NakedGirl: The Story of Dareen
by donnylaja

Part 9

"Allah we pray to you that our fears shall be eased, that we shall not suffer, that the cause of this terrifying bomb shall be discovered and laid to rest."  It was the piping, accented voice of Imam Tahir, acting as Khatib for this special service, the sermon after the common prayers.  The little mosque was so crowded that there was no separation between men and women and no one could sit except for a few elderly people up front.  Dareen and Elly were packed in at the back.  They had gotten there just in time.  They craned their necks to see the Imam, standing not in his usual spot, but in the middle, next to his wife and seven young children.

"I apologize for not being with you on September 11, 2001.  We were in Paris visiting family at the time when the terrible news came over the media.  It was afternoon in Paris at the time.  The next day was the day of mourning.

"We went to the great square, several millions of us, and at 12:45 p.m. all the churches in Paris rang their bells.  Even the great church of Notre Dame, where the bells are rung only on great historical occasions, from there the bells were heard.  Now we Muslims have different associations of the sound of church bells, but at the time the resounding sound throughout the city could not fail to grab one's heart.  The church bells stopped ringing and the whole of us, the whole of humanity, stood silently.  The entire country, the entire world in fact, stood together as if to say: We are all Americans.  And then a trumpet was heard, playing 'taps', the tune that is played in the military in honor of the dead.  It was too much for me, and for my wife, and we cried.  Many others did too.

"We were all Americans on that day, and we are all Americans here now, and we at Al-Hijia must stand here in testament to those three young people, cousins of those in our mosque, who were killed that morning as they were working their jobs in that great building.  No matter whether we pray to Allah or to one of the other religions, no matter what race we are or where we were born, we are all flesh and blood, we all bleed, we all have the capacity to love and want to be loved, we have much, much more in common with each other than the differences.  That is what I learned, through and through, that day in Paris and all the Parisians and visiting foreigners who were there in that square felt the same.  The outpouring of sympathy for America, from all corners of the world, was amazing.  No matter what our differences, the people who died that day, and their loved ones, had the unconditional love of from many millions of people around the world.

"For many of us here, America is the land that we chose, and it has been very good to us.  It is the land of new hope, of opportunity.  Think how free we are here compared to the countries we came from.  I don't think anyone will disagree with that.  It is a shame on our people that the perpetrators of that terrible tragedy were Muslims.  That kind of thinking is not unique to Islam, of course, one can only point to the Crusades and many more recent examples of Christians.  But no one, from Allah or from anywhere else, can kill innocent people.  It is a crime against humanity and against Allah.

"These might be difficult times for us in America.  I do not want us to fall into hatred and cynicism.  There is much misinformation.  But I want you to look at your children.  I will look at mine."  With a quaking voice he looked down at his youngest, a very cute little girl of two.  "Think of how much you love her, or him, and remember that a white person loves his little child just as much.  Now tell me, if you thought that child was in danger, would you not fight?  Would you not be defensive?  Or rather be on the offensive?"  He turned back to his flock.  "White persons who have been misinformed may be under that impression and may act accordingly.  It is for each of us to say, 'No, you are wrong about that.  You do not know me, though you think you know me.  Let me be your neighbor.  Let me into your life as a neighbor.'

"This is not only the command of Allah but it is also practical good sense.  No one knows who is responsible for this . . . bomb, but though it does not appear to destroy buildings or people, it seems designed to disrupt communication and modern life.  This could be here in Atlanta or in Cairo or Ankara or in Mecca itself.  We might be in for a long period of uncertainty and fear.  As Muslims in America we should not barricade ourselves.  We should not withdraw into insularity and make people suspicious.  Remember that most people do not hate us.  Go about your lives and be fair and just and happy with others just as you are with your own people.  Smile and be polite to everyone.  It is simply a good idea.  And if something is done wrong, do not be afraid to go to the police.  If we trust them they will be far more likely to return that trust.  Do not try to take the law into your own hands.

"And now, I wish to make a prayer for the seventeen people lying in critical condition in hospitals..."

It was in the middle of this silent prayer that one could hear a phone ring in the back room.  Abdi, a tall black man whose family was from Sudan, silently but quickly strode in and whispered into the Imam's ear.  The Imam closed his eyes and put his hand onto his heart, then spoke.

"I must inform you that there has been a bomb threat made.  We must leave immediately.  You know how to proceed."

Dareen and Elly saw the quick about-face as people pressed toward the back.  The two young women were all the way back, and they moved aside to let Hasfan and Keni, the ushers, open the double doors.

Dareen knew this was false.  She just knew it.  And now the sensible, shy part of her suddenly was forced to watch helplessly as she heard herself saying, "Wait! Wait!"

To hear a woman speak out in mosque was unusual enough; the Imam didn't strictly forbid it but it just was not done.  But Dareen moved forward, resetting her kerchief, her breasts bulging forward under her loose-fitting black smock as she took a step or two ahead.  "Wait.  This can't be real."

"Dareen," Imam Tahir said, "What are you saying??"

"How could they plant a bomb so quickly?  This is not a regularly scheduled service.  And why in this little mosque.  No, this is unrelated and not real.  They're just trying to scare us, keep us apart and scattered!"

For a long second the mosque was silent except for an occasional shifting foot.

"Dareen, we must take any threats seriously. And many of us have children."

The sensible Dareen took over.  And felt like she had really made a fool of herself.          She was right -- there was no bomb.  But were they going to just take her say-so?  Of course they were going to leave.

"I want to stay here," Dareen said as Elly looked at her with disbelief.

The Imam came up to her.  "Dareen, I see your reasoning.  It probably is a false alarm.  But we can't take the chance."  And so Dareen and Elly left with everyone else.  When everyone was out Abdi locked the door.

It was then, with a crowd of Muslims outside the mosque and being an easy target, that what sounded like the loud report of gunshots was heard.  Women screamed.  Everyone hit the sidewalk.  Then silence.

Now the gunshot sound again, further away, and everyone saw what it was.  It was a large truck speeding down the avenue, probably going too fast, its heavy tailgate flapping on the metal bed with a thunder-like boom every time it hit a bump, resounding off the surrounding buildings.

Dareen lay in bed, not able to sleep, and thought about the crowd in Paris, and the bomb that the media were calling the "pulse bomb" and remembered the tingling in her nipples and last Monday night, that crazy man with the big bullet-shaped rocket, and her frantic run with a broken heel through the thunderstorm and getting raised up off the ground before being hit by lighting, raised up off the ground as if chosen for a special purpose.

She turned off the nightstand so that the room was in total darkness, then quickly, as if to make the least fuss about it, took off all her clothes, fought the urge to cover her breasts or her crotch, waited for the hours to pass, and then she still lay there, concave tummy breathing in and out, breasts topping high and firm like little mountains above the rest of her, trying to stay awake to what might be calling.