The following is a true story. If Dawkins is indeed wrong, I doubt this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Rock It Bar and Grill is an enlightening place to go dressed as Muhammad.
“Are you serious?”
I turned to look over my shoulder to find the source of the question. Your standard issue 30-year-old-white-guy-wearing-a-collared-shirt had been opening the door to the bathroom until he saw me. Now he stood with a bemused look of shock on his face.
“I’m always serious,” I said sternly, throwing a crumpled paper towel into the trash can. Squeezing past him and his goofy grin into the hall, I was pleasantly greeted with another stunning rendition of an early 90’s rap song. After dodging a gothic looking couple making out, I proceeded to the bar to order another drink.
I was adorned with my best attempt at traditional Arab garb: keffiyeh, Kurdish pants, a canvas colored button up shirt and a pair of sandals no matter what the weather. And, unlike some of the people that were staring at me, I was wearing a smile.
The reactions non-Arabs gave to my outfit were split perfectly down the middle. Half would laugh out loud and slap their knee at how totally audacious / bodacious I was. The other half would frown disapprovingly and give me a look that said in no uncertain terms: “inappropriate.”
Dressing up as Muhammad didn’t strike me as any different than dressing up as Jesus or Gandhi. All were important historical figures that changed their regions and the world irreversibly. Though I had told people beforehand that I was attempting to dress like the prophet of Islam, there wasn’t any outward way to tell. While I did a pretty good modern day Arab man (albeit with that whole white thing), in actuality my costume was not only pedestrian but inaccurate; Muhammad likely didn’t even wear a keffiyeh, instead probably wearing a turban. To anyone in the know, I just looked like an Arab.
That fact might have helped me out in the end. The reaction I got from the small Middle Eastern crowd was universal: wide smiles, handshakes and slaps on the back.
“Your costume is very authentic, where did you get it from?” said a friendly man with an Arabic accent several years my senior.
“My dad picked it up in Northern Iraq, Kurdistan.”
His smile broadened from ear to ear, and with obvious pride in his voice stated, “I … am a Kurd!”
After a brief exchange where he expounded upon the positive qualities of the present inhabitants of ancient Assyria, I threw out the obligatory “as-salaam alaykum” and caught the usual “walaykum as-salaam” in return.
I wasn’t making fun of anyone or anything by wearing that outfit. In my head it was just authentic garb worn in an attempt to dress as an important historical figure. Of course, what goes on in my head is often of little relevance to what goes on outside it.
When someone dresses up as Einstein, there aren’t groups of physicists getting angry because you’re mocking a great man. They just smile and go, “Yep, that’s our guy. Say what you will, but we think he’s pretty great.”
I wish every group saw it that way.