I was at the supermarket today when a woman wearing a niqab got in line behind me.
For those unfamiliar with styles of Muslim dress, a niqab is an outfit worn by women in the more conservative sects of Islam. It covers not only the woman’s head but most of her face as well. All I could see of her were her eyes.
And her hands. As she stood in the express lane, this woman stayed busy texting someone on her phone. Put my oldest daughter in a niqab, and the two of them could have been twins.
It seems a lot these days that all we notice is the things that make us different from one another. We speak different languages, dress in different clothes, and profess different faiths. Our skin comes in different tones, and our ancestors come from different lands. There are people in the news media and even in our government who tell us that those differences are tremendous, and even insurmountable. They tell us that we should be afraid because of what those differences represent, and even try to drive out of our country those who don’t look like us.
Those differences can be impressive, but there is so many details of day-to-day living that we share. Aside from this woman with her cell phone compulsion, I’ve broken bread with a Muslim man my own age who laments that his kids don’t know who The Beatles were and can’t sing along to “Let It Be.”
I’ve been to services at a mosque where one of the speakers commented during her remarks that she had been asked to speak a full five minutes before she went to the podium. The male speakers had so many important words to share that they ran over their allotted time until the food was cold and nobody was listening to the important words because everyone was hungry.
Last Thursday I spoke to a man who doesn’t attend a mosque regularly, and if you ask him why, he shrugs. “I don’t need to be with other people or go to a building to worship God,” he said. “I can do that by myself at home.”
You see, there are some thngs that transcend religion and creed. We have far more in common than we usually realize.
I didn’t want inadvertently to make a scene, and so I didn’t stare at my compatriot in the checkout lane. But I’m glad she was there.