as the employees were heading to their work places.
A French adage says, “Only those who died in Paris have really experienced life.” Paris is the city of authors, poets and intellectuals. It is the capital of beauty and fashion. It is famous for coffee shops and libraries. By the way, I once visited a section of the city that is well-known for having many libraries so I searched for any Arab book but unfortunately I found none! I was yearning to buy a book from Paris, at least as a souvenir!
While sitting in a coffee shop, the waiter asked me what I would like to drink and I answered French coffee of course, saying to myself: “We are now in Paris so we must follow the French traditions!”
Contrary to my expectations, I did not experience real traffic jam in Paris. I took a taxi driven by an Arab to the Latin Quarter of Paris or the so-called Saint Germain Quarter. At that time, I remembered the famous novel, “The Latin Quarter,” written by Souhail Idriss. I wanted to visit the Institute of the Arab World which was nearby but the timing was not suitable so I could not do so.
Recently, in one of the alleys of the Latin Square and before the sunset prayer, I saw an Algerian old man who looked serious. I asked him if I could pray there and he said yes. Actually, the place was quiet and clean, with a number of copies of the Holy Quran. I then remembered Imam of Porto Mosque Tareq Oubrou and his wonderful book, “Imam in France…. a Message and a Job”. These were spiritual moments in a non-Islamic capital where Muslims reside.
The book of Tareq Oubrou was wonderful and included many unknown facts about Islamic existence, generally in Europe, and particularly in France. Interestingly, the book tackled metaphysical issues as well as philosophical and theological paradoxes.
It is not easy for anyone to be a French Muslim and a French Muslim Imam of a mosque. I remembered French policeman, Ahmad Murabet, of Tunisian origins who was killed in the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
I remembered the honorable history of the French of Arab origins who presented a great example of peaceful coexistence in the country of Napoleon Bonaparte.
On my last day in Paris, I wandered through the alleys and paths of the ancient city where the light rain added an atmosphere of intimacy. Again, I glanced at a small café and I then sat for a while to have coffee. I asked the Arabian waiter about some places. The man was polite and tactful. I also asked him about the weather and the rain. He said: “Oh sir, rain and weather information is in Paris which, alone, has the answers.” He responded while looking at the Eiffel Tower which was visible from the café. He pronounced the word, ‘Paris’, in a perfect French accent, omitting the ‘s’ which he might have thrown into the River Seine!
— Twitter: @alzmi1969
By Yousef Awadh Al-Azmi