It’s time to stand up and teach boys better

The recent accounts of rapes involving teenagers has led me to do some thinking.  I will warn you, this is not an average blog post.   It’s more of a run on essay, an open letter if you will. 
 
In the media recently there has been a high profile rape case in Steubenville, OH.  Two teenage football players were accused, and ultimately convicted, of raping a drunken teenage girl at a series of parties. 
The victim in this case was the victim not only of sexual assault, but of bullying for reporting her assault.  She was bullied online by classmates and strangers who blamed her for her assault and accused her of “ruining” the lives and “promising” futures of the two young men ( I call them young men and not boys because of their proximity to 18) who assaulted her.  After the trial she received death threats and two teenage girls were arrested and currently are sitting in jail awaiting their own trial. 

Today I saw in the news another high school.  This time in Torrington, CT.  Another set of teenagers.  Two new sets of rapes.  Two teenage girls being bullied for reporting their assaults.  This time, however, the girls are much younger.  They are 13, and the men accused of raping them are 18.  One is currently awaiting trial on robbery charges.  Charming.  The facts of the case are not out yet but I feel the need to address some of the very disturbing trends I am seeing in the media and with peoples responses to these events.
 
Recently there was a college that put out a flyer to freshman girls with advice on “how to avoid being raped”.  Media reports of the events talk about the perpetrators and how their lives are ruined.  They air comments and questions that ask the victim what they were doing in that situation.  Why were they drinking?  Why were they hanging out with older boys?  Etc…  This morning I watched Dr Phil and he had a young couple on who had deliberately gotten pregnant at 15 and dumped the baby on the girls’ mother.   At the end of the show he offered advice to parents “what to say to your daughter tonight so she doesn’t come home pregnant tomorrow”.    No mention of “what to say to your son tonight so he doesn’t get a girl pregnant tomorrow”.
 
There seems to be an accepted norm today that girls are responsible for everything, boys for nothing.  This is an unequal relationship, and yet the person with the least power, the person with the least to gain and the most to lose is assigned sole responsibility for everything that goes on in the “relationship”.  In a “relationship” where one person is essentially being used as currency, because that is what is going on here, young girls barter themselves to the older “popular” boys in exchange for perceived elevated “status”.   In the end, it’s the boy who receives elevated status as a “stud” and the girl who suffers humiliation and name calling.  In the end, it’s the girl who finds herself in a situation she either didn’t ask for or didn’t understand and suffers the consequences.  She’s the one who is told she shouldn’t have been doing x,y,z.  The boy, in many cases, receives a pat on the back for racking one up.  At worst a slap on the wrist for going too far.  Only recently are we seeing young men be brought up on charges for their crimes.  But we still hear the same rhetoric pointed towards young women advising them how to avoid these situations.   In the Torrington case @LoryyRamirez on Twitter asked “what was a 13 year old girl doing hanging around 18 year old guys[?]”  I’m sorry, but the question should be what are two 18 year olds doing hanging around 13 year old girls?!
 
I will admit, I was one of those girls.  I did stupid things and put myself in bad situations and suffered the consequences.  I left high school with a shredded reputation and low self-esteem.   I hid it all under a screen of smiles and forced pleasantry with people I couldn’t wait to get away from.   People scorned me and blamed me for everything.  As an adult I am able to see that young lady for what I was, and the events in my life for what they were.   And that is why I write this today.
 
We need to do a better job raising our sons.  Yes, you read that right.  I said SONS.  Enough has been laid at the feet of young women.  Enough responsibility they are not able to handle has been handed to them.  We need to hold the other side accountable for their actions as much as we do the girls.   Girls are treated as play things, as chips in a giant poker game held by boys trying to raise themselves to the ranks of men.  Truthfully, they just emulate what they see on TV and in popular culture.   Women’s bodys are used to sell everything from sandwiches to luxury cars.   Boys are taught that it’s ok to “play” with the girls and have “fun”.  They are rarely held accountable for anything that happens. 
We need to put a stop to this.  Instead of teaching our daughters how to avoid being raped, we need to teach our sons NOT to rape.  We need to teach our sons boundaries, limitations and respect.  We need to teach our sons that no means no.  That a woman’s body is her own, not his to enjoy.  Not his to manipulate and cajole into his desires.   Not his to take advantage of.   We need to change this culture of “boys will be boys”. 

