Thursday, March 30, 2006

Yes, I'm still alive

Of course, I just haven't been posting in a while. I have been a little busy. Last week I had two enormous tests, and a lab report. And this week I had a lab report, and decided to pretend I'm not taking one of my 4-credit hour engineering classes to make more time in my schedule for things like sleep.

I had a great time at the beach... thought everyone should know.

Last night I told my parents that I was Muslim. That was pretty awkward--I told them over dinner, with very little warning. Of course, they probably had suspected for some time.

It's been tough lately, my mom was cooking more pork than usual, and I don't know if on purpose. I opted not to tell the girl planning my weekend retreat that I didn't eat pork, not figuring she would plan to cook it... bad idea. We had sausage for breakfast with the pancakes, and ham for dinner! I could skip the sausage no problem and just eat pancakes, but at dinner, just potatoes and casserole was not very filling. When I got home Sunday my mom cooked a pork stew-like dish. Rather than actually serving myself any, I just put some carrots and potatoes on my plate instead of any pork, and ate that. And then last Sunday she made chicken cordon blue (packaged stuff, not home made.) I pulled the ham out and just ate the chicken and cheese and breading. My dad asked why I wasn't eating it, I just said I didn't feel like it.

And then my dad wanted to order pizza two or three times in the last two weeks... I hate to be a nuisance so, "Sure, pepperoni is fine." And I pull it off, sneak it to the dog. But all that hiding just got old...

So I told them. More to come later inshallah.

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's Friday--yippee

On my way in to work today, I thought of dozens of gems to share on my blog but they vanished behind the heap of work sitting in front of my computer.

I am going to the beach this weekend, leaving tonight. Now, in Raleigh it may be 65 today, and positively gorgeous, but at the beach, that feels like 50-55. So tomorrow, when it's going to be 50 in Raleigh... well, it's going to be frigid. And I am going to laugh so hard when people get pushed into the water. And it's not going to be me this time!

In case you don't know, on our last retreat I got pushed into the lake. There are some pretty awful pictures of it floating around on the internet too... I am not amused. But I am definitely looking forward to hanging out with my girls all weekend. And I'm going to come back so high and.. feminine, probably. Hanging out with only girls for a few days tends to have that effect.

The key question for the evening is: will NC State choke tonight against California? It's at 7:20... and since I'll probably be driving through most of that game, in a part of the state where nobody lives and probably can't get radio... somebody should call me every 10 minutes for updates, right? :-D

What is up with the green on St. Patick's Day? I never really understood that, except that lately it's just an excuse to get drunk. I was giving a friend of mine a ride yesterday, and she tells me that another of my friends is going all-out for this "holiday" with banners and decorations... so I'd better wear green. So I made a modest effort, sort of. There is green in the shirt I'm wearing... which happens to be covered up mostly by my sweater, and the rest by my hijab, so. When I got onto campus, these girls started running at me, "here, wear this so you don't get pinched!" It was a green ribbon with a pin. Uh... right. If somebody tries to pinch me, he's got another thing coming; that's all I have to say.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

And now about Islam

The last few days my brother has been home, and we have had some interesting conversations. For two nights we watched 'Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet' which sparked some questions on his part. One night we watched Malcolm X, or most of it.

From the documentary, he had lots of questions about comparing Jesus and Muhammad, and I can't shake in his mind that Muslims see Muhammad the way Christians see Jesus. I'm trying to explain accurate Biblical explanations, but it's mostly lost on him. A few choice issues have come up recently, one of which is pork.

Now, although I can explain how the prohibition of pork exists in Judaic texts, and legitimate reasons for it to be there, my brother has the opinion that the law was only valid for that place/time at which it was revealed. He doesn't see the law as universal--for all peoples, all times. ** Whence do Christians get this idea? ** The answer to that should be very telling, I think. Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to abolish them. The law was never abolished. I have had a similar discussion with a man a work--somehow they are insulted that they have to follow laws if they already love God!

