A parable for our times

Morocco Strett

Niki de Goodaboom, “Street Scene: Morocco”.

“ … all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear and not understand.” (Mark 4, 11 – 12)

By Gary Scarrabelotti

Being cranky and disputatious is not a good look. Even seeming to be at odds with people wiser and more experienced than oneself, and with those responsible for making high order decisions that will never come one’s way to make, is really quite unattractive.

In this moment of great gravity, when war-and-peace calls are being made (yet again) by our political leaders – and winning the public endorsement of so many of our great and good – it ill behoves a mere bloggist  to cast doubt upon some of the key assumptions that underlie Australia’s readiness to enter into another war in Iraq.

Three of those assumptions – not the only ones, but important ones – relate to the nature of Islam, to our social experiment with multiculturalism and to whether the former has a role to play in the latter without derailing the great project.

Now, if I was travelling in India, out of respect to the local culture, I would not wantonly run down a sacred cow, or even utter an unkind word against one, though the dumb holy beast should wander in my way. So, in the same spirit, I will never let a sceptical or irreverent word fly from my lips against any of our own great Aussie sacred cows should one, or a whole herd of them, lumber across my path.

I would not wantonly run down a sacred cow, or even utter an unkind word against one …

That having been said, I think it would be wholly inhuman to remain silent and to suppress even the twinkle in one’s eye.

So I will content myself with a parable – this one drawn from real life – and one I have told before; but, like all good parables, it bears retelling.

The scene was a winding narrow street in Xauen in Spanish Morocco, during the Rif Wars.  The year was 1925 and a unit of the Spanish colonial army was preparing to evacuate the town. As he waited for his men to complete their appointed tasks, the senior Spanish officer on the spot fell into conversation with an elderly Moslem gentlemen.

The old fellow went onto the attack.  He upbraided the immaculately turned out officer for going to war with the Riffians and then abandoning the local people. The Spaniard – a man of slight build and almost inhuman fearlessness — returned fire, but in the form of a lecture on the benefits western civilisation.  In response, the canny Moroccan gent made reply:

“You don’t understand. Don’t blame the natives for everything that goes wrong. You look at the Moors, but all you can see is their robes. You don’t know the inner reasons of our behaviour: you will never know them. When the Mujahiddin [holy warriors] come – that’s the reason you can’t understand: every good Moslem must help the Mujahiddin always. There isn’t a village that does not succour or shelter them, directly or indirectly, some with arms, others with gifts, the most timid ones with their silence. This is the Mujahiddin’s right of asylum.” (Brian Crozier, Franco: A Biographical History; London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967; p. 81.)

Enough said.

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