Anglican Samizdat

May 22, 2009

How to upset someone with a greeting

Filed under: Islam — David Jenkins @ 7:29 pm

Some of us have to work to offend; for others it’s as easy as a brief “hello”:

When the landlady of my Toronto apartment building said an outraged neighbour had filed a complaint about me over an apparently inappropriate hallway interaction with his wife, my mind raced through the countless conversations I’ve had with fellow tenants, none of which seemed a possible source of offence.

It turns out, it wasn’t a salacious transaction that had caused the complaint, but rather a neighbourly and — to me — entirely forgettable greeting, little more than a brief “good morning” as I passed my neighbours on the way to work.

Still, it was enough of an affront for the man — once a doctor somewhere in the Middle East, my landlady clarified — to feel I had broken a cultural taboo. The incident started an awkward feud which has involved warnings not to repeat my indiscretion and one face-to-face shouting match, which included allusions to my impending death.

I expect the battle will wage on, as we appear to be stuck at an impasse.

His Muslim upbringing has ingrained in him a sense of entitlement to demand I not speak directly to his wife; and my prairie upbringing has ingrained in me a duty to strive for polite cohesion with my neighbours.

This is a rather disgusting example of a person being treated like a piece of property – something that does not belong in a civilised nation.


1 Comment

  1. It was his choice to come to Canada. I trust someone of his education would be aware that we don’t share the same customs. A quiet “excuse-me but it is our custom” would have gone a lot further. If you don’t greet folks on the prairies they figure you’re stuck up.

    Comment by Steve L. — May 23, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

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