Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye, Lighthouse...?

In Arabic, fanar means "lighthouse."

In the same way a lighthouse illuminates safe passage for those seeking the comfort of shore, Doha's Fanar Islamic Cultural Center seeks to share the good news of Islam with the world - and you.
Inside, a wide, two story, tiled entry. A guard at a podium. An ornate split staircase leads to a first floor balcony. A tall vase stands at the heart of three doors.
To the left is a majlis meeting space with authentic-ish red and white cushions. Glass bookcases highlight Qatar's achievements and a ceiling mural depicts the country's proud history.
The middle door opens into a narrow hallway filled with cozy leather couches where, if you sit, a bearded man in a long white robe might bring you a glass mug of sweet Arabic tea. "Welcome, welcome," he'd say as you peruse ancient Korans and other artifacts in square wooden display cases and read a book about Islam etched on the walls in life-sized, full color print.
A third door, to the right of the vase and tucked under the stairs leads to the Ladies Section.
This is where women from all over the world - including Qatar - meet for the purpose of spreading the good news of Islam - that all, including you - might see the light and be saved. If you are persistent, you might learn some Arabic here too.
You visit the lighthouse this week in hopes of enrolling for an Arabic class. After three years of study and association, all that remains is the final course in the Center's five level program.
But it seems that Fanar is under new management. The familiar, hardworking teachers you'd come to know are gone; fired. Arabic class times are limited. In the same way that laws pertaining to freedom of speech took your blog, and malware lodged in your internet provider curiously limits access to your own website…new rules promise to swallow your Arabic classes too.
An optimistic woman in black pledges to intervene on your behalf. "I will ask him to make a time for you," she says. But she does not add in sha allah.
You pay the fee for a class that doesn't exist in hopes of maintaining a connection. Then you leave the way you came in: through the door tucked under the stairs.

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