In honor of World Hijab Day, coming up this February 1st, I thought it might be fun to list a few reasons why someone might want to participate in this event. (click the link to read all about it and read the experiences of others who have participated in the past.)
Hijab is a word many Muslims (people who follow the Islamic religion) use when referring the scarf and modest clothing Muslim women wear in religious observance. The goal of hijab is to achieve a modest appearance and let any potential hungry eyes that like to scan the female form know “that this … ain’t happening”.
Actually, there are many reasons Muslim women might wear the hijab, and whether cultural or spiritual, World Hijab Day is a nice opportunity to show a little solidarity with your neighborhood Muslim female who sometimes has to go through a great number of obstacles to continue wearing a symbol she sees as important to herself, to her religion and to her identity.
For a more in depth review on hijab see Hijabology.
Now … introducing … the top 5 reasons to wear a scarf on February 1st: World Hijab Day!
I have always been attracted to research laboratories. Walking past them when I was younger and at university, I would peer in as I walked down the halls. Shelves cluttered with clear bottles, scribbled labels with acronyms I didn’t understand, tools on bench tops- many whose shape gave me no clue to their purpose. What goes on in there? What is in that ice bucket? It seemed mysterious, like a secret club of sorts and I wanted to learn the password. I wanted in.
I have since worked in research laboratories for the past 10 years.
Many people do not realize, that despite advances in technology, a lot of biological/medical research can still be very labor intensive, and of course, by its nature, repetitive to an exhausting end. And although much of the reagents and tools have now become as familiar to me as the ingredients in my kitchen cupboard- there is always that excitement about a new project or experiment.
But let’s be honest. Science, I am calling you out in public- you’re a tease.
There are tons of scholarly articles that explain the Islamic stance of women- so I am not going to go into that in depth. However, as the internet is also filled with information intent on making Islam look crazy, thanks to some very dedicated groups, here are some more reliablesources for those who are interested in the woman’s role in Islam.
But in a nutshell, for those who do not know or have the time to research into the above links, here’s a clue:
And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women. (Quran 2:228)
Yes, there is a lot in Islam that is about rights between family members (husband/wife/kids), neighbors, business partners, and even between me and you, dear reader. But those “rules” are not what makes being a Muslim woman hard, it is what restores the balance to a system that can be overrun with those who sometime take too much or sacrifice more than they should.
But having a relationship can be difficult, especially when one party is thought of as just a stereotype. And the predominate stereotype that I see about me and other fellow converts- is that we are backwards.
And how do I know that there are many with this belief? Because campaigns like this have to be launched: Not ‘Brainwashed’
For those who absolutely insist that I am backwards because I chose Islam for my life – I doubt I will do much to change your mind if your identity and confidence is built on the misconception that 1. I am oppressed. 2. I am an idiot 3. This poor oppressed idiot of a woman needs saving.
She sits with her rolling chair turned slightly away from the desk, listening patiently as I explain my symptoms and current state of health. When I’ve finished, she smiles kindly. I’ve seen the smile a hundred times. Not on her. On the others.
“So, you’ve been diagnosed with . . .”
I repeat my diagnosed conditions, again, more slowly this time.
“I see. And where … ?”
Again, I tell her I’ve been treated in various countries: the US, Saudi Arabia, and now Oman. I remind her I also go to the university hospital.
“Oh, so you see Dr. Maha?” She looks up, as though my seeing this particular doctor provides evidence of the reality of my claims.
“Saw. I saw her. She discharged me from her clinic.” I say it as politely as possible, but I can feel the loathing inside. Let’s just say, it was a mutual discharge.
“Ahhhh,” she murmurs.
My husband is sitting on the examination table across from me, waiting for the doctor to say what all the rest have.
“Do you exercise?” she asks.
His eyes light up. Bingo!
“Not regularly. No. I hurt. All the time. Everywhere. Everything. All day long.” I’m there for a referral. But before I can get one, I have to play the game of, “You Should Lose Weight”.
Much has been written about who speaks for Islam. There’s thisbook, cleverly entitled Who Speaks for Islam, by Dr. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed that discusses this exact topic. There isthis recent Pathoes blog post that tackles the topic as it pertains to Americans.
It is an interesting topic since there is no longer a central figure in Islam, thanks 1924 Turkish Republic. JK, we all know it was colonialism.
But I think it is also important to talk about who does NOT speak for Islam. Since it seems every (specifically non-Muslims) one in this anti-Muslim political landscape feels the need to talk about Islam, doing so without even knowing the first thing about the faith.
The tipping point for me was when I read that one of Trump’s crony’s told CNN that, “Islam is traced patrilineally. I am a Muslim if my father is Muslim,” speaking about the conspiracy theory that President Obama is a Muslim.
I don’t care what conspiracy you ascribe to, but this statement is categorically untrue and ignorant. If this were true of any faith, literally no one would be a follower of anything since its all starts with converts. Faith is not in your DNA, even though many never question the faith they inherit from their fathers.
But the need to talk about this topic has been building for a while. I find it absurdly arrogant and patronizing when non-Muslims feel the need to explain Islam to actual Muslims. It is a version of whitesplaining called Islamsplaining , and it’s exhausting.
So here is a list the kinds of people who often speak their ignorance about Islam without any authority or basis to do so. If you have listened to any of these sources about Islam, considered your information wildly inaccurate.
The Couch Theologian:
This person has never studied theology in any capacity, usually doesn’t even know much about his or her own faith. But s/he reserves the right to market him/herself as an expert on Islam because s/he watches the news. Because we allllll know that modern Middle Eastern politics is the end all be all of Islamic scholarship (insert massive eye roll here).
