A Lebanese Christian PrincessbySamuelx©
Patiently Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif did his evening prayers inside the Mosque in southern Ottawa, Ontario. The older Black man knelt on the carpet and said a prayer to Allah. Beside him, several men and a couple of women prayed. This was a sight which would have shocked many in the Muslim world because men and women weren't supposed to pray in the same area according to conservative Hadiths. Well, Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif had always been somewhat of a maverick. Born in the town of Baalbek, Republic of Lebanon, to a Lebanese father and Somali mother, he grew up as the son of two worlds. In his youth he moved to Ontario, Canada, to study business administration at Carleton University. These days he was an account manager with the Royal Bank of Canada.
At forty six, he liked what he had done with his life. He was a businessman, a community leader, a husband and a father. And he was also the Imam of the only Mosque in North America where women and men could pray side by side. Ahmed Al-Sharif defied conservative voices in the Muslim world by advocating gender equality in his Mosque. For this, he got many death threats from Arabs and Somalis alike. He didn't care. The way he saw it, he was doing the Work of God. Throughout the world, there were two schools of thought. Progressive and regressive. Ahmed Al-Sharif considered himself a progressive first and foremost. Growing up biracial in the blatantly racist society of South Lebanon prepared him for a lifetime of standing up for what he believed in. When his family moved to Canada, he embraced Canadian life and values wholeheartedly.
Many Muslims who came to the Confederation of Canada from places like Africa, Indonesia and the Arab world secretly despised Canada's ideals of gender equality, racial harmony and religious freedom. Everywhere Muslims went, other religions tended to suffer due to Muslim intolerance towards Christians, Jews, Pagans and others. In Egypt, the Islamists persecuted Coptic Christians daily. In Lebanon, the Christians were starting to get nervous now that they were forty percent of the population and the Muslims were starting to flex their muscles. Everywhere Islam went, conflict followed. That's what it looked like. Imam Ahmed understood this. That's why many people across the western world and beyond were weary of Muslims. Ahmed Al-Sharif understood the fears of these people. He considered himself a progressive Muslim. He firmly opposed domestic violence, honor killings, and female circumcision. Imam Ahmed wanted to modernize his religion and bring it into the twenty-first century.
When Canada held a referendum on same-sex marriage, Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif surprised many Muslims by supporting the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Many in his community called him a madman for supporting such a thing. Muslims were even more staunchly anti-gay than some fundamentalist Christians. Also, Imam Ahmed didn't believe in proselytizing. The way he saw it, God called men and women to Him. None could resist the Call of the Most High. It wasn't up to him to encourage his friends to join his religion. It was up to God to summon them. He was a practical and realistic man. There were many things about his faith he loved but there were also quite a few things he found unsettling. And he aimed to rectify some of these things, God willing. Imam Ahmed didn't want Islam to change Canada. He wanted Canadian values incorporated into the hearts and minds of Muslims living in Canada.
Imam Ahmed's progressive ideas astonished many of his fellow Muslims. When a Baptist church located not far from his own Mosque suffered water damage during one of the worst storms in Ontario history, Imam Ahmed went to James Etienne, the Haitian-born Pastor of the local Baptist church and donated twenty grand of his own money toward reparations. This move earned Imam Ahmed the friendship and admiration of many Christians living in the City of Ottawa, Ontario. It also earned him the enmity of many of his fellow Muslims. For an Imam to use his own money to help a group of infidels seemed to be anathema to a Muslim's identity. Confronting his detractors, Imam Ahmed pointed out to them that a certain Italian church allowed Muslims to use its building on Friday nights while they went looking for a place to build their own mosque. That story made international news in 2007 and surprised both Christians and Muslims.
If Christians could extend the proverbial olive branch to Muslims in their time of need, true Muslims should open their hearts and help their Christian cousins in their time of need as well. Imam Ahmed told as much to the reporters from the Ottawa Sun Newspaper when they interviewed him, and he meant every word. Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif finished his evening prayer, and nodded respectfully to the men and women praying in his Mosque. Men and women praying side by side as equals in the eyes of God. The way it should be. That's what Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif believed and nothing any man or woman could say would detract him from it. The old man walked back to his car in the lot, and nodded respectfully at brother Warsama, a tall Somali guy who was the building superintendent. Warsama would close the mosque for the evening after prayers were done.
Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif thought about his darling wife Jennifer Suleiman. The tall, blonde-haired and blue-eyed young Franco-Lebanese woman he met during his last year in the MBA program at Carleton University. Jennifer Suleiman came to the City of Ottawa, Province of Ontario, from the beautiful metropolis of Paris, France. She was a newcomer to Canada whose Lebanese immigrant parents had lived in France for generations. During a visit to Canada, they fell in love with the country and decided to move there. What a pair they made. The Franco-Lebanese feminist student and the progressive biracial Muslim man. When they began dating, no one thought it would last. And they were wrong. Jennifer Suleiman always thought that Muslim men were mean as hell, hated dogs, oppressed women and were generally two-faced and insincere. Until she met Ahmed Al-Sharif. A young man who volunteered at the local animal shelter and owned a pair of pit bulls. Imam Al-Sharif, Muslim leader and activist for the integration and acceptance of pit bulls into Canadian society. Wow. Jennifer Suleiman wasn't expecting that when she met him. When she fell in love with him, it took her by surprise.
The two of them got married, and moved into a nice apartment building in the south end of Ottawa, Ontario. Imam Ahmed, the maverick Muslim leader with the blonde Franco-Lebanese wife. The man who was loathed by many Canadian Muslims because he agreed with the Quebec government that the burka had no place in Canadian society. The religious leader who defied his people's phobia of dogs, whom they saw as unclean creatures. The Muslim guy who went to a Baptist church every other weekend with his Christian wife because he had great respect for Christianity and strongly believed in inter-faith dialogue. The man who went on Canadian television and pissed off countless Muslims around the world when he declared himself a firm supporter of Saudi women in their international campaign for their rights, starting with the right to drive. Yeah, Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif married someone quite compatible with who he truly was when he married a European gal who majored in women's studies and feminism at Carleton University.
Imam Ahmed smiled to himself as he thought of his darling wife. These days she worked at the Quebecor Media Corporation as a columnist. Tonight was date night for them. He hurriedly drove to their loft, and found the place empty. He searched from room to room. To no avail. His darling Jennifer wasn't there. In a panic, he reached for his phone. She texted him a half hour ago and told him she was waiting for him. All kinds of dark thoughts filled his mind. Did someone do something to her? He had many enemies across Canada and beyond. His Mosque was the most popular in all of Canada because he welcomed men and women of all faiths to visit them. Chicks wearing miniskirts and tank tops prayed alongside men in biker jackets, right next to women in hijabs and long skirts. It was the kind of Mosque the Muslim world had never seen. He frequently invited Christian leaders and Jewish leaders to speak to his flock about the importance of inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect. Yeah, he had a myriad foes for his progressive views. Any one of them could have done something to his beloved Jennifer.
Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif finally thought to look in the basement, and what he found there chilled his blood. His beautiful Jennifer Suleiman lay there, completely naked, her beautiful body covered with blood. A sharp cry escaped his lips as he knelt before her. He clasped his beloved in his arms, and cried to heaven. He didn't see or hear the two turbaned men who emerged from the shadows, guns in hand. Imam Ahmed didn't budge when he felt something hard and metallic press itself against the back of his head. He knew the end was near, and he welcomed it. Gently, he kissed his beloved Jennifer's cool forehead. Then he heard a bang and surrendered to blissful oblivion. The Imam's body lay on top of his wife's, almost as if protecting her even in death.
Warsama looked at the corpses of the Imam and his wife, and smiled coldly. He looked at his acolyte, a burly Arab man. They nodded at each other. Warsama then proceeded to douse the place. It would burn to the ground swiftly, leaving no evidence of their passage. The tall Somali felt absolutely no remorse after slaying the man he once called brother and leader. The orders to take him out had come from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself. The Powers That Be in the Muslim world didn't want progressive men like Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif to change the Muslim faith. Allowing women and men to pray together side by side in a Mosque? Sacrilege! Supporting gays and lesbians rights to marry even though it went against the Koran and the laws of nature itself? Blasphemy! Volunteering at an animal hospital and even adopting stray dogs? Inviting Christians and Jews, the eternal enemies of Islam, into a Mosque to speak about inter-faith brotherhood and love? Madness!
Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif had to go, and so did his Christian wife Jennifer Suleiman. Instead of pressuring her to convert to Islam, the fool had the nerve to allow her to remain a Christian after marrying her, and he even occasionally went to a church with her. An Imam attending church service with his Christian wife! The Prophet would roll over in his grave if he heard about this. A Muslim man who worshiped the ground his wife walked on! What madness must have possessed Imam Ahmed Al-Sharif! Although he wore the robes of an Imam, he had the heart of a kafir. Yes, Imam Al-Sharif had to go. A new Imam, one far more conservative, would be chosen to lead his Mosque. His followers wouldn't like it and would likely rebel against the new leader's authority. For this, Warsama looked forward to dispatching them into the next world. He obeyed everything the Saudi Arabian clerics told him to do without question. True submission. Obedience without question. No matter how morally objectionable the order or how shady its source. That's what being a Muslim was all about.