We teach our daughters how to avoid being raped, we tell them to dress modestly, don’t go out late at night, don’t drink too much et.  Much of this is good advice regardless, but we forget that we live in an imperfect world.  Where skimpy clothes and drinking alcohol are “cool” and girls face amazing pressure to cave to these things.  When they do, the boys think that means the girls are “fair game”.  They were never taught boundaries.  They were never taught that no means no.  They were never taught that digitally penetrating an unconscious female is rape.  That rape is not just violent and angry… it’s silent and coerced as well.  Rape is not about sex, but about power and control.  And that is what young men want and have.  They have the power and the control.  And none of the responsibility.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?   During the assault of the young lady in Steubenville another young man walked in on it.  He had just taken the keys from a different young man who was too drunk to drive.  But yet, when faced with a completely helpless girl being sexually assaulted he walked away.  He didn’t think it was rape because it wasn’t violent. 
 
When it comes to teen pregnancy, like was covered on Dr Phil today, boys basically can walk away.  They don’t suffer the consequences of pregnancy.  They don’t carry a baby for 9 months, suffer the stigma of being a “teen dad”.  In fact, they can simply say “she’s a hoe, it’s not mine” and carry on with their lives.  Only if the girls parents pursue DNA testing can paternity be established and the court involved to demand the boy take responsibility.  But, really, when do they? 
 
I am the mother of 3 boys under the age of 7.  I figure I have another 5 years to fully instill in my oldest absolute respect for women.   I must teach him and his brothers not only to respect women, but to honor them and to protect them.  To stand up for them when no one else will.  Because I am raising them in a world where it is still ok to hurt those weaker than yourself.   Please help me change this world in which they are growing up in.  Please help me teach young boys about responsibility and respect.  We cannot continue this way.

The minds of children

I recently decided it was time to start teaching my two oldest sons about the Prophets. I had gone round and round in my head with how to introduce religion to the boys and decided that the Prophets was a great starting point. Well my older boys are 6yrs and 4 yrs old so I know I need to go slow and at a level they can understand. To help I recently purchased a book “Stories of the Prophets in the Holy Qur’an” by Ruth Woodhall and Shahada Sharelle Abdul Haqq. This book is great. It has stories of all 25 Prophets, written in chronological order from Adam to Muhammed. There is a wonderful little forward explaining why some stories are long and some short. The book itself is written in a style that appeals to children but doesn’t minimize the importance of the stories and the lessons taught in each.

I thought it would be good to read about one Prophet a night to the boys. This way we could do a small Q&A at the end and discuss what we learned. Boy was I in for a treat. My oldest son Gabriel has used what I have dubbed “The God card” for a while now. What I mean is, in any kind of disagreement or argument, if Gabriel feels he is losing or being “one upped” he will bring God into it. For example, a boy asked Gabriel once how old he was. Gabriel told him, the boy then told Gabriel his age and said that he was older than Gabriel. The boys dad pointed out he was older than the two of them. Not one to be outdone, Gabriel responded “well, God is older than everyone”. Ok then. There is no arguing with that now is there? This was Gabriels response to someone telling him they were bigger than him “well, God is bigger than everyone”. lol, you get the picture. So… I read the story of Prophet Adam. Gabriel was sitting straight up, when I got to the part of the story where Adam and Eve eat the fruit, his eyes got huge and jaw dropped. He leaned forward and I thought he would fall off the bed. When I finished the story Gabriels face said it all. He asked me “Does Satan make you do bad things?” Now, I understand my 6 yr old has a very active imagination and I dont want to get too heavy into the devil and hell and hellfire and all that jazz. But the questions this child asks. “mom, what happens if you don’t do what God tells you to do?” Well, then God is not happy with you hun… “Does he put you in jail?!” … Kinda, sure. (at this point my husbands shoulders are shaking)

