Story telling

After "La vie du prophet" I read "The Messenger" from Kader Abdolah and now I am reading his Dutch translation of the Quran. At Orkut people were very fast with their judgements about "La vie du prophet", even though they didn't know anything about it. People can be so fast with their rejections (of a book they never read).

Stefan said: "Seriously, your pamphlet that you quote about the life of Mohammad bears absolutely no relationship with reality. It's 100% FALSE ADVERTISEMENT. The fact that you like the ideas that are presented doesn't mean that those ideas are really found in Islam, no more than you really get a beautiful woman delivered with your car. Most of us grow up and learn that simple fact."

What does he know about which ideas are really found in Islam, why would he know it better than the writer of my Senegalese book. The books from Kader Abdolah are very interesting (and ok, I admit that there is less "social desirability" in how he presents the life of Mohammad than in the Senegalese book). He is not a Muslim himself. He said in an interview that the Quran should be read slowly, each evening you read a little piece, while you sit down relaxed and drink a glass of wine :)
With his description of the life of Mohammad and his translation of the Quran he tries to bring East and West closer to each other. The way he did that is a very good method I think.

My dissertation is aimed at finding methods to improve intercultural contact with the help of Levinas. Levinas describes how one person meets another person. Imagine that I am just being selfish and presumptuous, I forget the rest of the world, I don't care about anything or anyone. Then I see the face of the other, who is in need, and I feel ashamed that I didn't care about him at all. So I look him in the eye and I respond to his appeal. That's the beginning of ethics, of an ethical relationship.

The other could be a stranger, someone who is totally different from me. Or it could be my neighbour, my partner or my mother. But how does it continue between me and the stranger? There's a big cultural difference between me and him. How can I understand him, what can we do to build a bridge between us, so we can meet each other halfway?

I think storytelling is a very good method. Kader Abdolah grew up in an Iranian Islamic environment. He describes the "Quran of his father". In "The messenger" Zeeed tells his story of how he grew up with Mohammad as his stepfather and how he collected the verses of the Quran.

For sure the books from Kader Abdolah are not meant as propaganda, they are not meant to convert people. The beautiful thing about storytelling is that you can try to understand somebody without making a judgement. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who tells the story, see if you can understand what he says, if you can imagine that you are him. So before you start to judge with the standards and values from your own perspective, you first try to look and feel like the person who tells the story. In that way you can build a bridge to a different culture. Of course you can never fully understand the other person and you don't even know exactly how much or how little you understand. But to try to put yourself in the shoes of the other helps to find a common language, a common perspective. And the best way that you can imagine what it is like for the other person is when he tells his personal story.

Levinas emphasizes that I should not dehumanize the other. The other person is my master according to Levinas, he can show me something, make me understand something which I can never see all by myself. The other makes an appeal to my responsibility. Storytelling can be a very good prevention against dehumanization / demonisation. I think Geert Wilders should read the books of Kader Abdolah.

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