American Questions Muslim Driver About ISIS

My first leg of my return trip from India began with a 2:00am cab ride to the Bangalore airport.

Syed, the 22 year old driver arrived at my door delivering his native greeting: “As-salamu alaykum.”

From my time spent in Mother India I knew that the phrase wasn’t Hindi or any other Indian tongue I’ve heard before. Trying to establish some repoir, I graciously asked what the phrase meant. He told me it meant “Peace be upon you” and in reply one could respond with “Wa-Alaikum-us-Salaam” (…and upon you the Peace).

I gave it my best shot “Walleye Aikman Salem.” He smiled, eyes bright, Peace established.

“Is that an Arabic phrase?” I asked.

“Yes. I’m Muslim.”

I buckled my seatbelt and prepared for a three and a half hour bumpy, diesel-air-rich ride to the airport with my new Muslim friend.

Syed’s English speaking skills were superb and after an hour of getting-to-know-you chit-chat I decided to open the door to some misunderstanding of the Muslim/Islamic culture that had been weighing on my mind.

“Syed, tell me why ISIS is doing what they’re doing? Is that what being Muslim is about?” I asked.

(Silence…)

(Sniffles…)

“I’m sorry, my friend” he said. “ I need to pull over.”

My new friend’s eye lids were filled to the brim with tears as he pulled up to a chai stall on the side of the road.

With his head in his hands and tears flowing freely he said in a grieving tone:

“What that group of men has done…what they have done to my culture, is not right. This is not right for my family and my generations back and for my future. We as a people we will never be seen the same again. They have killed more than just people. Our spirit. My families’ hope for a better world…they have killed.”

We sipped our chai slowly and in silence as his tears dried. Syed, drove me safely to the airport.

As-salamu alaykum” he said, handing me my camera gear with a smile.

“Walleye Aikman Salem,” I replied.

This message isn’t political. I simply wanted to share a perspective which was shared with me that one won’t find on some of the major media outlets.

and upon you the Peace.

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