Some Famous Reverts

Salaam alaikum y’all.

Today I want to talk about some of the most famous reverts out there.

And no, I’m not talking about celebrity reverts to Islam. Although, can we talk about that for a second? Why does everyone lose their mind every time a celebrity even looks like they are coming near Islam? I mean, alhamdulillah for anyone who is guided to the truth. Me, you, the old man down the street, Shania Twain….What I’m getting at is it should all be the same. Shania Twain shouldn’t be any more important than me when it comes to celebrating someone embracing Islam. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is super important for celebrities who do come to Islam to then use their immense influence to spread truth and goodness, but I don’t really think that we need celebrity converts to validate our religion. Continue reading “Some Famous Reverts”

Don’t Let Them Dull Your Sparkle

Salaam!

I wrote a post way back in the first month or two of this blog, called To Give a Smile Away. I was looking through old posts to share again, and I lighted on that one; it was super short, just a thought I was having at the time, but the beautiful memory of that day when the girl so sincerely smiled at me in the mosque came flooding back to me so vividly when I re-read that post, that I thought I would not only re-share it, but actually re-write it to dig a little deeper into what exactly the situation was in my life at that time.

I then remembered another post I had written, on exactly the same topic, but a bit more long-form. This one never actually got shared with the world, it has been sitting as on Open Office document on my hard drive since August.

So I thought, with a little editing and updating, I would share it with you today. I know this is a theme that has been somewhat recurring in my writing lately (you can spot it here, here, and in some articles I’ve shared here), but for some reason it is something that is just present in my mind a lot lately: Continue reading “Don’t Let Them Dull Your Sparkle”

“Imitating the Kuffar”

Salaam everyone.

This post has been a long time in the making, basically ever since I wrote my slightly rant-y post on divisive (and super offensive) language in the Muslim community. I mentioned a certain aspect of this rhetoric, namely calling everything haraam just to try to make everyone’s life as ascetic as your own, and I want to delve a little deeper into one facet of that: the idea of something being haraam on the basis of “imitating the kuffar (non-Muslims).”

For me, and for many converts, this is something that hugely impacts my life and the way I practice Islam, because my culture, the culture I was born into, and the culture I lived with for the first 21 years of my life before Islam, is a “non-Muslim culture.”

In my case this is growing up in the United States of America, for some it may be growing up in other non-Muslim majority countries such as a European country, China, India, or various African nations. At any rate, there is another predominant religion in the country, and many aspects of the culture you come from may not match up with principles of Islam.

The example I gave in my other post to illustrate this was about my wedding ring: it is haraam because in “Islamic culture” we don’t wear wedding rings, and therefore you are imitating the kuffar.

So, I want to stick with this example and take it from a few different sides, and hopefully show why I often find this argument to be problematic. Continue reading ““Imitating the Kuffar””

Watch Your Mouth: On the divisive vocabulary of the Muslim community

Ok, I am going to warn you straight up right now, this post is going to be a bit of a rant. So if you don’t want to hear a rant, I suggest you go read a happier post or just come back tomorrow.

What I am going to rant about today is how people in our communities seem to throw very strong words at others like they are tossing candy to spectators at a small-town parade. And the three words that tend to get my metaphorical goat the most are: kafir, munafiq, and haram.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these words are necessary, and distinctions that need to be made in our faith. But when they are used all day, every day, by anyone to describe any random person, they really start to grate on my nerves.  Continue reading “Watch Your Mouth: On the divisive vocabulary of the Muslim community”

Where do we go from here: Processing Out Loud

Salaam everyone. So today I just have a lot of things running through my mind, and I thought maybe doing some processing in writing could not only be good for my own self, but if I posted it that perhaps someone else could find benefit in my thoughts.

Even here in Algeria where the news tends to get here a day or two late, it has been a rough week for me. It started off with me worrying about my single working mother and what would happen to her health care as Republicans vehemently cut Obamacare with no viable alternative in mind, and only got worse from there.

