Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Boston

I know it's been nearly two weeks since the bombing in Boston. I should've spoken sooner, but frankly, I've been sorting through the swirling maelstrom of emotions that have plagued me since then, sick at heart over what I've seen on tv and read in the news. My first thought, the moment I heard about it, was "Ya Allah, please please PLEASE don't let the people who did this claim to be Muslims."

To no avail.

The whispers began almost immediately: "Muslims." "Islam." "Foreign radicals." The faintest whisper and suspicion became a blanket guilty sentence on millions of people in the US.

Because we're Muslims, and when someone who claims to belong to us goes radical, we are "clearly to blame".

Let me break it down: We are tarred by that dark brush, guilty without a trial, guilty by association. Because we, along with 2 billion people in every country, speaking every language, in every culture, have a shared belief in Islam.

It took only hours before we started hearing of reprisal attacks: a woman out at the park with her child and a man punched her in the shoulder and screamed profanities at her. A man beaten up as he was leaving a restaurant by a group of men. The guy didn't even know about the bombings in Boston, but he was to blame because of his skin color ("looked Arab") and his faith.

What happened in Boston wasn't because of Islam. It wasn't because of Muslims. It wasn't because of tv or video games or movies. It happened because a twisted man had evil in his heart and acted on it.

It was heinous, wrong, evil, a complete violation of Qur'anic teachings and simple human decency. His wife, an American convert, is now being portrayed as brainwashed, stupid, ignorant, less than American. Some people act like her conversion was an act of treason instead of an act of faith.

Nothing will undo what happened in Boston, but we have a choice: we can honor those who lost their lives, help the wounded recover, grieve with those affected, and press forward, or we can allow hatred and bigotry to cloud our vision, darken our hearts, forget our shared humanity, and make us just one step away from being like Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

I know which path I choose. What about you?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hello, I'm Your Hijab

My name is hijab. Well, that's what most people call me. The word is a bit more encompassing than that, meaning also the rest of what you wear and, more importantly, your behavior, but we'll just stick to what most people mean by that word: I'm your headscarf. You wear me in different styles, like two-piece al-Amiras when it's time to hit the gym, or long shaylas for work, and in different colors. You seem to like shades of pink the most -- although I definitely like being black with rainbow tinsel. People compliment me a lot then.

I know you like being able to spot other Muslim women around town because of me. Maybe they don't always give you salams in return, but I have given you lots of chances to talk to curious people about who I am and why you wear me. I'm less of a dawah opportunity than a dialogue opportunity. In this world, where Muslim women are targets for attack in "retaliation" for what so-called "Muslims" perpetrate in their acts of terror, we NEED dialogue desperately.

I've taken on a role in recent decades that I never really wanted: people using me as a barometer to decide how pious and devout you are. I've got news for you, folks: I'm just a headscarf. A piece of cloth. I don't have magic powers (and, as Muslims, you shouldn't believe in magic, anyway -- that's superstition, which is a remnant of the jahiliyah). I don't make someone a "good" Muslim, and my absence doesn't make someone bad, immodest, or impious. You're forgetting an important fact: only Allah knows what's in the hearts and only He has the right to judge us.

When you decide that a woman wearing me is more pious than one who doesn't, and that one who wears me and an abaya is more pious than a woman who wears me with a t-shirt and jeans, and then a niqabi is more pious than the abaya-wearing hijabi, you're setting up a dangerous system of judgement. They might "look the part", but if you listen in, maybe you never hear them saying anything good about other people, just judging what they wear and how they wear it. They gossip, and their sharp tongues alienate sisters who feel unwelcome because they don't wear me. Then you wonder what happened to this sister or that sister, why they don't come to halaqah or the women's lecture or prayer class any more.

In short, you're dividing yourselves over me because you're forgetting what's really important: your mutual faith and belief in Allah. Love your sisters for who they are, not what they wear, because in the eyes of Allah they may be better than you.

It's time to go out now. I'm looking fabulous and have eyes to catch so people come talk to you. Peace out.