These days, my mind and heart are conflicted. I’m learning and growing as a white woman, who has been raised in a small-ish midwestern town, in a predominantly white environment. I never considered myself racist, but to be honest, I wasn’t cognizant of my privilege until I married Khaled.
Even though he is fair, white people see him as ‘other.’ I struggle with this category. We joke about it, but it is always there. People ask him constantly where he is from. Our knee jerk reaction these days is to tell people we are from Sylvania, but then they look confused…”no, where are you originally from?”
The answer is always the same, Egypt. But I’ve been here for 30 years. You can see in their faces as they look at me and glance at our children they want to ask more questions, but most often, they don’t.
When we go to into Dearborn or the Muslim quarter of any major city, we are prepared to be looked at, questioned. I’ve learned to be ignored or followed..because I am the ‘other’ there. They ask me where I am from. Often, it is assumed I’m Syrian, and it is confusing when I open my mouth and out comes the voice of a midwestern girl. When we visit mosques during our travels, it is confusing to see us. We are stared at, they cautiously watch us to see if we know what we are doing. We know that in many arabic clothing shops, the prices go up because of me.
Our children are comfortable in their unique makeup. They pass for caucasian, white. Their skin is fair, their hair isn’t more than dark brown. They speak with midwestern, Ohio accents. They love the shock value when they tell people that they are half Egyptian. They love to walk into Muslim spaces and see the surprise when they feel at home and others expect them to feel out of place. They seek out Arabic food shops when they need a touchstone because Arabic style food, like kafta, kibbe, shawarma, hummos and rice are their comfort foods.
So, while I teach them of the privilege they have because of their skin, we are also teaching them to be careful because of their religion. Its a double edged line that isn’t easily navigated. In our every day life, if I needed legal help, I wouldn’t hesitate to call the police. I know that this trust I have in our police force is because of my privilege. My kids all feel the same. They would call the police. But would the police react the same to my ladies if they were wearing hijab? If my son decided to wear a kufi? It scares me that I don’t know.
I read the news and listen to what is being said by people who don’t share my privilege. I amplify and do my best to educate myself. Then I take this knowledge and share it with our kids. I want them to know that fine line they walk so they will be armed with as much knowledge as I have. I strive each day to do better, to listen better, to hear better and to say better.
A few weeks ago, we were in Cleveland for the day. We went on a Friday and as it is our custom, when we are in a new city on a Friday, we search for the local mosque. Khaled pulled up the app on his phone and it directed him to Masjid Uqbah. He called, asked if the mosque was Sunni or Shi’a and what time the Jummah was taking place. The Imam was very kind. He said that the mosque was Sunni, but would direct us to other mosques if we needed a different one. He told Khaled what time the Jummah began and that he would look for him after the prayer.
We are always excited when we find a mosque in the city we are in and it looks nice, clean and welcoming. I’m usually apprehensive because I don’t like the unknown. I hate being separated from Khaled, he’s my touchstone when I’m in a new environment.
We entered in the ‘women’s entrance’ along the side of the building after many people hurriedly told us we couldn’t enter the same door as the men. After entering, one of the ladies told us that we could stay downstairs (handicapped accessible area) or there was another area upstairs. We walked down the hallway, stopped at the restroom so the ladies could make wudu and then went upstairs.
The prayer was uneventful. It was as you would expect. Women and children scattered around, sitting on the floor. The wall overlooking the main prayer space was filled in with glass block and there was a small television hanging in front, broadcasting the sermon. We were looked at while we sat there listening to the khutbah. I was happy it was in English. The room was clean and most of the children were well behaved.
What set this mosque apart was what happened afterwards.
One of the women came up to me and smiled. She welcomed us to the mosque. She said she was happy to see us there. She offered me her hand to shake, and it was before I had a chance to stand. I stood up, shook her hand and then greeted her properly.
The warm, welcoming hug I received was the first true, pure hug I had ever had at a mosque. Her whole heart was there, welcoming us and sharing greetings of peace with us. It brought me to tears. I was so filled with the kindness this lady shared with me that as we made our way out of the room, I smiled and greeted the other women. As I walked to the door, another woman grasped my hand, pulled me into a hug and held me. She told me, “be safe out there.”
This woman. This beautiful black, muslim woman told me, a privilege having, non-Muslim woman to be safe. In that moment, as tears came down my face, I looked deep into her eyes, touched her cheek and told her, “You. Be Safe.”