Around mid-week I woke up to the news of a possible Muslim ban, and the beginning of “The Wall.” I had hoped that maybe the big, beautiful wall would keep the new president occupied for a bit longer and that his immigration plans would have to wait, but by the end of the week I got the news that the order had been signed.

Normally, I would only be outraged about this on an empathetic level. I would be angry about the human rights violations that are involved in sending thousands of people back to their war-torn countries, back into the hands of the very terrorists you are scared of. About the unfairness of it, about the inhumanity of it.

I would be depressed to see the dangerous direction my home country is heading in, turning away legal visa holders and legal residents from their studies, jobs, and families, all because of the country they are from, the religion they profess, or worst yet, a mere “suspicion.”

But being in the situation I am now in life, I am also deeply worried on a personal level. Continue reading “Where do we go from here: Processing Out Loud”

white flower in vase in front of event chairs and strings of lights, text "I Went to a Wedding and it was Kinda Traumatic"

I Went to a Wedding and it was Kinda Traumatic

Ok y’all, today I want to talk about something that goes on in the Muslim community, both in the US and the “East,” that I really just can’t wrap my brain around: weddings.

When I was getting married to my husband, I did all the research and prepared—witnesses, check; simple yet pretty dress that I can wear with hijab, check; some small halal cakes and juice for those who are there, check. It was the simplest affair you can imagine: nikkah at the mosque with some friends as witnesses, dinner with family later.

So when I got invited to a couple weddings here by friends of my mother-in-law’s, I thought it would be great to see a more traditional wedding in an actual Muslim country.

As you have probably read, I ranted about the covering and the mixing of men and women at weddings in another post, but I was silly enough to go to another wedding after that incident (wearing a pink jilbab set this time, at least!) and what I would really like to write about today are the shocking, extravagant ends that people go to for their weddings, while they are doing exactly the opposite of what is recommended by Islam.

My experience here is with Algerian weddings so that is what I will be writing about, but I have heard just many stories from other Arabic countries as well as many Muslim communities back home in the United States and the United Kingdom.

There are so many things that happen at these weddings that are so far beyond the bounds of what is normal/necessary, and especially the trend here in Algeria seems to be “who can do the MOST” of anything. Continue reading “I Went to a Wedding and it was Kinda Traumatic”

Algerian church with trees and sunlight, text "Going Back to Church"

Going Back to Church

Hey y’all. Today I want to write about something that I have struggled with on and off since I converted, and I want to know if any others have had the same feelings.

Of course I love going to the mosque (when I find a good one). I love to sit quietly in the beautiful space and pray with my sisters in Islam. I love the beautiful design of many mosques, and I for sure love heading for a trip to the mosque book store.

But a little while ago when my husband and I went touristing (yeah that’s a verb now) at the old Roman Catholic church just outside of his city, I was reminded of how comfortable I feel in churches, and how I sometimes miss going to church.

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And yes, I understand how problematic that sounds. Continue reading “Going Back to Church”

old wooden dock, lake in pink and purple hues of sunset, text "East vs. West"

East vs West

I am writing this towards the end of September, as I sit on the beach with my mother-in-law, watching my husband cast his fishing line out into the sea. The lights from the city are reflected in the water, and a soft breeze carries the ‘isha athaan into my ears. There are a couple of drops of rain falling on my page as I write, but it is a warm, end of summer kind of rain.

I am truly blessed to be where I am right now.

I hear the athaan five times a day, I don’t have to worry about finding a “halal” shop for food, I am not persecuted for wearing my hijab. I don’t have to explain myself when someone catches me sicking my feet in the sink, I don’t have to find somewhere to celebrate Eid with other Muslims, when I tell people I am fasting I am met with “mashaaAllah” instead of barely concealed horror.

When I first converted I was always a little bit jealous of those who had grown up in Muslim families and Muslim countries.

