I’ve never visited a Muslim Prayer Room before. In fact, I don’t recall speaking to any Muslims when I lived back in the States and have only engaged a few of them in conversation since moving to the Philippines over five years ago. My knowledge of Islam is only what I get from my American news programs on our Cignal satellite system, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and Fox News. With all the talk about ISIS filling the airwaves and other Muslim terrorist organizations, I have been akin to adhere to the adage that while all Muslims are not terrorists all terrorist are Muslims. So what in the world possessed me to actually enter a Muslim Prayer Room at Terminal 3 at NAIA and have a thoughtful dialog with them?
Boredom. That’s right, boredom was my primary motivation. Along with a dash of mild curiosity. I had arrived at Terminal 3 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport the afternoon before I would board a Korean Air flight the following day to Las Vegas to visit my Dad. I decided against risking a stay at a local hotel due to the increasing crime against foreigners in the Philippines.
With the surge of crime in Metro Manila, involving members of the PNP, Philippine National Police participating in kidnappings and armed robberies of foreigners, my asawa feared for my safety.
Plus, I wanted to leave for my two week visit to the States on the cheap, so I decided to camp out at Terminal 3 during the evening before my flight, which was not slated to leave until 12:20 pm the next day. I didn’t have to deal with the money-grubbing parasitic taxi cab drivers that ply the streets of Manila or have to pay for a hotel room or deal with rouge cops.
But back to the Muslims. I spied a Muslim foot washing area and though I am not Muslim, I washed my feet. I then noticed a young man, seen in the lead photo, standing in front of the prayer room.
After the young man posed for another picture, a man from the prayer room approached me. I expressed my curiosity about the Islam faith because my view of Muslims is colored through the lenses of news outlets with their own agendas to pursue. I don’t consider myself a particularly open-mined person, having been baptized a Catholic and having spent 15 years as a hardcore born again Christian, but I had time on my hands and asked if it would permissible for me, a non-Muslim, to enter the prayer room.
The man, who hailed from Jordan, went inside to seek the permission of an older man inside the prayer room and soon escorted me inside. A few older men, along with a Cebu Pacific worker, greeted me. Everyone was extremely polite. The Muslim from Jordan, a man in his mid-Twenties, began to explain to me the five pillars of Islam and their six articles of faith.
During his briefing my cell phone rang. It was my asawa back in Guimaras. I explained to to her that I would have to call her back as I was in a Muslim Prayer Room at the airport. This came as quite a surprise to my spouse but thankfully she didn’t faint and fall to the floor.
One of the older men in the prayer room, from Davao, gave me his name and phone number, and invited me to stay at his place if I ever visited Davao. I told him I have a friend in General Santos, Tom Ramberg, one of my faithful readers, and might stop at Davao whenever I made the trek to Gen San.
I listened attentively to my new friend from Jordan and after about 20 minutes thanked him for his time. I politely took some literature handed to me and explained I needed to call my wife back. He understood. I came away with a better understand of Muslims and their beliefs and while I have no plans to convert to Islam, I no longer can adhere my former prejudiced views regarding Muslims. It was an interesting way to start my visit to America.