Dr. Afifi Al-Akiti

On my way to Gloucester Green to catch the Oxford Tube, I saw Dr. Al-Akiti walking with his family less than a hundred metres in front. I was really tempted into taking out a postcard I bought for my grandfather and asking him to autograph it. I didn’t.

At that point in time I was wearing shorts, a shirt with the some of the top buttons undone and my hair was… in its usual characteristic state. He and his family were Malay, and expecting him to be pieous (he adorns a songkok almost all the time), and I was a Malay myself it would clearly be tidak beradab, or utter disrespect to greet somebody of high intellectual standing as himself in that state.

I guess it was a self-consciousness of the code of manners coming from my roots and upbringing as a Malay which hesitated me from running up to him and say “Hi” (obviously I won’t say “Hi!”. I would greet him with the standard salam – Peace be upon you, in Arabic as I do with most of my Malay Muslim friends/colleagues). I could have passed off as a non-Malay (most Malays in UK cannot tell I’m a Malay at first glance, until I start speaking Malay :p ) but I knew sooner or later I will be ratted out anyway. Then again, it must have been the self-consciousness.

I contented myself to observe him at a distance and dropping my pace so I could linger the Al-Akiti-was-less-than-a-hundred-metres-ahead moment just a bit longer. I’m not sure of his age exactly, but I thought he looked older than he really is. He slouches, or seems to slouch. He must have felt my eyes drilling the back of his age for he turned back momentarily that we faced each other (from a distance) briefly before he returned into his happy bubble with his family.

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