These days I’m unsettled. I feel like we are on the cusp of a major change. By ‘we’ I mean The World, The United States, Society as a Whole, Islam, My Family, Me.
My wise friend, Heather, tells us to breathe through the change but I’m scared of change. I know it is inevitable, but the unknown is scary. It is unsettling. It is dumping everything in the cake pan and hoping it all turns out alright without following the recipe.
Breathing through the change is like trusting. It is praying and it is letting go.
I’m not good with the letting go part. When I get scared, I want more control. Not less.
Last year, my family decided that we would attend the Friday night Varsity football games at Mr. Fox’s highschool. We went to every home game last year, and we’ve gone once this year already. We are not football fans. I don’t know most of the rules. I have only ever watched two football games each year my entire adult life. I only watch them so that I can talk about it when everyone else who is a football fan is talking about them. To me, its a cultural event. Like Halloween, or Thanksgiving.
On September 4, we lined up to get our tickets at the season opening home game. Directly in front of us was a man wearing this shirt.
I was SCARED. Mr. Fox was annoyed. Kate grabbed my hand a little tighter. Pea gave the man’s back a dirty look. I looked around and there were no less than 5 police officers on duty. No one else looked scared. I didn’t know what I should do.
On one hand, the man has his First Amendment rights. But we are on school property. This is an event for children. We are at a school with a significant number of Muslim students who are actively involved in sports as well as other activities.
I took the man’s photo without his consent. I wanted to document this event because I couldn’t sort out if my reaction was warranted. Was I overreacting? Is it just a shirt?
Then the man sat down the bleachers in front of us and I took another photo of his shirt from where we were sitting. During the first quarter of the game I counted no less than 8 Muslim students in the stands from where I was sitting. 3 were wearing hijab.
These were some of the first comments:
WTF.Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 4 at 7:13pm
Wow…Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:14pm
Oh, fantastic. Ugh.Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:17pm
Wow. What school is this
Like · Reply · September 4 at 7:20pm
Kristina ElSayed It’s his right to wear it, but it’s just really unsettling.Like · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:22pm
The discussion went on from there, most people understood my outrage and fear. A few did not. I don’t love these friends any less, but it is clear that they don’t understand the fear that comes from this type of racism. They didn’t want me to presume what this man thought about Islam, Muslims and what the word ‘kafir’ and ‘infidel.’ They wanted me to give this man the benefit of the doubt. But I know. We had just been discussing these shirts and the meaning of them a few weeks before. I was educating people about these shirts. I KNOW.
I waited a week and then made contact with the school. The response has been less than stellar. I received a cursory email from the Assistant Principal, and I’ve not heard back despite my follow up. What do I want from the school? I want to know if spectators to events on school property are to abide by the district dress code. I want to know if I have a right to complain about this when it shows up at a school event. What are my choices?
Then the news of Ahmed Mohamed being arrested. It is clear to everyone that his detainment has nothing to do with his invention and everything to do with the fact that he is Muslim and Black. My network was talking about it all day long. I waited and spoke with the children a little when they got home. Did they hear about his arrest? What were people saying at school?
Kate cried. She is scared that she could get arrested just because of her religion.
Can you even remotely begin to hear that?
She is afraid of being arrested because of the way she prays.
Today is the Day of Arafat. It is one of the holiest days of the Islamic year. It is the day that marks the remembrance of The Prophet Muhammed’s final sermon. When all of the pilgrims are praying at Arafat, Muslims all over the world are fasting. My children are fasting today at school.
Will they be okay?
Tomorrow is the Eid ul Adha. The Feast of the Sacrifice. All of the Muslims in my city and the surrounding area will gather in one place. One Huge Celebration. We will gather, we will hear a sermon and we will all pray together. Then we will eat together and share in the celebration that 2 million Muslims have completed their Hajj. There will be security at all the entrances, but will we be safe to pray and celebrate this day?
When radical men in sheep’s clothing enter churches to kill people because of the color of their skin, how are we to feel safe that the same won’t happen to us?
On the day that Abraham trusted his Lord to sacrifice his son, I will breathe, I will pray, and I will hand it over to God. I am not in control of the unknown.
Links on some of the research I did concerning this topic:
Happy Monday friends! This morning when I settled in at my computer to get some work done, I found this letter from a reader.
Hey, I recently came across your website and was hoping I could get your opinion or view on some of the stuff that I have going on. My boyfriend of almost 2 years just broke up with me out of no where, he said something about we can never be anything more than we are right now because he is Muslim and I am not. He was born and raised in Canada and I’d consider him to be very westernized, he drinks parties, dates all that stuff. We have talked about the future before and have always worked things out but suddenly he doesn’t think it will work anymore. I believe that some of it has to do with pressures from his family because ideally they would like him to be with a Muslim however they didn’t dislike me at all and they have told him that they will love and accept him no matter what. I know that he still loves me and cares about me but is trying to shut me out and forget his feelings for me. Do you see him changing his mind and doing what makes him happy instead of what he feels is the right thing?
I sent M this response and asked permission to get your opinion.
