In the Mandarin in Abu Dhabi, in 1978 our film crew sat around the table. To my right sat Osman and Siqseq, our Islamic team. A number of the dishes we had chosen contained pork. I sat there pointing out to Osman, who relayed it to Siqseq, what he could and could not eat.
Being an outside restaurant, there was no alcoholic drink available, but there was always the bar back in the hotel.
I said to Osman “Osman, why do Muslims not eat Pork ?” He looked at me with a blank face and then replied “The Koran says we cannot”. I said “Why does the Koran say you cannot ?”.
I continued “Osman, I know the Koran says you cannot, I am asking you why the Koran says you cannot ?”. “Because that is what Mohammed wrote” he replied.
Talk about “It’s in the book” !!
“There must be a reason for not eating Pork”. Suddenly his eyes brightened. “Ah”, he said, “I see. The little …some Arabic – (blood vessels) of the pig are (here he showed me his finger and thumb almost touching) too small and when the pig is killed, all the blood does not come out”. “It becomes poisonous and can kill you”.
Although I knew this, it being the custom of the Jews as well, I wanted to know if he, a Muslim, knew the reason.
How many Catholics knew the reason why, at one time, the faithful should eat fish on a Friday ?
Indeed, how many Muslims know why they are forbidden to drink alcohol ?
All these things intrigued me. My friend, Majid Sirhan, who got his PHD with his study of the Koran, told me that the holy book does not forbid alcohol. He maintained that the Koran actually says “You must not be drunk in the Mosque”, which is something quite different and perfectly reasonable.
Of course, I did not raise this with Osman, he was still getting over the question of pork. Needless to say, he had a wonderful meal with me acting as guardian of his faith.
Next chapter: Chapter 76: A Feast Fit for a King