We went down stairs to retrieve our shoes and I tried to collect myself. Once we got there, I looked around and realized that I was the only white woman there. I greeted everyone I made eye contact with and whispered to them, after Salaams, Be Safe.
It is my greatest wish and hope that the rampant violence ends. That we continue to level the playing field. That people, no matter what race or religion they practice are seen as good until they prove otherwise.
Until then, Be Safe.
As Ramadan approached this year, I was asked back to be a contributor to Interfaith Ramadan. I was given several topics to address, but this was the question that I chose:
Raising children in an interfaith household – compromises, difficulties, advantages etc
I sat down to write my submission, but this was the piece that came out. It didn’t seem very Ramadan, so I set it aside and forged ahead with something that was more topic appropriate. You can find my Interfaith Ramadan piece here.
Now, its time to share this piece.
When I fell in love with my husband, I didn’t know he was Muslim. When he asked me to be his wife, I didn’t know that our differences far outweighed our similarities. When we married, I didn’t know that the leap I was taking was so much larger. And when we started our family, I didn’t know that raising Muslim children would redefine my entire life.
I knew, deep in my heart that being in this relationship with Khaled was the catalyst for major challenges in my life, and it was terrifying and exhilarating. My love for him and my trust in who were both were at our cores surpassed my fear. I jumped into a life that would be a journey of learning, growth, pushing outside of the box and making a square peg fit into a mandala shaped hole.
Along this journey, we have found ways to separate the trees from the forest and compromise where it is really important, we choose our battles wisely, and present a united team on all fronts.
Last night, our daughter was invited to stay the night at her friend’s house. This in itself isn’t an unusual occurrence in a child’s life. But what you don’t see under the guise of a simple request to venture forth and bond with her close friend is a careful web of rules and compromises that Khaled and I navigated when this question first came up many years ago.
In Khaled’s childhood, you didn’t spend the night with friends. Cousins? Yes. But people who are not blood relatives? No.
In my childhood, there were always friends sleeping over or I was gone to their houses. I wasn’t close with my cousins. We never really had much in common so my friends became my extended family.
I didn’t think it was a big deal. He did.
Where do we tease this seemingly black and white issue apart to come to a compromise?
What are the larger issues at play here?
Where are we comfortable?
How can we make this work?
In the end, we came to a compromise. It works for our family. It allows for deep ties to develop and adventures to happen within the framework of Islam, American and Egyptian Culture. Our children all know the guidelines and they are not negotiable.
This is a nugget of gold that I share when I’m asked how we make it work. Even the most simple topics become a negotiation, and something that you can figure out if both people are willing to be flexible. Once you come to an agreement of how to handle the question at hand, whether you are following the rules of one culture and religion over the other, or you have smashed everything together and come up with a recipe all your own, parenting in an interfaith family is much easier, and your children will come out the winners.
Happy Tuesday my friends.
This year, The Little Mosque Down the Street™ organized an event that took place four days a week for the smallest Muslims, called Ramadan Kids Club. They worked in cooperation with another Mosque, and for two hours each day, the kids listened to a story, sang some songs and did an activity.
I was invited to provide the activity one day. Here are the pictures. Enjoy!
When I agreed to marry Khaled and raise our future children Muslim, I didn’t understand all of the minute, tiny details of difference that would surface between my upbringing and his.
Aside from the big glaring differences, his – being brought up in a different country, his parents married from a young age and staying together, the apartment in which he grew up, the extended family unit of support he always knew would be there, and his strong religious identity.
Mine – from Ohio, still live in the same general area, parents divorced, craftsman style home in a blue collar neighborhood, despite the large extended family, we were on our own, and a wishy washy religious identity that grew stronger as I aged.
Overcoming these differences has been a growing, stretching and learning experience. Some on my part, some on his. Sometimes there is a clear cut way to deal with an issue, and sometimes we compromise.
In all of this muddling through life, learning how to grow and adapt, I have devised short cut methods for myself to piece together the Islamic knowledge that every Muslim mother has and passes along to her children. Sometimes I realize the hacks are there, and sometimes I don’t.
In 2011, I decided to improve on one of My Islamic Life Hacks that wasn’t really cutting the mustard.
I was sick of the soggy bits of paper and smeared ink, the unclear reminders and tape residue on my mirror from the wudu cheat sheet we had in the bathroom.
