I will tell you what happened to me yesterday. In the morning, I went to my French class as usual. As soon as I entered the classroom, I felt that something was wrong with me. My students were worried when they saw me looking so pale. I managed to teach class for an hour and a half until the break. By then, I really felt unwell. I had no more energy. I excused myself, telling the class that I could not continue and that I must return home. As my students were leaving, a few came over to me and said that maybe it was unwise for me to be driving, as they knew that I had to travel 30 kilometres.
Very quickly, F., one of my Muslim students – she is from Morocco – suggested that I go with her to her apartment where I could rest before her husband and a neighbour could drive me home with two cars. As I felt very unsteady, I accepted her offer. Another student offered to drive my car to her apartment. We arrived at her place, and as we got out of the car my Lebanese student, who had been at the wheel, noticed that one of the rear tires was low. He advised me to get it properly inflated before taking my car onto the highway.
As soon as I entered F.’s home, she gave me Moroccan pancakes with cheese, hot milk with honey, Moroccan tea, and home-made rice pudding. While I was enjoying being spoiled like that, her husband went off to get the tire into shape! When he got back, we spoke of my health symptoms. Having previously worked in a pharmaceutical business, it came to him that my blood pressure may have dropped. I confirmed that this kind of experience happened to me from time to time. He suggested that it would be wise to buy a little device that I could use myself to monitor my pressure. Then we talked of the tire. I said that I was worried that the low pressure – now talking about the tire – was not something that I wanted to happen again unexpectedly. Maybe the tire was damaged. He offered to get it checked at a nearby garage. Again he left, leaving me with his wife who continued to care for me with kindness and gentle consideration.
When her husband returned more than an hour later, he told me that it had been a good idea to check the tire as it had been punctured by a nail. It was now repaired. I did not dare imagine what could have happened on the highway on my way back if I had not had this spell of feeling faint and if my Lebanese student has not noticed the deflated tire! On top of that, F.’s husband had brought me a gift. While the tire was being repaired, he took the opportunity to go to the drugstore to buy me the little device that I could use to monitor my blood pressure! I wanted to pay him back, of course, but he refused and said that it was really not much and that he was happy to offer it to me. My pleasant visit continued for some time, as I did not feel well enough to leave on my own and the neighbour, the second driver, would not get back home from his work before evening.
Finally, it was 8:00 PM when this obliging Muslim man drove me back home, with his neighbour driving my car. Before we left, he and his wife F., these two wonders of hospitality, had prepared two special meals with fish for me because I do not eat meat. While F. was busy in the kitchen, they had covered me with their warmest blankets so that I could sleep on their sofa. We had watched a movie together, and they had invited me to stay with them overnight if I wished to. Their 10-year-old son had even prepared his bedroom for me.
After all that, who would want to tell me that the Muslims whom I see in the street or who are going to the mosque close to my house are all potential extremists or, even worse, terrorists? If someone thinks this way, he can come and see me. I will tell him how I felt loved, cherished, and touched to tears by such kindness. So, please, don’t talk to me about Islamophobia!
Pascale Frémond, citizen of a Quebec that respects and values all its citizens, is president of Religions pour la Paix – Québec.