Susan and I woke early the morning that she was to fly home and I was to return to Ireland. Early, but not early enough to make it to the airport with time to spare, so we had to take a cab rather than the less expensive express train to the airport.
We’d spent the week at the Sloan Square Hotel and had been well looked after. When it became apparent that the airport express was no longer and option we asked one of the front desk managers, Adrianne, to call us a cab. Adrianne was the same young French woman who had checked us in, and before we even finished making our request, she came around the counter and walked straight out the door, into the street, and across the square to where a lone cab was parked. Susan had been wanting to take one of the old-fashioned London black cabs, and since an occasion to do so hadn’t yet arisen, we thought that this might be the last chance. The taxi that Adrianne secured for us from across the square, was a Mercedes mini-van and I was tempted take a pass on this cab and ask her to call for on of the old school taxis. Of course, I realized how discourteous it would be both to Adrianne and the driver to basically say, “Sorry, we want a different kind of experience than the one on offer!” I’ve done worse.
In any event, whatever lingering thoughts I had about taking a different cab completely vanished when I saw the taxi driver’s voluminous, flowing beard and his Taqiyah head-covering. I mean, how else could it be interpreted but that we were declining a ride from this guy because we didn’t want to be driven by a Muslim. We got in.
It’s likely that I spoke slowly and overenunciated, saying WE’RE GOING TO HEATHROW AIRPORT!!. To which an Eastend London voice replied, “No worries, brah.”
Jabal is a slender, easy-going 40ish man, married with 2 kids who converted to Islam after growing up in a working class marginally Catholic home. His mother’s from County Donegal in Ireland and he did not talk about his father, but given his coloring and features, I’m guessing his dad’s roots are Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern. Any strategy I was formulating to avoid talking about religion, politics and radical Islam were killed off in the first minute.
“So you’re from the states? Interesting politics right now I bet!” Susan pulled out our standard line about being in the UK on an American apology tour to beg forgiveness for electing the Donald. “No worries,” he replied. “I tell you, it’s a good thing that Trump is president! All of that undercurrent of polite anti-Muslim stuff, E’s screwed that all up. Now it’s owt in the open, and we’ve got something to work against. Because, because, I’m telling you brah,” he says, head raised slightly so he can look me in the eye from the mirror, “we ain’t gowin’ back. There is no gowin back!” He and his little racist group, they’re on they’re last legs. So let them play their cards in the open, and they’ll see that there ain’t no going back!”
He then shared and marveled at the women’s gatherings that took place worldwide the day after the inauguration. “We ‘ad 100,000 women show up on Trafalgar Square that day. And they were saying, “We ain’t going back. And they’re exactly right!
The conversation then moved on to his experience with Muslims in other countries who rage against the English, and his refusal to let it go unchallenged. He talked about being at the mosque and a man came in and tried to disrupt their worship. When the guy left, the men started saying hateful things about the English, and Jabal took them on. “‘Old on a minute. Hold on there.” He apparently said. “You’re talking about me brothers and my sister! Your talking about my family and friends. You’re talking about the people who I love! That ain’t right. What you’re saying is that they are bad people, and I know that ain’t right because I know that they are good people. These are people I love!”
When we arrived at Heathrow we all got out and he took our bags out for us and put them on the curb. I told him that my family was from Ireland, and since his mum was from Donegal it only seemed right for us Irishmen to have our picture taken together
Allahu Akba, Jesus is Lord and Erin go Braugh!