March 2017 archive

I did it!

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Today was my TEDx Edina talk.

There is something to be shared about the Lebanese approach to multi-religious co-existance, that could help eliminate prejudice against Muslims here in America. In my talk, I highlighted what I beleive are solutions in that direction for us here at home in the US.

I am so thankful for this great opportunity sharing my “Lebanese approach to help eliminate prejudice against Muslims here in the US”.

Thank you God for the boundless blessings and for choosing me as means to spread peace and understanding in my state.

Thank you #TEDxEdina for amplifying our community’s voices and spreading our ideas. Thank you Barbara La Valleur for your continuous encouragement and support. I also want to thank my husband and daughter for being there for me and putting up with me through this process. Thank you Rauda, Raghda, Nausheen and Farah for being there for my moment and sharing my highs and lows. Finally, thank you all my FB friends and blog followers for all your advices, support and for believing in my message.

A lot of work ahead. Will share the online video as soon as it is available.

Love you all

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Message of peace goes viral

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Amazing things have been unfolding recently. I published an article I wrote on a recent experience that happened to me in my hair salon, on a private group called Pantsuit Nation. The article got more than 110,000 likes and around 7000 comments.

Today I was interviewed by Kare 11 on this with Jana Shoral, we had amazing time chatting.

Please share and spread the word.
It’ll be featured at 6:30PM CT on Kare 11, Breaking the news show. Here’s the link!

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Give those thoughts a trim

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A couple of weeks ago I was having a haircut in a Twin Cities hair salon. The staff was nice enough to accommodate my special need for a private place and a no-man zone during the time I have my haircut while my hijab is off. The salon has a higher, more private platform level in which I can have my haircut.

It was slightly busier than usual. I sat down and removed my head covering, placing it in my bag, then chatted away with my hairdresser. As we started working on a hairstyle, another hairdresser came back from the washing area with her client and settled in their station across from us. Neither of them had seen me coming in wearing my hijab before starting their conversation.

As I was flipping through a magazine and sipping my coffee, I heard the words, “Sharia law.” I saw another hairdresser looking at me as if she was aware of something I was not. I then overheard more of their conversation.

Hairdresser: “… them and the Sharia law they practice …”
Client: “Yeah. … Did you know they are implementing the Sharia law in our public schools?”

Then they continued discussing the practice of polygene, whereby a man can have “eight wives.” “It’s actually three,” the other corrected.

Texted for advice

I sank in my seat and listened. I reached out to my phone and texted my husband for advice. He replied back: “Do what you do best — after your haircut though.” So I did.

As I walked toward the checkout, I asked my hairdresser to call her colleague over so I could talk to her. She went to the other station and asked the hairdresser, then came back saying, “I am sorry she cannot come and speak to you. She is with her client.” I then asked my hairdresser to go back and ask her if I could come to her station and talk to her for few minutes. She did and came back with the same message. The other hairdresser was “unavailable.”

By then the assistant manager had noticed my attempts to engage in a conversation and asked if I wanted to leave a message for the hairdresser. Seeing no other option, I accepted. She gave me a piece of paper and this is what I wrote:

“Dear Friend, I overheard the conversation with your client talking about Sharia Law and Islamic practices. As a Muslim woman, I want to ask if you have a Muslim friend or an Islamic source where you get your information. I believe we need to be more informed in our conversations, making them part of the solution and not part of the problem. I would like to be your new Muslim friend. I really hope you’ll reach out to me to meet for a coffee or chat whenever you are free.”

I then left my name and phone number in the hopes that she would actually call. I am still waiting.

Later, an awesome conversation

A few days ago I was working out with my friend at the gym, which is located in the same building as the hairdresser complex. The assistant manager came up to me with a shaky voice and trembling hands, thanking me for my letter and gracious approach.

“Your letter brought a lot of people to tears and I want to apologize for what you had to go through in our salon.” I took her words as permission to give her a sweaty hug. Then we had an awesome conversation about unity, diversity and Lebanese food.

“Forgive my comment, but we are not really used to having people from your community come across with such grace,” she said. I couldn’t agree more.

“It’s my Islamic teaching that compelled me to reach out, modeling my prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, in his mercy and compassion,” I replied. “Please tell that hairdresser I am still hoping she will call,” I concluded.

I know there are a lot of people in Minnesota and, indeed throughout the U.S., having similar conversations. My hope is that we will have the courage to talk about these uncomfortable topics and reach out to one another with nothing but love.

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Ban the burkini ban

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How the same decision that claims to liberate women actually oppresses them!

In 2004 I was in France reporting on the Cannes Advertising Festival on behalf of ArabAd Magazine, not only as an Arab, but also as a Muslim woman and a veiled one. For a whole week I was following up on the Arab delegation, arranging interviews with winners and even scoring with the festival’s highest rank and advertising celebrities. I was very proud of myself and thought I deserved a day off before traveling back to Lebanon.

Nice, as the closest town to Cannes, was my leisure destination and I enjoyed wandering aimlessly at its charming Sunday market. The craft kiosks lining up next to farmers’ colorful produce and eclectic bags fascinated me. I looked forward to having breakfast at one of the local cafés. As I was entering the establishment, a long skinny waitress blocked my way and said in a snooty French accent: “Where are you going?” I said naively, “I want to have breakfast.” She said, “The restaurant is booked.” I looked around and saw people coming in and out freely. Clearly the restaurant was not booked. The waitress turned to me and huffed, “People like you have no place in this restaurant.”

Back in my hotel room, I cried my eyes out. I vowed that night never to be quieted again.

The animosity toward Muslims in France dates to long before recent terrorists attacks. The ban on “conspicuous religious symbols,” including headscarves in 2004 and the full-face covering in 2011, was the start. Its latest iteration bans the burkini, a swimwear designed to cover most of the body worn primarily by Muslim women. The religious obligation for women to cover their bodies stems from the concept of modesty that Muslim women believe in — in simple terms, converging the attention on women’s thoughts rather than their bodies and bodily assets. Objecting to the ban on the burkini should be the quest of every woman.

Double standards

This decision exposes the West to double standards, furthering discussions on the clash of civilizations. In most cultures, isn’t a woman free to wear whatever she wants? Isn’t a Muslim woman’s body her own and isn’t she free to claim it in totality and proclaim it as private property the very same way a so-called “liberal” woman proclaims her private parts as private?

The West is still struggling with women’s freedom, and this decision proves it. Why is it that 21st-century male state officials are deciding what parts of a woman’s body she should show or cover? Where is the feminist movement in this? Isn’t the ban on the burkini another way of forcing women to strip?

The ban on the burkini is troublesome, to say the least. The Muslim women who have fled patriarchal communities are facing a different kind of oppression in the West, specifically in Europe, one that imposes a specific oppressive ideology in the name of freedom. France is failing to acknowledge its religion of “no religion.” Is it hypocritical of France to oppose the very same values it preaches?

Rights protected in U.S.

I thank God for the U.S. Constitution. I truly do. The great country I live in guarantees my right to practice freely and display the beauty of my religion without advocating for it in governmental institutions, whatever my religion is. Our founding fathers got it right and I believe this is why the U.S. is far better at dealing with terrorism than Europe. That is unless Donald Trump becomes president.

My headscarf is my invisible crown. I take pride in covering my body so people can focus more on what I say and be less critical of my shape. My body image is totally my own and I am not fighting the society to prove my size is appropriate or perfect in its imperfections. My body is simply mine.

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