Mosque, Peshawar, Pakistan 1988- A man sleeps peacefully among prayer hats left for public use.

Long before the heated rhetoric of Islamic revolutionaries, the Mosque was central to life in Islam. Not only was it a place to pray, it was also a place to meet and socialize. Daily, people came to sleep on the cool stone floors and take refuge from the oppressive heat and pray. The large and impressive mosques tended to obscure notice of smaller, more humble mosques that were tucked away here and there in a city or even in a crowded bazaar. Refugees set up a mosque under a power transmission tower and the call to prayer at midday would have hordes of people praying under hastily assembled tarps. It was a cultural touchstone or common denominator which continually reminded people of public virtue and decency. The ubiquitous presence of mosques and Islam served as a backbone of regional culture and civilization in the region. There was always a sense that when all else failed and if chaos reigned, there was always faith and the book, the Qur'an, to bring people together. In a way, it can explain why people patiently put up with indescribably incompetent and corrupt and repressive government in the region. The warm, intimate comfort of a religious parochialism offered an attractive contrast to the large impersonal architecture of the bureaucratic central government in Islamabad.

copyright 2001©David Dienstag
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