Friday, August 20, 2010

My Response: Mohamud at the Mosque

Maybe because I've been spending more time at the veterinarian's than listening to the news, but I don't understand in any way how a mosque, a place of peace, is anything other than healing. A number of years ago, when I worked in Palestine for Amnesty International --- a trip to teach human rights education to teachers and lawyers --- I left my hometown the same day a Christian man had entered two Planned Parenthood clinics (in Jewish neighborhoods) then shot and killed everyone in the waiting rooms. He is not the only one to murder in the name of Christianity in this country; yet, it would be wrong (I believe) to blame his religion for this derangement. What I want to say this poem says much better than I can at the moment. This poem was written after September 11th. Mohamud is now finishing his Masters degree in agro-economics. He will begin a PhD program next year. He is a religious Muslim.

Mohamud at the Mosque
for my student upon his graduation
And some time later in the lingering
blaze of summer, in the first days
after September 11 you phoned--

If I don't tell anyone my name I'll
pass for an African American
And suddenly, this seemed a sensible solution--

the best protection: to be a black man
born in America, more invisible than
Somali, Muslim, asylum seeker--

Others stayed away that first Friday
but your uncle insisted that you pray.
How fortunes change so swiftly

I hear you say. And as you parallel
park across from the Tukwila
mosque, a young woman cries out--

her fears unfurling beside your battered car--
Go back where you came from!
You stand, both of you, dazzling there

in the mid-day light, her pavement
facing off along your parking strip.
You tell me she is only trying

to protect her lawn, her trees,
her untended heart--already
alarmed by its directive.

And when the neighborhood
policeman appears, asks
you, asks her, asks all the others--

So what seems to be the problem?
He actually expects an answer,
as if any of us could name it--

as if perhaps your prayers
chanted as this cop stands guard
watching over your windshield

during the entire service
might hold back the world
we did not want to know.

from Cures Include Travel, White Pine Press, 2006


  1. thank you so much for the poem. i really cannot believe the whole flap over the possible mosque near ground zero. i thought we had a first amendment in this country, and, i thought most people knew that....loved and love it.

  2. This is a wonderful poem, Susan. I'm deeply saddened by what issues from some Americans' mouths. I find their thinking unfathomable.

    I invite you to read my own poem, "Mosque", which I posted Wednesday on my blog.

    The more of us speak out, the better.

  3. Thank you, Nancy and thank you, Maureen ~

    My nephew just posted this on his FB wall and a friend in New York re-posted it as well. I just don't understand what the problem is --- Can we not separate a few crazed individuals from a religion of peace?

  4. Thanks so much for your thoughts and the poem. I am so moved by the police officer standing guard, too! Recently I went to a photo exhibit and heard a talk by the photographer who had marched in our Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King, Jr. The police protection then was not always so noble. In Marquette Park, many windshields were broken and many cars ended up in a lagoon. But in the instance in your poem, there is kindness, respect, duty, and care to combat the momentary rage. And from that, I feel great hope. Again, thank you.