Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Make it a week

So today is the 7th day with the scarf. I haven't told my family or worn it around them, but nearly everywhere else, and everyone else. I never really said "Today I am going to start wearing hijab." I really just challenged myself, "How long can you wear it?" I wondered if I truly had the guts to wear it to my classes, and to work, when I would see a lot of my friends and coworkers. (I did try once before this, but most folks weren't there to see.) So my challenge was whether I had courage enough to wear it in front of them. But once I did, well, it was can I do it again? At first people probably thought it was a one-day thing, but by now they should be getting used to it.

Wednesday the 22nd I put it on. I wore a plain, square, white, cotton scarf pinned under my chin, with a giant hoodie. I wore it to all of my classes that day, and took it off when I got home. Nobody said anything. Thursday I wore it to class, and had one person ask me about it.

I asked if I could sit at his table in the lounge to finish my homework. "Sure, no problem," he replied so I took a chair and pulled out my books. "Amy, are you Muslim?" His hand gestured around his face to show the rest of the question, the words he didn't say: are you really wearing a hijab--because you are Muslim?

"Yes, I am."

"Salam alaikum."

I returned the greeting but tried to finish my homework. Rami was in a class I taught a couple years ago, and we have exchanged greetings but never spoken much--I didn't know he was Muslim. I told him it felt weird to wear this around so many people that I knew, but he reassured me. Maybe I just needed someone to tell me I didn't look weird. :-)

So I wore it to work. "Are you trying a new...?" I don't know what the rest of the question was supposed to be, but I answered "yes" to keep him from staring at me any longer. That might have been the hardest one. But this really is making me so much stronger in my faith.

When I wore it to the basketball game, my sorority sisters had a problem with it, you could say. One asked if it was a psychology experiment, the other said I looked different in my "head dress." But I told them then I was going to leave it on, and I did, without ever telling them explicitly why. The biggest challenge by far was telling the sorority. Walking in to the meeting room in a scarf and running the meeting without taking it off, and at the end telling everyone what it was, and why I was wearing it were the difficulties. "It must be windy. You look like an eskimo. I bet you're warm. Are you afraid you'll poke yourself with the pin?"

I became Muslim last year, and decided to start wearing the scarf. You'll probably see me in it from now on.

Yes, that's when I admitted it. I was actually going to keep trying to wear it. Oh God, please give me the courage to back up that statement!

Not everyone was happy for me. Most probably don't care, and some probably resent the fact that I left their religion, because most of these girls (actually, all of them) are Christian as I was. So I'll have to see how that develops... I don't think I've heard the end.

So wearing it to school again this week and to work, it is becoming clear to more people that I am Muslim. My boss, today, asked me about it. He wondered if it was some holiday I was observing or whether I just felt more comfortable. Comfortable isn't how I would describe the way I feel at work, never, and obviously there is no holiday, but I told him that I was stronger in my faith, and had decided to observe the scarf. And he acknowledged that strength, and assured me that nobody (here) should give me a hard time about it. Which is, truly, a relief. My boss's wife is a preacher, which puts him in a unique position. But since he is not going to try to convince me out of my religion by attacking the scarf, I feel much more at ease.

If you read my previous posts you'll see how I felt about hijab just a few days ago. Honestly, just wearing it has changed my mind. It has forced me to admit to the world that I am Muslim, and that I am actually choosing to practice that religion.

I can't say what is in the heads of the guys I go to school with. (I don't have many classes with girls in my major.) I won't say I'm getting more respect or being acknowledged for my brains instead of my body, because it would be a lie. I never had problems talking to them, and never felt like a piece of meat, and I can't say their behavior or mine has changed at all.

When people that I know look at me, they seem to look longer the first time they see the scarf. That is the adjustment for them. I hope they know they can adjust much quicker than I can. I wonder what they are thinking... but I smile and say hello since their minds have apparently gone blank of courtesy.

Maybe it is getting a little easier to wear it, after all.

But what is definitely easier is saying I AM MUSLIM! I've had to tell three people today alone, so I'll call that progress.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Day Number 6

In hijab. That is, today is my 6th full day in the headscarf. Full day. I put it on when I leave (so parents don't see) and take it off when I go home (same reason.) I have worn it to classes, to work, shopping, to restaraunts, to a basketball game, to a sorority meeting.

So I'm starting to tell people.. hard to avoid it, because the scarf makes it so obvious. A few rude glares, a few less than polite remarks. Some people just don't understand... they don't expect it, and don't know what to make of it. I guess they'll have to get used to it... I don't know if I have the strength to just keep telling people. It should start getting easier--hasn't yet, though.

So one more week before spring break. If I can just take care of things for one more week. One more week...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Alive and kicking

I guess it takes a little time to pick up the pieces and get off the ground. I feel like I'm ready to pick up and start running... but I'm not. Everytime I fall back on my behind, and have to get up and try again. So here I am, trying again to take two steps forward before I take another one back. That's progress, right?

How about I be specific? No. But life is hard. Islam is hard. Nobody wants to admit it... Islam is supposed to be easy. But it's not naturally hard, the way you could describe fasting. Fasting is hard, you have to overcome your body's natural desire and urges to eat and drink. In that way, it is hard. But it's not like people look at you funny, it doesn't make you look queer among your friends. Nobody can really tell, it's all on the inside. Breaking your day up to make prayers... not too many people notice that, really, so they can't say much to discourage you. Shahadah, that's all inside, nobody can fuss at you about it. You don't really tell people how much you give in charity. And pilgrimage? What's the big deal, it's only once a year, people can hardly give you too rough a time when they take vacations too.

Those are the pillars of Islam, right? That is faith.