So this morning all Gabriel wanted to talk about was SaTan… and I capitalize the T because he over pronounces the T to the extent I must show it. lol.. My eyes are NOT half open, I am in the kitchen making breakfast and Gabriel is talking about SaTan, and how SaTan makes you do bad things. Then he comes to the kitchen “mom, I got it… SaTan makes you punish me”… umm WHAT?! no… I raise an eyebrow and look at him in my best mom stare (Im trying REAL hard not to laugh) and he smiles that nervous smile “umm… SaTan makes me do bad things and then you punish me?” Child go eat! lol… Later in the morning I am at work, my husband has taken the two older boys to school and he calls me. He tells me about the crazy conversation on the way to school. Gabriel asks ” can you drive down the middle of the road?” nope. “Why not?” because you would block the other cars. “oh, does SaTan make you block the other cars?”… My son…lol.. I think we may be on the Prophet Adam a little bit longer than I planned.

Long time no post!

Salams all!  It has been quite some time since my last post and for that I apologize.  Shortly after my last post I found I was pregnant with my 3rd child, alhamdulillah!  While it was a fairly uneventful pregnancy I needed to focus on me and my family and didn’t have time to compose thoughtful posts and I didn’t want to short change you with my lackluster thought process.  I will admit, I get pregnancy brain horribly!  My newest addition was another boy.  He is now 4 months old I have much more time and energy to contribute. 

This last year has been amazing.  Getting pregnant so soon after starting to wear hijab made this experience very interesting.  Within a few weeks I switched from the oblong shayla style to an easier Al-Amira slip on style.  I like to keep things as simple as possible when I am otherwise always uncomfortable.  I got a bunch of them on sale online at Middle Eastern Mall based in Texas.  They have great prices, a huge selection and fast shipping.  I am now looking forward to getting back into my wrap styles and trying new colors and styles. 

One repeated experience I have had over this last year is seeing peoples reactions to me.  People who knew me before I covered and people I just see while out and about.    People I knew were great, I got asked a lot about how I came to my decision to cover and even received suggestions for colors!  :)  People I didn’t know were a mixed bag.  I noticed some would look away, some looked closer, and a small minority would look nervous.  Even when I got big and round lol.  I made a special point to notice when people looked nervous and to smile brightly and say HI!  9 out of 10 times I got a smile in return and the nervousness would melt away.  I began to wonder about the nervousnes of people and noticed that many of the sisters I have seen around here tend to be very guarded in their expressions, to the point of looking sullen.  I even very rarely get a smile in return from some sisters.  It began to make me wonder if I make people nervous, lol.  I do believe that a smile goes a long way.  It can settle the nerves of even the most suspicious of people.  Your face is the first thing people see normally, and when you wear the hijiab it is the intended focal point of your whole self.  So why have the first impression people have of you be one of sadness or reservation.  I am not saying go out and talk to everyone you see or smile like a loon all day.  But, remember, we as women are the face of Islam.  People judge us immediately by the way we look, they judge our religion as a whole by the way we look.  If we look sad and oppressed, people will think our hijab (and in turn our religion) makes us that way.  Smiling is the best and easiest form of charity.  It puts people at ease and opens lines of communication, which can always lead to dawah.  And besides… smiling improves your mood no matter what!  so… SMILE!  It’s Sunnah!

 

 

Perspective

Eid Mubarak,
I know I am a little late.  It has been a rough and exhausting week.  This Ramadan was a real eye opener for me.  I have discovered myself in ways I never imagined possible.  And in the last week I have seen some real extremes in people.  When I first put on the hijab I was nervous.  I was nervous about how I would be treated by non-Muslims.  Specifically my co-workers.  I didn’t want to suddenly be the black sheep in the office.

Amazingly, my fears were unfounded.  After a few days of uncertainty, most from men who were not sure how to act around me anymore, I have been finding that people are actually nicer to me.  It’s not the forced niceness you see when people don’t really want to deal with you. It’s as if I have earned a new level/type of respect from my coworkers.  They see me in a new light.  I think many of them realize that they really don’t know me.  This has led to many interesting conversations and Q&A sessions.  I am happy to say I feel like I am giving people a very positive view of Islam and Muslim women. 

During Ramadan I did a lot of things.  I prayed, I fasted, I read my Quran etc.  I also participated in a couple of “Ramadan” contests.  Some of the blogs and websites I frequent had giveaways and contests during Ramadan.  One specifically got me all jazzed up.  I will not name the contest or the blog, but the prize was an abaya.  They were all gorgeous and I picked my favorite.

