GYMPIE musician Darren Hanlon has shared a candid moment he had with a Muslim taxi driver in the hours after the Paris attacks.
Hanlon, who grew up in Gympie before his musical career took him to the northern New South Wales city of Lismore, had jumped in the Uber driver's car in Sydney on his way to a dinner with friends.
The two strangers made small talk about the GPS before the topic of the day came up rather unexpectedly.
" I can't understand these who go around killing other people... in cold blood," the driver had said.
They had been making small talk up until this point about the GPS and work until the conversation suddenly became serious and deeply personal.
This is the rest of Hanlon's account as he posted to his Facebook wall, which has had almost 35,000 Likes and 10,000 shares.
"I'm a Muslim," he said almost as a confession, "and this is not what I was taught as a child."
I just sat quietly and listened. It felt like he needed to talk. He said he was praying at a mosque in Zetland when he got my ride request. He'd been praying for most of the day.
"These people say they act under the name of Islam. I've studied religion, theology. The etymology of the word Islam comes from a word that means Peace."
He told me how one of his teachers had explained to him that people will angle teachings of the Koran to reflect their own needs. The finance banker will use certain lines to justify his actions, just as the jihadist will do the same. We talked about how many other religious faiths have been exploited too. I looked over to see him wipe tears from his eyes.
"Doesn't the Koran have a basic law... like the Bible... that says Thou Shalt Not Kill?" I asked.
"Of course!" he exclaimed, "The second highest law says that if you kill a single soul it's like killing the soul of all humanity. If you save a single soul, you save all humanity."
We'd reached our destination, just off King St, but still we sat in the car and talked (he turned the meter off!). Light rain sprinkled the windscreen as we watched the Saturday night revellers stream across the intersection. It felt like we were two cops, from different walks of life, on a movie stakeout.
He quoted Koran verses often brandished by fundamentalists, robbed of their ancient historical context. We mourned the victims in Paris. We mourned the young martyrs whose minds have been brainwashed. "It appeals to their child fantasies," he said. We searched for some kind of coda that could send us both on our ways.
I tried lamely with, "Well, it's just something we all have to accept as part of our lives now."
"What were your first thoughts when you heard the news this morning?" he asked.
"Well to be honest, even though I knew they were all safe, I thought of my own family. And friends," I said striving for a better answer, "I felt devastated for the people involved in Paris. But always in a tragedy I feel a kind of worry for my family and friends."
"That's a value of life!" he said, "That's love! That is the only defence!"
We were both okay to end on that. I closed the door of the car and rushed off to my waiting meal with some of those dear friends. "I just had an emotional Uber experience," I told them, and my mind kept returning to it for the rest of the night. And now today I didn't wanna write this as some kind of statement. I just want to tell you about my brief random conversation with a sad Muslim Sydney Uber driver, whose religion is being taken from him.
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