This morning during breakfast at 6:30, my husband was a bit perturbed by singing in the street. Having just spent 15 minutes in the kitchen making beetroot pancakes (didn't notice that the beetroot was "infused with hot chili oil" - oops!) with the fan blowing, I hadn't noticed.
As it continued--loudly--I, too became somewhat concerned about him waking the neighbors. We decided it might be appropriate for my husband to confront the individual.
Finally, my husband poked his head out of the window and realized it was Islamic prayer chanting coming from the open door and windows of the Mayfair Islamic Center across the street (see earlier post).
Suddenly a small tremor of fear rushed through me as I contemplated what might happen should my husband approach a large group of worshipping Muslims and ask them to tone it down. Then I realized what time of year it was, and looked at the calendar. Not quite September 11.
Irrational or not, it felt strangely other-worldly to be in our own London flat as American ex-pats and be made to feel such fear from a religious culture not indigenous to England or even Europe. I definitely was not in Kansas anymore, and, for just a moment, I wanted nothing else than to go home.
I walked past the center on my way for a run in Hyde Park and saw that the building was packed to overflowing, with each level, stairway, and window heaving people.
Just as I felt the smallest measure of fear pass through me again, I noticed as I darted down the pedestrian tunnel across Park Lane towards the park that the Hilton was flying the Union Jack, the Hilton flag and, yes, an American Flag.
It was a sight beautiful to behold.
Contemplating all of this during my run, I allowed myself to remember where I was 10 years ago when the planes hit. I was also then living as an ex-pat, this time in Australia as a full-time missionary for my church.
I had been convalescing with a mission couple after a bought with a since-cured episodic walking disorder in a small beach town. I needed 14 hours of sleep at that point (no kidding), and remember distinctly being perturbed that the phone rang every 1/2 hour beginning at 6:00 a.m. until my normal waking time, 10:00 a.m. The sister who was caring for me came in to explain what had happened, and it didn't sound so very serious at the time. (I obeyed the strict mission rules and did not watch the news during my mission, and thus did not see the towers fall--making the gravity of the situation harder to grasp.) But, as the calls continued and we were instructed not to wear our missionary badges that day (as my Church, though has many more members in other countries, is often thought of as an American Church), nor frequent any American establishments (McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut) for two weeks, and later learned of bomb threats at the Hyde Park chapel in Sydney, the situation registered.
At that point in time, I felt grateful not to be living in the U.S. I felt safe. This morning, again living as an ex pat, I wished to be home. I never have had Islam imposed upon me involuntarily before, and it incited the most irrational fear within me. Again, like the reaction I had to the women whose faces and bodies are veiled in black, I was surprised at myself. But perhaps I have gained a new level of connection with those, like my husband, who lived in New York at the time of the attacks. I felt as if my serenity had been invaded, if even in the smallest way, and I felt quite discombobulated.
I think it will take much rationality and determination to overcome such a fear when unmerited, and to distinguish between extreme and moderate Muslims. How to accomplish that, I don't know. Perhaps I will stop by the Mayfair Islamic Center this weekend and find out.