 The contest ran for the whole month.  At the end of the month she named the winner.  The sister she did pick, however, did not establish contact in a reasonable amount of time so she picked another winner.  What came next was embarrassing and horrifying for all who witnessed it.  The friends of the sister who originally won, for lack of a better explanation, flipped out.  One even cussed at the poor woman running the blog.  Really?  Things went from bad to worse when the sister who had originally won finally got online and joined in the fray.  At one point she called out the newest winner to reject the abaya in her favor.  Really?!

 To give the sister who runs the blog credit, she kept her cool.  She stuck by her decision to go with a new winner.  The new winner, poor sister, does not want her name revealed because of all the negativity.  Who can blame her?  I was disappointed as well that I did not win.  But, it’s a dress.  Sure, it’s a beautiful dress I would never normally be able to afford.  But at the end of the day, it’s a dress.  Some were acting like their food and water ration for the day had been cut.  I think what many of those sisters lacked was perspective.  Not to mention appreciation for all that Allah (swt) has given them.  Which is a shame, considering it’s the end of Ramadan, the month where we are supposed to be reflecting on these gifts and thanking Allah (swt) for them.

This last week has been full of highs and lows for me and some of my closest friends.  While the abaya contest was winding down, Hurricane Irene was tearing up the east coast of the United States.   When it was all said and done, many of my friends had no electricity and some had property damage.  One of my friends lost her home completely.  COMPLETELY.  We are talking 4 feet of water and mud in her home.  Every belonging, all the children’s toys in the blink of an eye, gone.  They were evacuated so suddenly they didn’t have a chance to get their cats, who miraculously survived.  But, they are all alive and well, the home and its contents are just that: things.  Perspective, people. 

 The same day my friend lost her home, another mutual friend of ours lost her child.  Her beautiful 3 yr old boy.  This child was so beautiful and strong it broke all of our hearts to lose him.  In the last week we have been raising money to help our friend with this heavy burden.  To my amazement within a few short days we had raised well over $3,000.  In this tough time when everyone is struggling financially, people are pulling it all together to give what they can to help our dear friend Aimee.   People who had never met our friend or her child are giving and offering to help.  Alhamdulillah, there is so much love pouring out to help this woman. 

 My point in telling you these stories is to ask everyone to try to gain a little perspective.  It’s not just about my friends.  But everywhere in the world, people are losing the things they hold dearest to them.  They are struggling to survive.   While we enjoy the safety and the warmth of our homes and comfort of food in our bellies, people all over the world are sleeping under the open sky with empty bellies wondering if they will live another day.  And if they do live, what new horrors will it bring?  Contests are fun, yes, but in the end who cares?  Every day you are here is a gift from Allah (swt), everything you have you have because Allah (swt) made it possible.  Instead of crying over “spilt milk” try thanking Allah (swt)for the gifts he has given you.  Your health, your family, your home, your very life.  Because in the blink of an eye it could all be over and your ingratitude will follow you to judgement. 

 To read Brayton’s story and to help Aimee, please follow this link:

http://icare4causes.yolasite.com/brayton.php

Finding Islam

Well, it is officially Ramadan!  I have been a hijabi for more than a month now and wow it has been an incredible experience.   I have never been so pleased with myself.   I set a goal and I stuck to it.  I think though, that what has made this so easy for me is Allah.   The fact that I do this not for myself or anyone else, but Allah.  To please Allah.  And that makes me happier than I can express. 

 A common theme in the questions I have gotten from people over the last month has been about when I became a Muslim.  Many thought I had just reverted, which embarrassed me terribly.  It was almost as if even they (people who knew nothing about Islam) knew I should have been in hijab longer than I was.  I know that this process is easier for some, but I always felt badly explaining it to others. 

 What I love telling people about is what led me to Islam, and, insha’allah that’s what I will write about today.  I always knew there was something out there for me.  Something more than what I had ever known.   I was always prone to asking tons of questions when it came to faith.  Sometimes my questions offended and other times just appalled people.  I went through a period of thinking that if I couldn’t see it and touch it, it wasn’t there.  I had a rocky relationship with faith.  I always believed in God.  I just didn’t know how to believe in Him.  If that makes any sense.