After a good amount of research and with the help of my family and my graphic designer, Ian, we developed The Wudu Cling. The Wudu Cling is a repositionable, water resistant, chemical resistant, mirror cling that clearly illustrates the steps of making wudu. It is a gentle reminder of what to do next, so you don’t forget one of the steps while you are learning.
The Wudu Cling has been well received over the last five years, selling in England, Australia, Spain, Germany, France and from the East coast of the United States to the West. The Wudu Cling has made its way to Canada and Puerto Rico.
The Wudu Cling currently hangs in homes, mosques and schools all over the world, helping children and converts prepare for prayer.
Over the last five years of selling The Wudu Cling, I’ve had requests for copies in different languages, and for adjustments in the wording used on the cling.
This Spring, we went back to the drawing board and are pleased to announce that we have an updated design.
I am so excited to be able to offer this new and improved design to you that I can’t wait for it to arrive! Starting today, you can pre-order your very own New Wudu Cling at the pre-sale price. Go now, order and tell your friends.
A few weeks ago, we had an abundance of fruit that needed to be used, and I was all smoothie’d out. Kate and I searched through our trusty Blue Book* trying to find out what we could make with the bananas and mangos we had on hand.
She came upon a recipe I had printed out for Jell-o Jigglers. I know they are probably second nature to some of you, but I don’t have a great memory for recipes. The ones I reuse over and over, I print out.
Then we had the idea of making Jell-o Salad. You know, the kind using a fancy pan with the fruit suspended in the sweet gelatin. PLUS we wanted to layer the whole thing with different flavors and fruit.
I looked up how to make a jello salad with the fruit, carefully avoiding the pineapple and kiwi that the box mentions not to use and we got our bundt pan from the pantry. Apparently, now that I’m searching for supporting documentation, I wasn’t supposed to use mango either, but I did.
So, we took two of the big boxes of strawberry and mixed it up in one bowl and then two small boxes of berry blue and mixed those up in another, both using the quick set directions. Then, chopped up the fruit and waited for everything to become soft set or egg-white consistency.
We sprayed the pan and poured the jello into the mold, mixing in the fruit and layering as appropriate. You can find all the directions here.
We waited patiently and then was rewarded with a beautiful jello salad! It was a little loose, so I’m not sure if it was because of the mango or if I need to reduce the amount of water I used. Regardless, it was beautiful because it came out of the pan in 1 piece, and it was delicious.
I was so proud of my new accomplishment that I wanted to share it with my community at the weekly iftar dinners. If you remember, our Little Mosque Down the Street™ holds weekly community iftars on Saturday nights, and everyone brings a dessert (or two) to share.
I didn’t unleash my new recipe this last week because I was really excited about trying out Ina Garten’s Mocha Icebox Cake recipe. Plus, I was really busy this last week and it is SO easy. We had them both made in 45 minutes.
We went to the iftar and the Mocha Icebox Cakes were an absolute HIT. I ended up sitting with two ladies that I feel really comfortable with and we got to talking about the food and desserts in particular. I mentioned my new accomplishment and that I wanted to bring jello salad next weekend, but I wasn’t sure because its JELLO. Y’no, gelatin.
Then both sympathized with me. Yeah, I don’t want to be that girl who has to bring home her dessert because it didn’t pass muster.
But Khaled and I were at the grocery store picking up some odds and ends yesterday and one of those items was jello. Then I noticed that many of the boxes have a Κ on the label. That Κ denotes that the item fulfills the Kosher requirements of not having Pork ingredients.
While that is good enough for me, I didn’t want to share this info with you unless I looked a little further.
So I found this website that talks about Islamic Dietary Laws and Kosher symbols. Specifically:
The letter “K” indicates that the food is Kosher-that is, it also complies with Jewish dietary laws and has been processed under the direction of a rabbi. The Hebrew word “Kosher” means permitted according to Torah Law.
When you see these letters, they mean that the product does not contain anything from an animal or pork origin. But it still may contain alcohol. So please check labels.
I searched a little further, and found a secondary source:
Is it Kosher and Pareve?
“JELL-O Brand gelatin is certified as Kosher by a recognized orthodox Rabbi as per enclosed RESPONSUM. In addition to being Kosher, Jell-O is also Pareve, and can be eaten with either a meat meal or a dairy meal.”
