November 2014 archive

Minority? Me?

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untitledI was attending an open house at my kid’s preschool, when a mother came up to me and expressed her gratitude about an email I have sent out earlier to all parents, explaining about my religion, in the context of an event taking place in the near future.  As she was talking to me, she said something like “I totally appreciate how you put yourself all out there, and I understand how you would feel as a minority in this country”…. My brain froze for a second and said: “did she just call me a minority?” I couldn’t follow up on what she said next, as the rest of the conversation picked up in my own head.

I never considered myself a minority in this country. I am white so it cannot be the race factor. I am a Muslim, but then so is a million other women who do not wear the veil, so are they considered a minority too? Is it the fact that I look different? So could a rugged dressed person considered a minority as well? I guess not. People will just say he is different. What is it then?

What made me a minority in her eyes, and the eyes of many others? If she said I am a minority then I probably am perceived this way. But I kept wondering why I, personally, do not consider myself a minority. I am a Muslim woman, of Lebanese origin, living in the US. For me it stopped there. She was a Christian woman of, for example, Swedish ancestors born and living in the US. Why can’t we human beings broaden our understanding of co-existence and blur the barriers that define us? We have a lot more in common than our differences.

KabaThis silly idealistic conversation in my head took me back to my pilgrimage journey, back in 2007. I was in Mekka performing the acts of worship alongside a couple of other million people from different parts of the world, black, white, poor, rich, ignorant and educated, a beautiful mosaic of human beings all dressed up in simple white clothes, performing one task. One cannot tell a king from a genitor in that place. We were all equal in each other’s eyes. There was no minority there. There was one majority. Not because we were all Muslims, but because we were all there for one reason: worship God the way, we believe, He wants us to worship Him. When a higher mission is set forth, people will unite under it.

While that task unites Muslims all over the world, it could be argued among other religions. Some want to worship God and some just don’t want to get God into the equation. Some believe He exists and some are still thinking about it. But could we as human beings come up with a platform from which we can all be equal? Is there a task that can contain all our differences and definitions of ourselves? Good versus bad maybe? Could it be possible that we have become so self-indulged that we simply cannot think of anything beyond our own desires and aspirations?

Diversity, a valued term in our time, is still a term segmented in nature. Diversity contains labeling. What if we were all one majority. Wouldn’t that be enriching? Would we be looking at any other person as one of us?

Peace and blessings be upon the prophet that said: “people are all equal just like a comb’s teeth. There is no preference of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a white over black, except in piety”. And piety in every religion or philosophy can only be good.

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Veiled in the Jacuzzi!!!

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JacuzziJetHow could it be that the only place I want to be left alone, is the place where people talk to me the most? It is rare that people strike up a conversation with me waiting at the doctor’s office, standing in line at the supermarket, waiting outside my daughter’s school… I am mostly avoided. I see it in people’s eyes or I rather don’t, because people even avoid eye contact. I would love to think that it is not because of a piece of cloth on my head called hijab.

But I keep going back to the Jacuzzi experience and contemplate.

At the gym we frequent, the Jacuzzi is situated in the women’s locker room. So I go there to relax and unwind after a good workout. Since it is privately positioned, I can remove my veil and slip into my swim wear. I become like most people. I blend in. So people find it easier to approach me. Even though while I am sitting in that Jacuzzi, I can’t stop thinking I am still the very same veiled person, the one who believes in modesty, I still have the same set of ideas and convictions. I am still a Muslim and fully committed to my religion. Nothing is different except the way I am dressed.

What makes us different? What makes each and every one of us different? Is it our appearance? Our faces? Our skin color? Our ideas? Beliefs? What makes us free? Is it what we have been told to do? Or not to do?

Personally, I think freedom is liberating yourself from any obligations except the ones that you yourself consider valid, with all respect to civil and legal ethics, of course. That is what I stand for with my hijab. I have an obligation towards the one that created me and no one else. Islam commands women to cover their hair and dress modestly and behave in a respectful manner.

This helps protect their identity and shed more light on their personalities and intellect. It will also preserve society from corruption and families from dismantlement. Muslim women choose to wear the hijab. Yes, we choose to do so. It gives us peace. Peace within and peace around us, at home, at work, or wherever we are.

Who could have thought a piece of cloth can do all this? Try taking a scarf today and wrap it round your head. What do you see? This time, perhaps you will see the world from a different perspective.


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Why most Muslims don’t celebrate Halloween, and why some do?

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2006eid2What’s the big deal? Halloween is just about costumes and candy. To most people this is what Halloween stands for, but for those who dig deeper there is more meaning to it, some which intercepts Islamic teachings.

First, it is worth shedding some light on the dark underside of this apparently fun and cute occasion. The manifestation of which comes in death-related costumes, sorcerers, witchcraft and blood. The fact is, on “All Hallow’s Eve”, the occasion’s original name, the dead were believed to come back to life and walk among the living. Dressing up in scary costumes would mistake the spirits for one of their own. Another way to be spared was to offer them sweets and earn their good favor, alongside multi-million -dollar candy factories.

The carved pumpkin, which was originally a turnip, was believed to have saved a soul trapped between heaven and hell. Pumpkin lanterns were a way to scare away spirits and save tormented souls.

Of course, no one reviews this information before they set off their kids on a Halloween night, and no teacher goes through the intention behind today’s parade before lining students up for it. But as Muslims, figuring the meaning out of every action in our life and tracing it back to prophet Mohammad and his teachings, Halloween simply does not fit in. It is the upper world that Muslims try to connect to in their daily practices, not the lower one. The place that angels occupy and where wisdom flows endlessly. It is in this world that souls receive guidance, meanings and are closer to being in harmony with the cosmic unity, not the lower world.

When compared to the two main Islamic holidays, the “Festival of Breaking the Fast” which marks the end of a month-long fasting, and the Greater Festival which takes place during the pilgrimage season, Halloween simply doesn’t live up to their significance and importance. And while these two blessed occasions are about giving and sharing, their odd third cannot be about tricking and taking.

After all the above reasons, why would a Muslim family celebrate Halloween, as a lot of them do? Simply because, just like a lot of American Christian families, they don’t think much of it and the kids look way too cute in their costumes. That however is not a reason to judge or scale their commitment to their beliefs. It is just another choice they make along the way.

For us as a family, Halloween season only means savory pumpkin pies at the dinner table that we thank God for. Absolutely nothing wrong with this one!



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