 Around the time that I went to college I started trying to be a better person.  I made conscious decisions to make myself a better person.  Over the years I changed myself bit by bit.  After 9/11 I had my faith in humanity shaken.  I couldn’t believe that anyone could do something so terrible, and I closed my heart to Islam.  Two years after the towers fell I was living in a different state with a different job.  I got a horrible case of bronchitis that winter and was in bed for nearly 2 weeks.  One morning I popped out of bed wide awake at dawn and it was like a voice in my head was yelling at me to learn about Islam.  I picked up my laptop and went to work researching everything I could.  Amazingly, for all the hate there is online, I never came across a single Anti-Islamic page in those early months. 

 I read passages from the Quran and read about the five pillars.  I found an online community of Muslims on (of all things) Yahoo! Chat who taught me SO MUCH.  One day, while in chat, someone played the Athaan over the speakers.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I closed my eyes and listened for a moment, amazed at how sweet it sounded to my ears.  When it was over I realized I had been crying.   It awakened a memory long forgotten.  I asked what it was, what was that chanting?  When I was told what it was I was amazed.  And I told them this story.  Years ago, during the first Gulf War, I was standing in my living room while the news was on.  The reporter was somewhere in the Middle East,Kuwait or Saudi Arabia probably.  In the background was this chanting.  I had no idea what it was, or who was doing it.  I didn’t know what a Muslim was or what Islam was.  I was maybe 11-12 years old.  But I remember hearing the chanting playing from a loud-speaker, and the reporter speaking louder.  Even though I didn’t know what it was, I was upset that he continued to speak over it.  I felt that he should have stopped speaking.   I wanted to hear it.  Something inside me recognized it and wanted to hear it more!  When the reporters story was over they changed to something else and the sound was gone.  I never heard it again until that day in 2004.  It had the same effect on me then, but I explained it away as pre-teen hysteria.   

 I don’t believe it was a coincidence.   A short while after the first time I heard the Athaan I was the victim of a violent assault.  I was never the same person I was that day.  It hardened my heart and changed me.   I also do not believe it to be a coincidence that nearly 12 years later I heard the Athaan again and I was closer to being the person I was when I first heard it.  I spent a great deal of time and energy getting back to that person.  I believe that Allah brought me to Islam both times.  I was not ready the first time.  And He brought me back a second time when He knew I was ready. 

 I thank Allah everyday for my second chance.  For showing me the beauty of Islam.  I have never felt more at peace with myself then I do now.  My life has more meaning, more purpose.  I only wish that one day everyone could know this beauty and could feel this love that I have for Allah too.  I know that will not happen for everyone, but I still wish it could!  To you all, I want to express my deepest gratitude, for letting me share all this with you.   

 Ramadan Mubarak!  May Allah bless you all and your families!  Ameen.

Haraam: The things we give up for the sake of Allah

Over the last 7 years since I became a Muslim I have found myself in many situations where I have had to politely decline an offer of food or an invitation out.  I am inevitably asked why I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol.  Explaining that it is against my religion usually gets quick acceptance and even admiration that I take my religion that seriously.  On more than one occasion someone has mistaken my aversion to pork as a religious obligation to mean that I am Jewish, and the ensuing conversation is usually amusing, especially given my background.  Many think that I have always avoided pork and alcohol.  Oh ho, not true.  Let me be clear, before I became a Muslim I lived as any normal American.  This means that I had an alcoholic drink at least once a week and pork was involved in at least 2 of every meal of every day.  It wasn’t until I cut both out of my life that I realized how deeply ingrained they are in American culture and how difficult it is to avoid them.  The level of dedication that this has taken has surprised even me.  I remember they were the first things I gave up when I became a Muslim.  I thought to myself, if I can give these two things up I can do anything! 

