I can’t believe Arab Muslims would have said that to my hosts, librarians who spent some time in Arabia.

My hosts are amazing!

They won’t even let me lug my presentation case up the stairs! She insists on carrying it for me.

We were having a conversation this afternoon, and the inconsistency of Muslims practicing their faith came up.

She was really curious about halal. She had always assumed it was optional, one of those things that people practiced to varying degrees, like Jews with kosher, where some are full orthodox kosher, others just don’t eat pork, and reforms eat pork and all.

And then she told me about these Muslims she’d met in Saudi Arabia, who’d cover up themselves with the black stuff, and face covers (niqabs) as well and then as soon as they crossed the bridge into Bahrain they’d take it all off and drink and party and do all kinds of forbidden things. And when my friend asked them why they said, “Allah can’t swim.”

Subhan Allah, Asthagfirullah! My very insides quake even typing such blasphemy.

And on SO many levels I feel deeply deeply embarassed.

With Muslims like that why wouldn’t these people think ill of us?

And you know what’s funny? One of my host librarians was a librarian in Saudi Arabia for 27 years. She said she learned more from reading my book Muslim Child than from all 27 years in Saudi.

What I find amazing is that even in light of such ignorant comments, people like my hosts can look past such ignorant comments. Maybe it’s because there are also so many other Muslims they deal with on a daily basis who aren’t like that at all. Who are humble and kind and CONSISTENT!

It was funny because right after that I met up with a gentleman who worked as a distributor for the library system here. I spoke to him about getting my books in to the system.

First thing that happened was he stuck his hand out to shake mine, and I told him I was sorry but I couldn’t shake his hand.

It’s always been such a dilemma. I saw his face change a little. Then we went to have a cup of coffee in the hotel restaurant and I took out my books to show him. At one point he said quite frankly that my not shaking hands would turn some people off.

I said, “Yes, I know.” Then I told him how I’d actually begun my foray into the business world shaking hands with men. I figured, Hey, it’s not sexual, and it’s at the beginning of a business relationship, maybe God would overlook it.

But an odd thing happened. Sometimes men, having watched my presentations, would get so ENTHUSIASTIC, that they wouldn’t stop at shaking hands. They’d grab me, hug me, and even plant a kiss on my cheek. And inwardly I’d be CRINGING!

Now the thing is I married into a VERY touchy feely culture!!! My husband is from Guyana, South America, part of the Caribbean, and they all hug and kiss one another!

I just wave the men, who are puckering up, away with my hands, and they leave me alone.

I KNOW it doesn’t mean anything. I know it’s not sexual. But still.

It’s prohibited in Islam for men and women who are not very closely related or married, to have ANY physical contact with each other!

And honestly who’s feelings do I care to hurt more? Them or God’s?

It’s not even close!

I figure that if the business transaction is meant to be, it’ll happen. And if my not shaking hands, if my sticking to my Islamic principles is enough to turn them off, to turn them away from a possible money making venture–I mean I’m not a charity for goodness sakes! I do think my books are marketable– especially in Singapore where there are so many Muslims–then that’s okay. It wasn’t meant to be.

Funny thing, by the end of our conversation, the gentleman had told me intricate details about the history of Singapore, how it’s a meritocracy, (my kind of place) and the steps the government takes to ensure that no one ehtnicity has an advantage over the others.

Recently there’s been an influx of Chinese mainlanders arriving in Singapore. And there was an incident when a Chinese family, well to do I suppose, moved in next door to an Indian family, and complained of the smell when the Indian family cooked a dish of curry.

They weren’t used to the smell. They even went down to the police to lodge their complaint. The Indian family, to be obliging, said from now on, when they cooked curry they’d close their windows.

Somehow the news of it got out into social media. And it was the Chinese Singaporeans who were outraged! They told the mainlanders, ‘Who are you to tell another family what and what not to cook? Especially when curry is our national dish!”

And as a result of all this hubub, they declared July 21st National Cook a Curry day or something like that.

I like that.

I’d like to think the reason why the Chinese Singaporeans were so outraged was because these incoming mainlanders were set to ruin a good thing. There is quite  a bit of harmony between the races here, and why wouldn’t they like that?

This won’t be the first time or the last time I’ve been outraged at the behaviour of my fellow Muslims!

And despite the rocky beginning, the meeting turned out to be very cordial indeed.

Later, I came back to my hotel that night and watched a documentary on T.V. of animals. Lions, hyenas and wild painted dogs on the African savannah, eating each other.

It’s weird, but somehow it was very soothing.

I’m still not sure why.