So, this is lovely information. This means I’m going to be bringing some jello salad to an iftar in the near future.
Of course there will be some who will see my dish and pass over it because they don’t know what we know.
For those of you still unconvinced about the whole Kosher jello debate, I found this brand right below the Jell-o brand, nearest the store brand boxes.
Bakol Jel Dessert. I bought a few boxes to try out. If it works just the same, I might use this brand and bring the boxes with me.
*Blue Book is the blue 3 ring binder where I store all of my most beloved recipes, printed out from the internet and shared from trusted foodie friends.
Today was the first day of fasting. Like many others, I thought that fasting was supposed to begin on Tuesday. I didn’t find out until Sunday and we had plans to be away from home all day.
This morning for suhoor, we had bacon waffles, scrambled eggs, strawberries, blueberries, big glasses of milk and water.
The bacon waffles were inspired by an episode of Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show I overheard on Saturday.
Click here if you want to follow Trisha’s recipe.
We eat Maple Leaf Duck Bacon when we want that smoky, crispy element to our meals. I thought Trisha’s recipe was flawed in that there could be some pieces of the waffle that lacked the bacon flavor. I decided to chop up the raw bacon and proceed with her instructions of placing it on the waffle iron to cook before adding the waffle batter.
I made them fresh yesterday and then put the leftovers in the freezer. I learned earlier this year that I could put the leftover pancakes and waffles on a sheet pan and freeze them individually and then re-heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds for instant breakfasts that my kids Love.
Tonight, we are having pot roast panini, tossed salad and fruit. Dates, mango juice and lots of water will accompany our meal.
I’ve also started reading The Wild Diet by Abel James so I’m sure I’ll be switching things up and trying new recipes this month as I learn more about eating cleaner.
What did you eat today?
It seems like everything I read these days online is about the election candidates, Ramadan or college.
Seriously! I’m done with the election already. Whatever democrat is the nominee, that’s who I’m voting for. Boom. Done Deal. Next!
Ramadan? Well, honestly I’ve been thinking about and planning for Ramadan for 3 months now. Searching for new breakfast ideas, shopping for Eid abayas, thinking about celebrating the Eid, hosting an iftar or two. Inviting non-Muslims to participate in some small way. Now, it will be here in a week and I’m already done.
I’m a planner. I don’t do spur of the moment. Not usually, ever. Two weeks ago I sat down with my family and talked about last year’s Ramadan. What did you like? What did you hate? What do you want to do differently?
They love the colorful dishes we use. Our decorations. Eating together and then spending the hour or two afterwards just being together.
They didn’t have any complaints.
I suggested inviting someone over for iftar. Mr & Mrs. Imam moved to another state, so they won’t be coming this year. Who should we invite? Lets plan it now before its too late. Community iftars every Saturday – Yes.
Taraweeh at the mosque? Friday and Saturday – Maybe.
Next weekend our little mosque down the street is having its first open house. I was invited to join the planning committee last week. Yes, it was late in the process and everything had already been decided, but I was asked to participate. So, I said yes. I had already invited my good friend to the open house so I knew I would be there. Now, I’ll be there in an official capacity, representing the mosque and being a resource to other visitors.
This week I’m working on wrapping up Spring Cleaning. I started late this year because of outside commitments and now I still have quite a bit left. I feel like I’m on a deadline, even if its self imposed. I guess that helps me to stay focused.
Why am I reading about colleges? Well, Mr. Fox is getting to be that age and we need to go on college visits. He’s got a few ideas about his top pics but we haven’t been on any tours or visits yet. Those also need to be planned for the upcoming weeks so he will know where to apply in the fall.
It all so much more complicated than when I thought about college. When I was that age, my school counselor wasn’t talking to me about making my application look good with volunteering and diversifying my interests. In fact, I don’t remember ever talking to my school counselor. I graduated high school, that summer I took the ACT – once. And applied at the local university.
The Wudu Cling focus group is moving along nicely. I will most likely be announcing the new design soon. This process has been really interesting. Color schemes, word choices, layout…in each change, the design grows and morphs into something just a little better.
Has your summer started already? School ended last Friday and I’m already in the summer mode. I didn’t sleep in today, but got up and made coffee, then started some laundry and did a few chores. But I’m writing from my room instead of the kitchen.
What plans do you have for the next month?