In their mind, I think it works like this: God loves us, we love him back. Naturally we try to obey his "suggestions" (not commandments, you see) at keeping law, but if we can't we're okay. The particular laws aren't really that important anyway.

One gave me the analogy: Imagine you got married, and then wrote a post-it note on the refrigerator telling your husband "You can't date any more women!" Analogies sometimes don't hit me very well, because I'm not good with the "imagine" part, but I think his point was that it would be rude for me to actually make a "law" that he would be expected to do anyway. Does that make sense to anyone else? If not, maybe I got it wrong. But if we love God, we wouldn't want to worship other gods... so what's wrong with God telling us not to? Okay. But for more detailed things, we can't expect ourselves to always know what is best for us, others, even mankind... but of God we can expect that, right? So I don't see what is so bad about following his laws!

But if one pretends that the laws in the Old Testament were only for people in the Old Testament, I guess he can assume that those laws don't apply to him. I think it's an easy way of ignoring the laws, but I think a lot of nutty things.

The other conversation I have had with my brother is about hijab. This may come as a surprise (and maybe not) that I really don't believe deep down that hijab (as in, a headcover) is mandated specifically by the Quran. I mean, I'm wearing it, and I still haven't been able to come to that conclusion. I don't want to fuss about whether it is or not, but I'm trying hard to actually find and believe evidence that it is... and I can't, which makes me very ineffective when trying to persuade someone that it is. Of course, the chief objections of my brother are that 1) he finds the headcover more distracting than nothing at all (western haircuts or caps) and 2) he thinks that even if it is mandated, the law doesn't apply today.

Frankly, I don't have the reasons, the evidence, to convince him that covering hair is the extent to which women must be modest. Especially when men are allowed to uncover their chests, which many women find attractive. And more so when he insists that he doesn't find hair as a chief attraction in women. I guess not, since he gets to see boobs and butts and all.

But here is how I see it. You start with a naked woman, and there is no modesty. What must first be covered up? The genitals--sexual organs, so now she has underwear. Then what is the chief attraction? The chest, probably, so you give her a bra. Now we have a woman in a bikini. What is least modest? Probably the amount of skin showing... so start to cover the skin around the hips and chest. So now we have a shirt and maybe some shorts on. What is distracting? The legs. So lengthen the shorts to the knee? Then perhaps the arms and shoulders. When do you get to the hair? When everything else is covered? Because even if the hair has so little significance... it will become primary once shape and skin are mostly covered, right? But then once you cover the hair, there is the face... and there are always extremes.

Now my brother acknowledged that in looking at a woman sexually, primary attractions are first body, then face, then hair. So it's hard to explain why cover hair but not face. Except that perhaps the face loses some sexual appeal without seeing the hair. I mean, how attractive is a bald woman? Does anyone say how great her face is, or do they just notice the absence of hair?

But even if he acknowledges the headcover as a form of modesty, he will still say it is unnecessary because the law is outdated, and does not apply today. I have come to the conclusion that only God through his Messengers can say when his law applies or when it doesn't.

So if someone could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that hijab (headscarf for women) is mandated, i.e., the LAW, then I would be in a much better place to argue that point.

And I try to avoid questions, "Well are you going to go swimming? Will you wear a bathing suit if you go to the lake?" Blah, blah. I say that I'll deal with the issue when it comes--I didn't want to answer these questions when I put on hijab or before, and I don't want to now. Why? Because they are doubt, and they make me question my confidence. They and others are many questions that string out indefinitely as a list of excuses for doing something. I'm bad when it comes to excuses... there are always more excuses to avoid doing something than there are reasons to proceed. The task then is not to answer the questions or counter the excuses, but to let determination grow until it outweighs all doubt. That's how I started to pray, and how I put on hijab. Just put the excuses on the shelf for a while.

But my brother won't do that, so I get these annoying little questions like "Are you going to wear pants all summer?" I wouldn't go to the lake to sit there and cover up in hijab. Normally I would go to "relax" because sitting in the sun has the effect of draining your energy in a very pleasant sort of way... but I think I would simply avoid going, and spare my skin the trouble of freckles and sunburn likely to accompany such an outing.