I’m so glad you’ve reached out. I’m sorry you are hurting right now. After spending 2 years of your life with a man it is very hard when they decide they need to make a change.
In my experience, most Muslim men who come from pretty strict families are rebellious in their younger years and then as they age, they return to following the sunnah more closely. It sounds to me like your boyfriend has come to a crossroads. His family may have upped the ante on the pressure for him to marry a Muslim woman. Even though they like you, and it is perfectly permissible to marry a Christian woman, if he is dependent on them, that could be extremely difficult. While he still loves you, he may be in the position of choosing between you and his family.
My advise to you is to let him go. Grieve your loss. I know it can be messy but this will be the kindest way for YOU. If he is still calling you, tell him you would like to remain friends (if you do) but that you need some time away from him to grieve your ending relationship and the loss of the future you thought you had with him. Give him a time period in which he cannot contact you. This will help you mourn and it will help him come to terms with his decision. You, in turn, don’t contact him. Do what you need to do to mourn this ending relationship.
For me, grieving has always been about watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of books. Talking to a counselor and then connecting with some friends. Do something cathartic. Allow yourself to heal. Then, after the time has passed, you can reach out to him and see how he is doing. You will always love him in some way, but it may hurt a little less.
This piece was published on July15 as part of The Hopscotch Hijabi’s 2015 Interfaith Ramadan Series.
This post was first published on July 8th as a part of Hindtrospective’s 2015 My Mosque, My Story: A Side Entrance Ramadan
If there was ever a time I felt completely at a disadvantage while parenting Muslim children, it is during Ramadan. I am so often embarrassed when we go to the Mosque during Ramadan that I would rather just not go.
I am the only non-Muslim that attends Jummah on a regular basis at our Mosque. We go every Friday because I take my children and I sit with the ladies and we listen. I cover my hair and wear a prayer skirt out of respect for my family and because it is what is appropriate. I’m not out-of-place there because people are used to me. They know I sit there where I can see the speaker. I listen to the khutba and my girls are dressed appropriately. We are attentive participants. We don’t talk when the speaker is talking. We Listen. Once the sermon is finished and the prayer begins, I move to the side and wait until everyone is finished praying. Everyone who is a regular knows this. They know me. We say ‘Hi’ to each other. People ask me to watch their babies while they pray.
But during Ramadan, people come out of the woodwork to attend Jummah Services. It’s the same at churches, during Christmas and Easter, there are members who only show up on holidays. The Arabic Jummah is packed with people trying to reestablish their place as a member of the mosque. The English Jummah is also filling up because people are just learning about it or they are holiday Muslims.
People who don’t know me are showing up, taking my spot on the carpet, and eyeballing me when I’m not praying, judging what they do not understand. Watching us like we are the strangers there, not them.
Because I am the regular, and because I’m so used to new people being welcomed at church, I introduce myself to anyone to appears not to know anyone. I approach them. I say hello. I welcome them to the mosque so they don’t feel out-of-place. I have mentioned before to my husband and friends that I would love for there to be a welcoming committee so that there is at least one person at every prayer to be on the lookout for new people. Or the regulars should have name tags. That way you would know at a glance if someone is just at a new service or is new to the mosque.
I approach them, welcome them and ask if they have been to this mosque before. Or, sometimes I remember meeting them someplace before and I mention that and draw the connection for them. I want the new person to know that they are important and its good that they are there. I want them to feel welcome. After I do all of those things, the first thing they say to me that isn’t a response to my welcome is, “are you fasting? – Do you fast?”
That question shoots me back to that place where I am the odd one out all over again. Invariably I am stunned into silence. I can’t believe that they are so rude to ask. Everything that I plan in my head to respond to their rude behavior flies out of my mind because now I feel like everyone is looking. The spotlight is on me and then I tell them no. I confirm their suspicions that I don’t belong there. They belong and I do not. I’m not part of the club and I can’t masquerade as though I am. I don’t know why I’ve bothered.
I know that the girls are watching though. They see me do this thing, this welcoming. I’m hoping that when they grow older, they will do the same as what I’ve done. If they do, it will be worth all of my embarrassment because the difference will be, when they approach the new person; they will be ambassadors from inside the clubhouse. I will have made a difference here. The mosque will be more welcoming.
Last Friday was the Eid Prayer. As you remember, we’ve been attending our little mosque’s Eid Prayer for several years and each year it the attendance keeps getting larger and larger. Why? Well, I think that the community likes to pray behind our Imam. I also think that they like to pray outside. I think that our youth group does a really great job of organizing the event, from parking attendants to entertainment and the food.
This year, the youth, in cooperation with the Imams of 5 of our mosques, organized 1 huge Unified Prayer Event. It was a beautiful thing to be able to pray with all of our friends. The khutba was in English first and Arabic second. There was more than enough room for everyone. We had a parking shuttle, a photo booth and food trucks! I took many pictures, and even a video of the prayer so I could show you. I’m having a difficult time uploading it though, since it is 8 minutes long. If anyone has advise on how to upload a video that size, please share.