Hijab’s Bad Wrap

One important component about for the Western world to understand about Islam (and hijab) is the issue of shame. In Christianity, the story is that Eve guiled Adam into eating the forbidden apple, and as a punishment, humanity was exposed to their shame, and began to cover themselves. In Islam, Adam and Eve ate the apple together. Eve is not seen as the original sinner. She was merely one half of a decision that was taken by two people. Hijab is not reflective of shame in this sense. We do not cover because we are shameful of our bodies or our sexuality. We cover out of a sense of awe for our Creator, because of the belief that what He says is right and true and just.

Hijab is not intended as a form of subjugation. Its original purpose was to protect women. Before Islam, women in were considered property. They were kidnapped and raped by powerful men as a way to showcase their power. As the Muslims gained strength in society, they were more and more able to protect the women from this practice. Hijab served as an identity marker. “I’m a Muslim,” it said, “so don’t mess with me.”

I should say that in many strict Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, women are forced to wear it, and not given a choice. That expectation is sometimes carried into our mosques here in the US with first generation immigrants. But we should remember that forcing anyone in any way goes against the very nature of Islam as the Qur’an states clearly that there is no compulsion in Islam. That being said, most women who wear hijab choose it for its dignity, its mark of identity, and because they want to serve God.

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A Story of Hope

The Qur’an says over and over again to tell those who believe in God of glad tidings and ease. Just believe, it tells us. Just believe and the rest is simple.

But all too often, new Muslims are faced with challenges from within the Muslim community to perfect our practice. We’re told how to pray, how to dress, and how to act. But most of the time we just need a friend who can help us remember the beauty of Islam, and it’s inherent hope…

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My Best Friend is Muslim

A friend of mine tipped me off about this website, and I thought I’d share. I love that through story telling, people are understood beyond their Islam to the core of what makes them special and unique to each of their friends.


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Islam and Individuality

The banning of Niqab in France is a clear violation of basic human rights. Giving the government power to enforce the removal of dress is as offensive as an Islamic state forcing woman to wear it. But I think that it signifies that we Muslims have failed as a community to be a part of the narrative. The banning of Niqab represents a major cultural misunderstanding.

By the non-Muslim community, Niqab is viewed as a wall, a way to remove woman from society.  Muslims need to understand that this can be offensive to cultures that are more open, like Europe and the U.S.

But Europeans and Americans should also understand that the niqab is not a requirement of Islam. It is a traditional form of dress, steeped in tribal times when woman (especially rich or powerful women) were not safe outside of their homes. They were often kidnapped or raped, and the solution was to cover their entire body so that no one would know who they were. It also protected them from the whipping wind and course sands in the dessert.

We need to get beyond defining Islam is one massive lump of people who do that weird bending prayer five times a day and fast during Ramadan. And we need to make an effort to understand Muslims as individuals. The Muslim community is diverse and complex. We are mothers and fathers, career men and women, homemakers, single mothers, and yes, some Muslims are niqabiahs. We have unique cultures and upbringings that define who we are as individuals, and we come together through Islam.

There are many variations, perspectives, and interpretations of that Islam. There are conservative Muslims, extremist Muslims, liberal Muslims, millenial Muslims, feminist Muslims, Muslims-who-don’t-practice-but-were-born-into-Islam-so-they-call-themselves-Muslims, Muslim converts, Muslim traditionalists, and many more. And at every mosque or Islamic Center in the country you will probably find one or more of those variations. It’s like taking one person out of every Christian denomination and putting them together in one big Christian Community Center. Grab a Catholic, an Evangelist, a Lutheran, a Methodist, and a Baptist and stick ‘em all in one place. You’d be hard pressed to define that group. They all believe in God, they all pray, and they all try to be good people the best way they know how, but they also each have their own traditions and beliefs that make them unique.

The responsibility of understanding Muslims as individuals does not rest on the shoulders of non-Muslims. As Muslims, we have a responsibility to show society who they are. We need to open our mosques, share our meals, join prayer circles, crack jokes, and represent ourselves in our communities as the loving, neighborly people that we are.

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Paving a Path

Some people in the Muslim community have the misconception that we should isolate ourselves from non-Muslims, and only surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs. But friendship is a beautiful thing, and it’s by building relationships in our communities that we can change the narrative of Islam in the bigger picture. We cannot do that if we isolate ourselves from people who have different backgrounds or beliefs than we do.

I am amazingly grateful to have many non-Muslim friends who support my choice, share my values, and encourage me to be a better person. I benefit from their friendships because they not only support me, they challenge me. They ask questions of me that I may not ask of myself, and they walk patiently with me while I find the answers. I truly believe that the ONLY effective way to change public perceptions is through one on one dialogue, through exploring each others values, and creating a safe place to challenge each other. I can only hope that my actions represent an Islam that proves the opposite of the current public perception of the religion.

While friendships with people who share our faith is imperative to our spiritual health, Islam is about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters, be them Muslim or non-Muslim. We have a responsibility to anyone who wants to be a part of our lives. We need to open our hearts to the good in anyone, and embrace everyone who reaches out to us regardless of their faith, their color, their sexual orientation, or any other marks of judgement. It’s the best and only way to pave a path for the next Muslim convert, immigrant, or anyone who was ever made to feel out of place because of their beliefs.

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The Best Muslim I Know

I like to joke that my horse is the best Muslim I know. He greets me with a happy nicker every time I come to the barn, he is patient and forgiving, he’s always making me laugh, and he never complains.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all acted a little more like animals?

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Yea, but…

Today my six year old nephew, Moses, and I were driving quietly along when he asked, “Is God the sun?”

“No,” I answered, “but He created the sun. And He created the earth, and He created you and me!”

“Yea, but how did He create Himself?”

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