Death haunts every one of us. But for some who’ve fled war, its impact measures deeper. Social circles turn from complete to misshapen. Some would think that in an Islamic society, a semicircle would easily transform into the crescent moon — finding wholeness in one’s now fragmented social world by replacing it with God. Yes, finding God through times such brokenness is common. Radicalisation is too, which includes pursuit of the theological dissimilarities. But so is the opposite: indifference.
Communicating with a Syrian (who was one of many I was newly introduced to by my friend) in Istanbul, conversation norms lead us to ask one another which God we believe in. We discovered that I was Christian, and he, Muslim. There was a slight pause before he commented further:
لا فرق بين احد.
“There is no difference between any one.”
I just looked at him, breathed in with a subtle sigh, and nodded ever so slightly. Not because I agreed, but because I understood the heart it came from.
I glanced at the photo of his late husband sitting in the corner of the room.
Looking at eyes now dead turned mine glassy. Only a fraction of the fragility reflected in my friends’ — a widower. The emotional weight of the former conversation about this tragedy remained.
Like many noticeable times prior, conversations about religion with Syrians resulted in a blanket generalisation to immediately disolve any potential conflict. Because for a decade, thousands died in Syria for a multitude of reasons, but most particularly in some cases, sectarianism and fanaticism. (Although I should note that in once instance, after forming a deep friendship for many years, conviction about such differences did arise in one conversation — and so did the passion as well. A passion that I recognised as, given specific circumstances, able to lead to radicalisation.)
An interesting point to note, is that the friend who introduced us got my number last week within five minutes of having a conversation about whether he and I were Christian or Muslim. It seemed, unconsciously, like a necessary thing to ask about before proceeding to become closer friends. As an anthropologist, I will pay more attention to this pattern in future.