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Stress & Silliness

The Happy British Muslims video photo credit

In The Word Not Spoken, Jess and Leigh comment on the seriousness of their Turkish neighbours. “They’re not silly.” But in a later scene, these same neighbours get silly at the park in the dark when they let their headscarves fall back and they take turns shrieking their way down a rickety slide.

Leigh comes to the conclusion that the Turkish women’s lives left little room for silliness, what with all the chores and expectations. She believes that poverty and fear put the entire neighbourhood under stress.

“Happy British Muslims” are attempting to dispel the stereotype of the Serious Muslim with the creation of a video set to “Happy” by Pharrell Willimas. It’s gone viral- have a look.

Some Muslims don’t sing and dance, just like some Christians don’t sing and dance, but most do- with heart. I teach English to adult immigrants. Every Thursday we sing: “O Canada” is their favourite, but they can belt out “Bye Bye Love” (Everly Bros), “Here Comes the Sun” (Beatles) and even “All the Same to Me” (Anya Marina). Occasionally dancing erupts in class. I think it testifies to the safety of the place.

There is a great deal of silliness in my classroom and in my school. In fact, I sometimes judge these adults to be immature and their humour incomprehensible. Other times, I eat lunch at my desk listening to the laughter & the many languages in the room.  They touch each other a great deal- Somalis, Iraqis, Bhutanese- they lean on each other to laugh and grab hands. They press food on each other and me. I don’t sit in the classroom to eat unless I can reciprocate their generosity- just like Leigh, I’ve learned that giving back is essential.

A dramatic lifting of stress: Last year, a student being abused by her husband was rescued by a neighbour who called police. (She told me that in her country no one helped her, although many knew and heard.) The student, who was over-tired, quiet and slow in the past, started smiling, calling out correct answers, acing tests…

Tom Boileau ran an experiment in Johannesburg. (Facebook April 18, 2014). He played the drums at night in a townhouse complex and rec’d complaints from neighbours knocking at the door. The following night, at the same volume, he played a tape of a woman screaming, a man yelling, sounds of hitting, banging, crashing. No one knocked on the door.

Some people come a long way for the safety of Canada. I watch the healing going on in my classroom with gratitude.

The Happy British Muslims video photo credit