But what about the dress code? You are apparently a transgressor if you don't follow it. It is more harshly enforced than any of the other pillars. But it is a daily and very public display, with difficulty akin to torture, in my opinion. Is that what Islam is about? Forcing adherents (and particularly women) to endure ridicule and shame in the interest of modesty? It makes me sad to realize that my hijab will never be enough. So I donned a headscarf, big whoop. My pants are probably too tight. And if I wear loose pants, then it needs to be a skirt, and then it needs to be longer. And then my shirt is too tight, and too short, so it needs be longer, thicker, looser, whatever. Regardless of the fact that I can't even afford new clothes, the thought of wearing "Muslim-style" dresses and such is appalling.

My philosophy on clothes is the following: function before fashion. Sometimes I would wear a hat. Mind you, I would have a nice hat, but it would serve a purpose--either to cover my hair (if I didn't want to style it), or to keep my head warm (on a cold day). So why a headscarf? Well, to cover my head, because apparently it is part of my "awrah" which means that nobody (except a select few) should be allowed to see it. And a woman needs to cover her awrah.

But what gets me is when it is not just enough to cover, but it has to be done in such and such a way that makes it still more difficult to do. As if I don't stand out like a sore thumb with a headcover, you want to make me wear a coat in the heat as well? When does it stop?

It stops when women have completely covered themselves, completely obscured themselves from the world with fabric. And then the fabric won't be enough, women would be kept inside, the hijab becoming the walls around her. I think the essence of "hijab" is seclusion, a way of hiding women from not just men, but from the rest of the world.

It's just not right. :-(

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I happened to read another Muslim's blog today, and it encouraged me to focus a little more on my religion, at least the way I try to portray it to the world.

6 months -- how long it took me after saying Shahadah to actually start practicing Islam.

1 week -- how long it took me to memorize Salat in English

4 days -- how long it took me to memorize Al-Fatihah in Arabic.

When I converted, I was much too terrified to pray... I had lost my religion. In my mind, that is all I had done, leave Christianity. It might not be expected that I should have embraced all of Islam... but I didn't really embrace any of it. One God, got that. Muhammad a prophet, okay. Quran the word of God, check. Anything else was stretching it.

What changed? I don't know... you might not know. But I know that if I had not taken Shahadah I probably would have given up on Islam, and never started practicing. It took some time to admit it, even to myself, at least in pure honesty. But at some point I realized that I was missing prayers, and I didn't want to miss them any more. Why would anyone push someone to convert who wasn't ready to start praying at that moment? 6 months is an awfully long time, and if faith can be acquired in 3 months, surely it can be lost in as little time.

Starting to pray doesn't cure all evils, though. If anything, it made my life much more difficult. Not at first, of course, but as there are rarely times when being a woman is advantageous, some times are much more than simply an annoyance. And at times like these, I feel like religion is dead, or at least that my religion is dead. I am a slave to my body instead of a slave to my god... how do I even begin to ask for help?

So my prayers became less important to me... in fact, I stopped offering them altogether, wanting nothing to do with prayer. And I think it is harder to return from that deviation than it was to even get started on the right path. I still haven't come back all the way. Sure, I offer prayers now, and even try to make them on time. But the bottom line is that they do not tie me to my faith as they did at first. In many ways, I feel they are empty; I feel that I am empty.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


... of privacy.

Is it too much these days to ask before you borrow things? Before barging into someone's room and taking things which belong to her? Is it too much to ask to call? 7 digits, can I borrow your computer please? Hello, it may be running something important I don't want closed! Argh! So frustrating.

Breathe.... calm down....

That's over. My life is lame, have a test tomorrow (why am I posting twice in one day then... stupid.)

301, 302, here I come!!

Pfft. Robots don't need sleep.

I feel like a robot. Over the last 2-3 weeks I have come up short on eating, sleeping, and relaxing. That is why the blog hasn't been updated... not like anyone was checking, I know. I just keep on working, doing homework until the wee morning hours, stumbling into class with my eyes still closed. This past weekend I did homework every day--had an english thing due Friday night... and Saturday night. Of course I had put them off until the last minute. (Note to self, fix procrastination.) Sunday, after I could finally rouse myself from bed, I had to conduct two separate sorority meetings (yeah, the candidate one and the sister one, gar) which sucked my afternoon into oblivion. And for the evening, of course I went to a bowl party... though at the same time, doing 302 homework like a genuinely dedicated student. Mostly finished it, except for a few things that hadn't been covered in class. Then what? Well, I had more homework due Monday morning, so I went in to school early (yes early is 7:30, after being up until 3am) but it was much easier, and I finished in time for class, and all was clear. But I did take a nap after coming home and tried to get enough sleep. I'm not sure if I succeeded in that endeavor, I'm awfully tired today still.

Now, unfortunately Tuesdays are TV nights. TV is going to have to... wait. I have a test tomorrow at 8:30! And homework due tomorrow as well. And since my luck with tests has apparently run out, I am going to be studying like nobody's business tonight. And doing the homework which is also due tomorrow. INSHALLAH! Of course, there's another test on Friday, and some English hw due by Wednesday night, which I believe will have to be put off a bit. However, due to the Wednesday test, my lab has been cancelled, perhaps giving me time to take care of that, since I won't be at work. Perhaps on Thursday I can start studying for statistics, and take care of more English hw for Saturday, and then maybe more 302 hw and 301 hw... which should leave me with nothing other than a 302 lab report and prelab over the weekend.

It's funny how when there is no more room to procrastinate... I don't. Inshallah these weeks can teach me good habits and I'll spend the rest of the semester 'on top of things.'