The True (meme) believer:
This person read a meme once and now believes s/he knows enough about a 1,400 year old faith to be an expert on the topic. Despite the fact that actual experts have studies their entire lives, memorized volumes of books, and sacred text and still consider themselves students. But one meme is enough, right?
The Contrived Phobe:
This is a person who has listened to a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric. S/he has “studied” limited parts of Islam from other phobes, all with the intention of fearing and hating Islam and- more importantly- Muslims. S/he wouldn’t know a confirmation bias if it hit shim in the face. The Contrived Phobe regurgitates talking points, but if you scratch that surface, s/he doesn’t know anything about Islam in reality.
The Anecdotal Evidencer:
This is the person who starts off most conversations about Islam with “I once knew this Muslim who …” S/he takes everything that someone who looks like a Muslim does as Islam itself. They often think that if your religion is true, all the followers have to act like angels. But the Anecdotal Evidencer reserves the right to excuse all kinds of evil done by his/her own co-religionists.
This person resembles the Anecdotal Evidencer, but has more of it because s/he visited or lived in a majority Muslim country and thinks that the habits of the people s/he sees is Islam itself. But doesn’t think that the habits of the people in majority Christian countries is representative of Christianity.
The Pandering Politician:
This person has become very successful in a difficult profession, and wants all to believe that his expertise in that profession translates to expertise in all the things, including Islam. The politician tells lies about Islam to fan fears and gain political currency. It’s called pandering. Read more about this type here.
The Talking Head:
This person has a radio show or is the host of some Fox news program. They have and maintain high ratings because of the inflammatory ignorance they spew about people who do not look like them or are not from the same socio-economic stratosphere as them, appealing to the majority and exploiting their fears. They know that Islamophobia is trending so they jump on that scare tactic bandwagon to make more money and increase ratings. Their knowledge of Islam is similar too or less then (if that is even possible) the Coach Theologian.
The Fake Experts:
This is a person that poses in the media as an expert. They may fall into any of the other 6 categories, but have somehow convinced the media that they know more that the average bear, including actual Islamic scholars. But the truth of the matter is that they really do not know much. They are extraordinary pathological liars in that they believe their own lies so well that they have been able to market and sell them. Read more about this type here.
I am sure there are more of these types, so let me know which ones I missed.
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For most converts, the day they become Muslim is like a new birthday. It’s a date that sits foremost in their minds, rolls off their tongues like the alphabet from a kindergartner’s. They may forget their anniversary, ATM PINs or even their private safe combinations, but the date of their conversion is ever-present.
Not me. I don’t remember the most important date in my spiritual history. I know the month (March), and I’m pretty certain of the year (through deduction and certainty of other things going on around that time that I do remember) — 2005. But I have no idea what day I became a Muslim.
I do, however, know where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with. The answers, respectively: Mobile, Alabama; walking around my neighborhood; a former friend. But, honestly, not much of that matters. At least not to me.
When I’m quizzed on the details of my conversion, the first assumption people usually make is:
Oh, you’re a convert? You became Muslim for your husband, didn’t you?
Actually, no. I did not. My husband and I were still a year and a half away from meeting each other when I converted. Read more ›
Eid! Who knew three letters could pack such a punch.
What does it mean to a lot of people? Well, for some it conjures up memories of seeing loved ones, going to early prayer at the mosque and eating certain traditional sweets.
Unfortunately for many converts, who grew up celebrating different holidays, we may not feel as connected to this happy occasion. We may still painfully cling to lingering images of our own childhood, collecting colorful eggs in baskets or throwing tinsel and garlands on trees, and you know what … that is okay.
It is normal to psychologically associate feelings with memories triggered by events as these- times when we were closest to our families. We do our best to try and create new memories that can also similarly capture the feel good events of our past- whether with new Muslim friends, new spouses or growing families.
And so we celebrate these Muslim holidays sometimes hesitant, not wanting to create bid’ah ( Also know as innovation in religion. Bid’ah in Islam is considered a deviation and a serious sin) and yet only familiar to celebrating holidays in a certain fashion, the way in which we were raised.
One area new to many converts that begin to mingle with Muslims outside of their culture is the Eastern cultural practice of Eidia or Eidie. Eidia is money that is handed to women or children during Eid that can range from a few cents to hundreds of dollars and is given as a gift instead of an actual present wrapped in ribbons and bows.
Generally reserved for family including extended family members- depending on the culture it may also include neighborhood children that visit houses door to door wishing happy Eid in exchange for a few cents.
For new converts, depending on their own cultural upbringing, it can be strange to see people pass out money- generally, much effort and consideration is put into finding a loved one an actual object that we believe may be cherished or enjoyed.
In fact, in many circles handing out money may be seen as kind of insulting– a kind of whoops, we forgot about you – so here is some cash or the awkward … don’t know you so well third cousin, once removed, here, have a gift card.
This “cash-as-an-after-thought present” is not the perception in many Eastern cultures where the extra money can be used not only in the purchase of the rare indulgent treat of choice, but more often than not, as money that can be used to fulfill a basic need (such as paying an electric bill) or fulfill other social obligation … such as giving your Eidie money or Eidia to someone younger or more in need than yourself.
However you chose to celebrate the upcoming holiday, sharing tokens of friendship and kindness that puts happiness in the heart of another Muslim is always a good deed pleasing to Allah.
So if you are a converts, don’t look down on someone who is handing out cash. If you are a born Muslims, understand the consideration that went into a finding the right gift, if it is not cash.
However you decide to spread cheer, whether you choose to do that through passing homemade sweets, treating another with a thoughtfully wrapped gift, passing out Eidia or just sending smiles, salams and a “Happy Eid”, it always tends to make the season bright.
This Eid let’s take time to reflect, be grateful for what we have been blessed with, praise Allah, and enjoy.
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