And now here I am, living in a beautiful city that is by all appearances in a Muslim country.

So I can’t help but be a bit sad as I begin to wonder, where is all the Islam? Continue reading “East vs West”

gold gift, holiday lights and tree in background, text "Happy Holidays"

Happy Holidays

Oh my goodness, I am writing this in early November and I can already feel the drama welling up from here.

But it is getting to be that time of the year again…

Time for the Christmas Controversy.

But seriously, I have found there to be such a vehement divide in the community on the topic of celebrating Christmas, and for me as a convert with an American Christian background, it has been a particularly tricky thing to navigate. Continue reading “Happy Holidays”

misty lake with mountain in background, American flag on chainlink fence

Let’s Talk Politics: my thoughts on the outcome of the elections and what you can do to support your Muslim community members

Ok, so I was all contented to go along with the usual posts I have had scheduled for these next few weeks without changing them at all, and I was determined to move past this election and keep it out of my writing radar. After all, I do not blog about politics, and it only has slightly to do with the niche of convert issues. And admittedly I am not really feeling emotionally up to writing about this quite yet.

But I have realised that there is much that needs to be said, and maybe it can be not only beneficial to you, but cathartic for me, to get it all out on paper (or a WordPress post, as it were).

So this post is going to be in two parts today: the first will be about my personal thoughts about the election, and some actionable items that we as Muslims can do to begin to take control of the situation and not get lost in despair. For the second, at the request of a non Muslim friend, I would like to write about some ways our non Muslim neighbours can support the Muslim community in such a dangerous and trying political climate.

To begin, let me say this: whatever you are feeling, whether that be despair, anger, sadness, hurt, whatever, give yourself time to feel it. Don’t sweep the emotions under the rug; give yourself a day or two to feel and process. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are overreacting or being dramatic. Your feelings are entirely valid.

After hearing that Donald Trump was ahead in the elections around fajr time here, I didn’t sleep very well at all, until I found out the result was certain. I’m not going to lie, I tried to do some reading or embroidering, but I ended up spending that day mostly in my bed. I had no willpower to do anything. And I cried when my husband came home and hugged me, because as much as I miss my mom and my family and my home, now I am very uncertain if it is a place I can return to with my husband.

The next day didn’t get any better, when I woke up to a Facebook newsfeed filled with attacks: young Muslim and African American girls, Muslim and African American women, the LGBTQ community, anyone who was different.

Those of you who know me, know that I hate crying, especially in front of people. But this time instead of trying to fight all of that and keep it inside, I let myself feel it. Which I think helped quite a bit to give me some clarity and help me move on to the next step.

While giving yourself time to feel whatever you are feeling, you also need to make sure that you are constantly remembering God in this process. Remember that He has a plan, remember that He is the best of planners. Remember that though you hate a thing it may be good for you. Remember to keep praying five times a day, keep asking God for exactly what it is you need, whether peace, protection, strength. It is all in God’s hands and He will give it to you. Though we may grieve for the horrible time we have entered, to pass this test we need to put our trust in God.

“The eyes shed tears and the heart feels grief, but we say only that which will please our Lord.” Bukhari and Muslim

So what are some actionable steps you can take to get your hands working for something good in these times?

Firstly, take steps to protect yourself. Do whatever makes you feel empowered: carry pepper spray, take a self defence class, don’t stay out after dark and travel in large groups. This step really depends on you as an individual: for me personally, I feel just as safe in my hometown during the day as I do at night (the rednecks are out at any time really), so what I would really feel good about doing is taking a self defence class, and making sure I had the means to protect myself if something should happen.

Another part of this is don’t engage. Especially if you have got a big group of men around you calling you names or shouting; now is not the time to play the hero. Your safety is first. If you are in a non violent situation, and aren’t in fear of your personal being, maybe that would be the time to speak up, especially in a group. But don’t try to start an argument with someone who you know is looking for an excuse to hurt you.