 The Quran addresses dietary laws in a number of places, most notably:

 “He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood and swine flesh, and that (food) over which the name of other than God has been invoked; but if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limit, then truly God is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 16:115 & 2:173)

“O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, idols, and raffles, are only a filthy work of Satan; turn aside from them so that you may prosper. Satan only wants to stir up enmity and jealously among you by means of intoxicants and gambling, and to hinder you from remembering God, and from praying. So will you not then abstain?” (Quran 5:90-91)

 These two verses cover pork and alcohol as well as other dietary and lifestyle “rules”.  There are many who see these laws and complain, saying that it is too difficult to abide by such laws.  They ask how I can possibly do it.  I tell them first and foremost it’s not just me.  There are more than 1.8 billion (that’s BILLION with a B) Muslims in the world who don’t eat pork and don’t drink alcohol.  Now, many of them have never eaten pork or a pork product.  They have no idea what it tastes like.  For those of us who give it up for the sake of Allah, we know the challenges it presents.  10 years ago I was the person who told you, if you want to make something better add bacon!  Burgers, eggs, sandwiches, ice cream!  Add bacon!  I am supremely glad I found Islam before they made bacon ice cream. 

Once you get past the idea of giving up food that you may or may not like, there is now a new problem:  How to avoid pork products.  Because it is a relatively cheap animal to raise and process, scientists have found ways to use pork in just about everything.  From pharmaceuticals to food to hair care, it is astounding to find out just how much pork is in everyday life in America.  When I gave it up I had NO idea what a lifestyle change it was going to require.  It’s worse than going gluten-free.  Gelatin is the pork by-product that is used the most everywhere.  Gelatin is, in turn, everywhere.  It’s not just in the obvious bowl of jello.  Soon after I became a Muslim I found out my hair conditioner had gelatin in it.  Then my favorite Noxema face cream.  Next it was my hair gel.  Nail polish and some nail polish removers.  Make up.  I found out that commercially produced cheesecake many times had gelatin in it.  They use it as a setting agent to prevent the cheesecake from cracking during baking.  Ice Cream, sour cream, I found gelatin in RICOTTA Cheese!  REALLY GUYS?  Pop Tarts and even store-bought cakes with fruit filling.  The worst so far is medicine.  I have yet to find a woman’s daily vitamin without gelatin.  Children’s chewables were difficult, but I did find vitamins for my children.  I have had to ask my pharmacist to make my prescriptions in tablet form, many times requiring my prescription to be re-written.  I have had to open pills to get the medicine out, because the capsules they come in are pure gelatin.  And yes, I do all this for the sake of Allah.  Because Allah loves me so much, he told me what not to eat.  He told me what is bad for me. 

I have the same issue with alcohol.  Not drinking alcohol is easy.  But try going to a restaurant and ordering a meal that doesn’t have alcohol in it.  Many foods are cooked in alcohol.  Many times alcohol is simply used to de-glaze a pan.  It in turn flavors the food.  Now, there is MUCH debate about whether alcohol cooks off and how much you actually consume when you eat food that has been cooked in alcohol.  But if your main goal in life is to please Allah (God), why would you risk displeasing Him?  Seems easy enough to avoid it, right?  I wish it were that easy.  I have found alcohol in prepackaged foods.  Sometimes I argue with myself about the “rightness”/”wrongness” in taking cold medicine with alcohol in it.  It is not that Islamic Dietary laws have made me crazy.  I truly want to do right.   I trust that my decisions are the correct ones.  And I believe that only Allah really knows. 

We as Muslims face these challenges everyday as we strive to please Allah.  It is our faith and our love for Allah that makes each difficulty easier. 

“Rabbana la tu’akhizna in-nasina aw akh-ta’na. Rab-bana wa la tahmil ‘alayna isran kama hamaltahu ‘ala-lladhina min qablina, Rab-bana wa la tuhammilna ma la taqata lana bih, wa-’fu ‘anna wa ‘ghfirlana warhamna anta Maulana fansurna ‘alal-qawmil kafirin.”

“Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us, Thou art our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people.” (2:286)

The first day of the rest of your life

Yesterday was my first full day as a Hijabi.  When I woke up I was full of nervous tension.  The week had already been thrown off by illness and I was going back to work after 2 days home sick with strep throat.  I was sleep deprived and still a bit headachy.  Probably not the best day to start something new, but this was the biggest day of my life!  The first day of the rest of my life!  I won’t bore you with all the details, but the hardest part was getting out of bed!  As I got to work I was excited, here I was going to work for the first time as a Hijabi! 

