I still remember the dark and chilling morning of December 24th; I had wrapped my business assignment and leaving for home on Christmas. It was 5:15 am and I was waiting on Ypres platform to catch train to Brussels airport. I was alone fighting the chilly wind which was making my senses numb. Suddenly I heard a tall shadow wearing leather overcoat and hat stepping on the platform.
It happened more than twice that our eyes met but being new to the place I avoided any conversation with that person. As the train arrived on the platform I gathered strength to inquire about the train from that man and asked “Will this train go to Brussels-Midi?” He replied in Asian accent “Yes, it will.” . We both boarded the train sat together. In the light of train I noticed him; he was tall dark and sporting beard and carrying a big bag.
The whole appearance of that person made me very uncomfortable. He realized my torment and started the conversation in soft and composed manner to make me calm. Within few minutes we were comfortable with each other.
His name was Khan, a florist and who was from Pakistan. He was one of the illegal immigrants in Europe who is fighting all odds of immigration policing to earn his daily bread and save money for his children who were in Karachi, Pakistan. We discussed about his family, beliefs and his struggle in the western world. His description of his journey to Europe from Pakistan made my spine chill. He crossed Afghanistan, Russia, Italy and France to Brussels. I was shocked that how could a person cheat so many international agencies. All this made me very nervous and frightened. Suddenly his appearance, his body language made me remind of terrorists attacks of 9/11, 26/11 Mumbai Attacks and London bombings.
I started praying for my safe journey. Suddenly he went to his bag searching something. I was so petrified that I was about to shout for help in vacant train. He took out a hat from bag. He gifted me that smart and stylish hat as a token of humanity and friendship. I was relieved and faced the phenomenon, Islamphobia, somewhere in my heart.
When I was about to get down my station, he gifted me Santa toy which he was carrying in another bag for some consignment. That gesture was very kind of him but at the same time it made me uneasy and anxious, people on the platform were looking me skeptically me taking gift from a Muslim.
I accepted that Santa with shaky hands, my body was feeling the cold sweat. I was about to go airport, I met an illegal immigrant Muslim who gifts me a hat and ‘Santa. In the dilemma of concluding about the Santa as a toy or a bomb or as drug carrier I dropped the toy in the garbage bin of the platform keeping the hat with me.
I went through various feelings when boarded the flight. I was ashamed what I did by throwing the gift, I felt relieved that I have passed the immigration. I felt had he not gifted me that toy he would have earned some Euros to buy some gift for his children.
I came back and prayed to God for his and his family’s well being. But I realized some fool who claimed themselves as soldiers of God, self proclaimed Jehadis making whole humanity paying for their deeds. How a terrorist attack in any part of earth shakes the belief of humanity, kindness, how it’s causing suffering and trauma to an average muslim.
I know it’s not only my story but almost everyone’s. But we need to keep faith on values, morals and humanity.