Get out of the situation.

And once you are out, call the police and report the incident to organisations like CAIR. Yes, this may not do anything in the immediate moments (or maybe it will), but at the very least your report will contribute to a body of data about the things that are happening.

All of that being said: don’t live your life in fear. The reason we take such precautions is exactly so we can live our lives in the most normal manner possible. Don’t closet yourself in your house, don’t stop doing the things you love.

Another great step you can take is to get involved, and get moving. First and foremost, always keep educating yourself. Educate yourself about who is in the government, about how things work in your state, about how people are getting involved, about what you can do that will make the most impact.

A friend of mine lives in Alaska, and as such doesn’t have any big marches or protests to go to. So she has decided that her first item on the to-do list is to stand up to bullies, and get victims out of bad situations. Another goal she has made is to draft some persuasive articles with some colleagues of hers from university regarding how Trump’s policies are going to negatively impact certain environmental issues, using peer reviewed academic publications to help.

This is a great example of not only educating yourself, but putting that directly to use to make a positive contribution to a movement.

If you are in a place where you can attend demonstrations, remember the above points: keep yourself safe, and make sure you are demonstrating in a respectful and legal manner.

Update: I have just read an article from another site that deals with many of the same points and is worth checking out here.

As for the second part, what you can do as a non Muslim to support your Muslim friends and community members, I have asked many of my sisters in the United States what they would feel most supports them in this turbulent time, and the overwhelming majority of them said simply speaking out.

This could look like many things: speaking out just to tell a Muslim hello, or ask how they are as you pass down the street, speaking out on social media to let them know that they have your support and you will help add to their voices, speaking out when you see someone being bullied or assaulted and lending them your aid or simply putting your arm around them to get them out of the situation.

I think what many Muslims, especially women, want these days is to know that they are not being demonized by everyone that sees them, that people still recognize them as human, and as such deserving of respect and care.

Also, if you are someone with any degree of influence or power, use that to make your voice heard on behalf of all marginalised communities that may not have the same privilege. Get in touch with them, see what they need, and then use whatever platform you have to give that a voice and put it in the spotlight.

For me personally, I would love to see even more people standing up on social media and in person at protests to say that “we aren’t going to take this.” I think many of us feel isolated and alone, and especially for me as a convert with a non-Muslim family (some of whom even voted for Donald Trump ) it feels good to know that there are other people out there that have my back.

Another form of support I have been asked about is wearing the hijab in solidarity with us Muslim sisters.

I asked some of the sisters in the US that I am friends with what they think, and they said that it would be a very welcome gesture. I have come across some sisters that do not support this idea for various reasons, but the overwhelming majority of those that I have talked to love the idea. We need all of the love we can get in this world, and feeling like someone is trying to promote solidarity and understanding by actually walking in your shoes for a day or two can be a very powerful gesture.

If you would like to do this but you are unsure about how this would be received by those in your community, I think that the best way to go with this one would be to try to get in contact with some women from your local community, and see how they feel about it. If they feel good about the idea, go for it! But if they are uncomfortable with it, maybe resort back to the first topic and speak out on behalf of the Muslim community in whatever ways you can.

I think the key in all of this is for us to get involved with each other. Muslim, non-Muslim, African American, Asian American, white, and anything in between, LGBTQ and straight, we all need to work together to make sure we are doing all we can to put as much positive energy out into the world as possible. Working in isolated communities with isolated goals will not get us anywhere. We need to all be communicating our needs and responding to the needs of others, in order to succeed.

For my part, I plan to keep using my blogging to its fullest extent to not only carry on with the mission I started it for (convert awareness and support) but also to show all those who may randomly come across it the best picture of a Muslim woman that I can. I may be physically in Algeria, but many of my readers are in the United States. I hope that by using my voice to promote positivity and humanity, I can contribute in some small way.

As for the rest, we will just have to wait and see what God has planned for us.

Wishing you all peace.