The hodja was talking with tremendous speed. He was sitting cross legged on a thin cushion, waving the upper part of his body to and fro in harmony with his words as he spoke.
His eyes were fixed on those of the six boys sitting in front of him in two rows, aged between eleven and fifteen, crossed legged as himself, on a worn out wool carpet two meters by six. The only window in the room near to the ceiling was covered with a thick cloth, and the damp patches on the white washed walls suggested that they were below the level of the pavement. All six of the pupils and the hodja wore similar outfits. A long robe covering the whole body; white shirt tightly buttoned up to the neck; baggy trousers; a turban girded on the head, and white socks. The shoes were left by the side of the cracked wooden door.
The long black beard of the hodja was stained with saliva from his foaming mouth which had gushed words nonstop for the last fifteen minutes. The day’s subject was impious women whose sins were enough to get them boiled in the hot waters of hell’s cauldron in the after life. “They show their hair to you, they walk around with bare legs, they call you to sin. The Devil boils the cauldron, the Devil orders them, the Devil orders them, the Devil orders them, to drag you in, to drag you in, to drag you in….”
The door creaked open, letting in the tall figure of a man. The hodja paused suddenly and jumped to his feet in respect. The six turbaned heads turned around to see the new comer. The man picked up a black robe which was hanging from a peg on the wall beside the door. It matched the size of his big body and he wore it over his expensive navy blue suit decorated with a red silk necktie, then he fished out a green scull cap from its pocket and covered his bald head. He stroked his short trimmed white beard as he walked towards the hodja, his penetrating black eyes scanning the young boys.
“How is he doing?” He asked in Arabic so the pupils would not understand.
“He asks questions.” The hodja replied also in Arabic.
“Hmm!” He turned to face the boys and gave them the once over joining his
hands behind his back. “You.” He gestured to one of the older boys with his
chin. “Who are you?”
The boy bowed his head. “God’s servant.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Learning God’s orders.”
“To serve him properly.”
He nodded his head approvingly and asked similar questions to a couple of other boys randomly, receiving prompt answers given by reflex more than knowledge. The essence of this training was to plant permanent pieces of information in their gray cells. Avoiding consciousness was essential, knowledge was dangerous.
He remembered his father cautioning him when he had tried to teach the kitten to swim when he was only a little child. “Watch out!” he had said. “If water gets into it’s bum, it’ll die.” He had not asked why. Years later, in his late thirties he was confronted with a similar situation, this time himself being at the other end of the stick. “Watch out!” he had started and had suddenly recollected that he had never seen a cat die from getting wet. On the contrary the world famous Van cats were known to swim in the lake in summers. He had carried a piece of information for all those years in his subconscience, and only when questioned had the truth come out.
“You.” He fixed his eyes on the youngest of the boys sitting at the right side of the second row. The little boy did not bow his head nor did he avert his bright hazel eyes from the aggressive glance of the man.
“Who are you?” His voice cracked in the air.
“God’s servant,” replied the boy.
“What are you doing here?”
“My father sent me?”
The man halted the hodja with a gesture of his hand as he was about to rebuke the little boy.”Why?” He asked.
“He wants me to learn my religion.”
The man turned to the hodja. “He came here two weeks ago.” It was a statement rather than a question. He had switched to Arabic.
“Yes, he is rather slow compared to the others.”
Slow or intelligent? Were his questions due to reasoning? Given time, he would be molded into what they wanted him to be.
For decades the faithful had been working systematically to create unquestioning brains helped by the convenient circumstances created by right wing politicians believing that the lesser the quality of education the better the quantity of votes for them. But the times were changing, even the length of compulsary primary education had been raised from five to eleven years in spite of all the resistance put up by those who knew better. Several attempts by the faithful using democracy to ruin democracy had been unsuccessful due to Deccal’s army and the distorted view of the Turkish Muslim’s that Allah should be loved, not dreaded. The path to victory had to be paved with sweat and blood, there was no stopping. Patience was the key word. These thoughts passed through his mind before he spoke again.
“Carry on with your teachings,” he said to the hodja as he took his robe off and walked towards the door without uttering another word.
[This story is the beginning of Ali Tandal’s book in progress called “Saviors of Darkness”.]