Posts Tagged ‘Bay Leaf Cafe’

For my assignment this week, I needed to spend some time in the Muslim community. The whole purpose of this assignment is to shed our prejudices and learn to love Muslims. I wasn’t ready yet to full on walk into a mosque, so I decided to hang around some middle eastern restaurants. My first stop was Haji-Baba in Tempe. I drive by it a lot and I had heard the food is really good. The part that I made a mistake is that I went at lunch time. It was so crowded that I couldn’t even get a word in with anyone. I spoke with the cashier and asked him how long the restaurant had been around. He said about 26 years and said he had been here about 5 years. He was young and there was a long line, so I ditched the conversation and let him work.

The next day I went to Cafe Istanbul. I had been here with a friend in the past and they are not as busy. I saw a couple of Muslims smoking a hookah on the patio and thought about joining them. But I wasn’t really down for smoking a hookah at that time. I ordered some food and chatted with the waitress. She was from Lebanon and mentioned she had been with the restaurant for about 20 years. I asked her if there was a community of Muslims nearby and she said a lot of them live close to the area. I then decided to disengage with the conversation after that just to observe my boundaries of chatting with a Muslim female. The food was good and I left.

I went to an Indian restaurant next to my place called the Bay Leaf cafe. India has a heavy Muslim population and I’d figured I give it a shot. The gentleman I talked to came to America because his wife got a job here. He has been here eight years and is from a city close to Chennai – the city I flew into when I went to India. We had a good talk, but once again he seemed a little busy with customers and I decided to let him be.

I was driving in Tempe and decided to pull over and pray about this assignment. I prayed that God would provide an opportunity that I would have a deeper conversation with a Muslim and that he would break down my fears of doing so. After I prayed, I looked up and saw the top of a mosque behind a building. Next to it was the Phoenicia cafe – a little middle eastern place with a marketplace. It was late and I decided to get some chai.

The gentleman that helped me was starting to clean and close shop. I told him I was expanding my interests and trying to learn about different cultures. He thought that was good and continued to listen to my questions. I think he got the clue that I was serious about wanting to know more about Muslims and he dropped his broom and sat with me. He said he loved being in America. He is from Morocco and he hated how the people in Spain and England treat Muslims. He said in America, we are nice to them and at least smile. I told him that I don’t like learning from media and television about his culture and that I wanted to learn from having relationships and conversations with them. He told me even though I’m a Christian and he is Islam, I am his brother. He mentioned that he would tell me all that I wanted to know about Islam and that he wouldn’t push it on me. He said it is the will of Allah that one becomes Muslim and that it is a choice. He shared his family life and how different his culture is from ours. He also mentioned all the tables are round there and that everyone shares the same cup and bread. Respect is always given to the father and then the mother who cooks the food. He then told me his faith comes from Allah and that he believes if you have good people around you, you will have a good life. He told me a story about how he needed $582 to pay all his bills last month. He prayed to Allah and he was offered some extra shifts to work that next weekend. He made exactly $582 that weekend and was able to pay all of his bills. We says he doesn’t worry anymore because Allah always provides if you believe. We had a wonderful time together drinking chai and talking about our different worldviews. Is name is Hakim and we are going to meet again next week.

This was a wonderful week and I am thankful God is breaking down my own fears and prejudices about Muslims. I had a lot of them after 9/11. There of course are some extreme groups out there (just like we have them here), but they really are a loving community of people. If you want to read about some of the food I ate, check my food blog entry at Food, Art and Culture.

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