Lost – and found – in Brussels

We were literally going around in circles on the Brussels ring road, failing abysmally in our attempt to find the correct exit towards Luxembourg. In frustration, we left the ring road hoping to find a ‘local’ and ask directions.

We pulled into a petrol station and asked the attendant, ‘Pour aller au Luxembourg?’ Despite a working knowledge of French, we could not understand anything he said. And so, with increasing desperation, we drove on.

We came to some shops and parked in front of an optician’s. I went inside, hoping to have better luck with the French spoken there.

From the way she was dressed, in black, her head covered with the traditional hijab, the optician was obviously a Muslim. There were no customers in the shop, only a female friend of hers, another Muslim lady, and a little boy I imagined was about a year old.

Definitely feeling out of my comfort zone at this point, I asked if she spoke English to which she replied ‘Non’. I switched to French, explained we were lost and needed to find the road to Luxemburg. She nodded in appreciation of our problem and, with an encouraging smile, said she would lead us with her car. She gathered up her little boy, left the shop in the care of her friend and asked me to follow.

She took us across town through a series of back streets – a route we could never have found without her. She was careful not to lose us, frequently checking in her rear view mirror.

It must have been a good 10 minutes before we saw the entrance to the ring road and the sign ‘Luxemburg’. Our Muslim lady pulled off to the side of the road and motioned for us to drive up the ramp. As we passed her car, we mouthed ‘Merci’ and waved enthusiastically, hoping that this would sufficiently communicate our gratitude.

In this day and age when we hear the word Muslim, our first reaction is to think ‘terrorist’, ‘suicide bomber’, Al-Qaeda, Taliban … We forget that all ethnic groups are made up of individuals, and that each should be judged only on his or her own merits.

This Muslim lady, whose name we never knew, performed an act of kindness worthy of the Good Samaritan. She reminded us that for all the Muslim terrorists and extremists there are in the world, the huge majority of Muslims live ordinary lives, enjoy their families and friends, and instinctively practise the universal Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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