Hospitality in the Islamic world

An interesting story from Jeff Goldberg, responding to a Roger Cohen column that praised the hospitality that he received when visiting Iran:

Warmth, civility, hospitality and friendliness are the hallmarks of most Muslim societies I’ve visited. I have been in many places — in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq and Iran — where people absolutely hate Israel, absolutely hate “International Jewry,” and hate the Talmud, or what they think is in the Talmud. But people in these places have been almost uniformly kind to me as a visiting Jewish reporter (and they almost always know, right from the outset, that I’m Jewish, because it’s not something I ever hide). The people with whom I visit — and I count the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah in this group — are raised by their families to be kind to guests. It’s very lovely and civilized — Israelis could learn a thing or two about politeness from Muslims — but it’s irrelevant to their politics, or to their beliefs about what should happen to the Jewish state and its supporters.

I was once with a mullah in Pakistan who told me that Allah would soon fulfill his promise and destroy the Jews, but who invited me to stay in his guest room rather than make a dangerous night drive back to my hotel. I took him up on his offer, and slept soundly. It wouldn’t be fair of me to call this sort of hospitality superficial, because it grows from a real spirit of personal generosity, but I’ve learned the hard way that the personal isn’t always the political.

I just thought that this was a great anecdote.  I’ll definitely use it when I teach Middle Eastern history, not to label all Muslims as extremists but to show the importance of hospitality in Muslim cultures.

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