Within minutes of my arrival people began noticing the “new” me.   I was asked a ton of questions, non more amusing than “Did you turn into a Muslim?”  I had images of Alice in Wonderland in my head.  Did I eat it or drink it?  I was asked if I graduated, what my hijab signified, did my husband like it etc.  It was becoming painfully obvious what I already knew, I am the first Muslim most of them have ever known or seen up close.  I am supremely honored.  To be given the opportunity to present a Muslim face to my coworkers, many of whom have only seen Muslims on TV and know Islam only through 9/11 captions, is humbling to say the very least.  It is overwhelming as well.  I have a great responsiblity to show Islam at it’s best, it’s very best.  I want my coworkers to walk away from this experience thinking “Wow, Islam is not what Fox News tells me it is”  “Islam is not this terrible thing” “Muslim women are not all oppressed” 

I was asked what my inspiration was.  What led me to decide to become a Hijabi.  And to be honest, there was no one thing.  It was a series of events.  When I became a Muslim it was always my intention to become a Hijabi, it was just a matter of when I felt I was ready.   A year ago tomorrow I was involved in a terrifying traffic incident.  I was driving home from work when I got caught in a hail storm.  Golf ball sized hail came out of a sudden storm and pounded my car so hard I stopped in my tracks on the road.  My windshield bounced with the force of it.  What was a simple thunderstorm became something horrible in the blink of an eye.  Tree pieces began flying and my car was pelted from all sides with debris.  Alhamdulillah, Thanks be to God, my children were not with me.  The wind suddenly picked up with such force I could not see in front of my car.  Later there were unconfirmed reports of a tornado on the road I was on.  The weather folks later said it was a microburst, but those who lived it and filmed it say otherwise.  I sat in my car and prayed.  Prayed that I wouldn’t get swept away (I was right beside the river), prayed my windshield wouldn’t shatter on me, prayed I would get home.  When it was all over my car had almost $2,000 dollars worth of damage.  I was a changed person.  I was terrified that I was going to die.  And I had not done all the things I wanted to do.  I was not ready for Judgement.  And that scared me more than anything.  I never intended for my first time in hijab to be in the grave.  From there on out I started wearing the hijab on the weekends, whenever I went out.  It wasn’t every day, it wasn’t even every weekend.  But I slowly built myself up, until I was only not wearing the hijab when I was at work. 

About two months after this incident I started looking around for other Hijabis.  As it turns out, there were plenty.  I had just never noticed before.  One day while in Walmart (seems I spend a lot of time there) I walked past a woman in full gear.  An abaya and full niqab.  Just the slits of her eyes were visible.  I was amazed.  Here I was worried about wearing a hijab, and she had gone full-scale in the middle of the deep south.  And the fact that no one in the store bothered her or batted an eye told me I had nothing to worry about.

Six months ago I read a most inspiring story.  A woman in North Carolina wrote the story in Oprahs’ O Magazine and it was published in the June ’10 issue.  It was called “Chosing to Wear the Muslim Headscarf” by Krista Bremer.  I will post the link at the bottom of this post.  Here was a 9-year-old girl who made the decision to veil.  All on her own!  Her mother is a Christian!  It was so uplifting.  Reading the story I knew I could do it, I knew if this child could do it so could I! 

And so here we are, at the end of my second full day as a Hijabi.  I feel ready to conquer the world!  I wish I had done this sooner!  I will admit, I have yet to face any real hostility.  I did notice a few people at work avoid eye contact, one person even seems to avoid looking at me all together.  But whether this is uncertainty on their part or hostility has yet to be established.  For now I will go with the idea that they just don’t know how to act around me now.  Wearing a hijab kind of declares for all that you are conservative and don’t wish to be “eye balled”.  Time will tell.

Now, I feel like I have jabbered at you long enough.  I have a question for YOU.  I would like you to comment and tell me, tell all of us, what inspires YOU?  What has guided you towards Islam, towards the Hijab?  You can also ask me anything you like.  I feel like for the past month I have gabbed away about what I want, tell me what YOU want! 

Here is that link I promised: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Choosing-to-Wear-the-Muslim-Headscarf

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 393 other followers