The man sits in silence, reading the Koran. Everything is serene. He is barefoot on the prayer rug. He will pray, touching his forehead to the rug several times. He is completely absorbed in his state of spiritual solitude. All of a sudden there is a loud noise, and he hears shouts in a language he does not know. Three men burst into the room. They are holding weapons and wearing too much gear for this peaceful setting. The men have helmets on their heads and heavy shoes. Trampling the carpets, they have barged into the sacred prayer hall without taking off their shoes. Blunt and without consideration, they start asking questions, look around warily, and spread the draperies open with the barrel of their rifles. They are no doubt looking for a ghost, because right now, right here, in this village prayer hall, there is only one man, and he is meditating. Their intrusion breaks the spell of his dialogue with God. As they go, the foreign soldiers leave traces of mud on the prayer rug. American GIs are waging an antiterrorism campaign on the Afghan-Pakistan border, undertaking this effort through a regular and methodical search for terrorists.
Every building is searched. During these raids, not even the places of worship are spared. While on assignment for National Geographic in the area, I shared the lives of the American soldiers who took part in these patrols, following them for two weeks.
I also spent several weeks with the local inhabitants, spending time with them in their villages. Mutual incomprehension and culture shock are the reasons for the gap between these two groups of people, and each day along the years this gap got a little deeper.
Text written by Rachel Deghati. Published in “War + Peace” (National Geographic Publishing, 2007), “Reza, entre guerre et paix” (National Geographic Publishing, 2008). #man #spirituality #serenity #military #prayerhall #afghan #american #war #fervor #religion #soldier #americansoldier #worship #prayerrug #intrusion #carpet #sacredplace
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