A couple of weeks ago, I shared a train compartment from Casablanca to Marrakech with a Moroccan transport engineer, a Dutch-Italian couple, and a professor of Islamic culture back from Saudi Arabia for his summer holiday. The professor was talkative, repeatedly offering to buy everyone coffee and sandwiches. In a combination of fusha and a bit of English he went on about how people needed to know that Islam is not al-Qaeda and Da’esh, but love and friendship. At one point he asked us if anyone objected to him reciting a bit of the Qur’an. No one did, so he closed his eyes, pressed his fingertips together, and began reciting, quietly, beautifully. Afterward he asked the Dutch-Italian couple if they could feel the beauty of the language. Then, in the same voice and incantatory style, he said (in fusha) I am going to a new city. I will arrive and look for a restaurant and a place to sleep. He turned to them and asked if that felt different, but they couldn’t understand the question, and no one translated it, so we never got an answer.
As I was preparing to pay for my purchase at a clothes store, the salesman touched my hand—suggestively. He did not apologize, nor did he shrink in embarrassment. Instead, he looked me in the eye, and I discovered that his eyes were fluttering slightly.
As a matter of fact, I was by no means shocked at the man’s touch. I have gradually grown accustomed to this kind of behavior. First are the unnecessary, sugary words, the persistently stalking steps throughout the shop, and then the obnoxious, abhorrent touches. Although it had happened many times before, yesterday I was baffled as to what to do. Maybe it was because my little brother, Abdullah, was really close too me when this occurred. He was leaning against the white wooden cashier stand, idly tracing with his fingertips the floral lace of my drapey overcoat coming out of the front of my unbuttoned abaya. He was standing on my left, and I felt the tickle of his fingertips in the midst of my bafflement.