But when something seems to make hijab impossible (or other aspects of Islam, for that matter), I know some people who are fond of saying...

Where there's a will, there's a way.


So about grand-daddy...

My family had this conference tonight where we got together to talk about my aunt and my grandfather. My granddad is in the hospital right now, after exhibiting some strange behavior characteristics of a combination of various problems old people have. There is talk of putting him in a home, because he literally cannot take care of himself at this point, and needs almost constant supervision.

My aunt (my grandfather's daughter-in-law), the queen of exaggeration, has told us a variety of silliness about her own problems, which in actuality are probably quite serious, but she won't be able to take care of my grandfather for much longer. My uncle (my mother's brother) isn't home much and my cousin isn't interested in taking care of my grandfather. But she and her husband (who happens to be her first cousin) have moved in, presumably to take care of my aunt and uncle (who isn't doing so good now that my aunt is ill.)

Yeah, I thought my family is weird, until I found out that my cousin is married to her cousin--that seriously takes the prize of all the screwed-up-ness of this family. I could write volumes on that alone.

But my family, that is my immediate family being my parents, siblings, and their spouses, would like to bring my grandfather down here (3-4 hours away from where he is now) so we can have him put somwhere to be taken care of, and where we can visit him. It's not practical for us to visit him with my aunt/uncle in Charlottesville or where he wants to be, in Hopewell. His family is aging as well (btw he'll be 88 tomorrow inshallah) and couldn't visit him even if he were there.
So right now my family is trying to get power of attorney and have him moved down here. Will that be more comfortable for him? I don't know.

How much longer is my aunt going to last? I have no idea... what she said, or what my parents said she said, is apparently nonsense according to my bro-in-law who is a nurse. It's tough to say.

So anyway, that is how my life is currently. It is apparently legal in Virginia to marry your first cousin. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Speaking of clouds...

They were gorgeous this morning. Driving in for school they dumped on me half an ocean I think, but by the time I was coming into work they were very interesting. All the shades of gray, illuminated from the top but on the bottom just like ocean waves... upside down. They're gone now, and the sun is out, but I've never seen quite such an interesting cloudy sky as this morning. :-) seems to be giving me trouble today--I'm not sure if this will even be posted. And I can't spend too much time on it anyway because my life is due tomorrow, in the form of a lab report on transistors, some linear systems homework, a post on how to write proposals, and an outline (for my group) of a proposal for our final project. I'm excited like a kid in a candy store... really. I love transistors. I love stepping on them... crunch.

I have a little story to tell. A good friend of mine bought me some hijabs as a gift, since I started wearing the scarf. I pitched a fit at first, declining the offer... and maybe I should have continued to say no. Because they came in yesterday (and they're lovely, really, exactly the kind that I prefer to wear) while my dad was home. Hm, a package for Amy? Who is it from? "Hijabs-R-Us." So he looks it up on the internet. I was horrified when I talked to him on the phone, and he told me he had looked it up. I don't know what he found out, but surely he was going to catch on to this scarf business (haven't yet told him I'm Muslim.)

When I got home (he wasn't there) I took them to my room, kind of hoping (out of sight out of mind) that he would forget about them. He did most of the night, until right before he was heading to bed he barged in to my room and asked to see them. Now, the funny thing is that he had not just looked to see what hijabs were, but apparently he really liked them! He told me that he saw some that were really pretty which is why he wanted to see mine, and I showed him. Well, he wasn't that impressed (I think he liked one that had large flowers or trees or something on it) but he did ask me... (uh-oh) do I wear these as scarves or headcovers?

Uhhhhhhhh..... both?

How to explain!? Luckily I didn't have to, that was enough of an answer. But I'm pretty sure my parents saw me walk in to the house in a hijab (I forgot to take it off) one night, and they didn't say anything then. I can't imagine that my parents have not caught on... but I think they're going to deny it as long as possible.

I did have an interesting discussion with my dad last night. He told me that he just couldn't talk about Islam with me... it just made him mad, and he didn't want to talk about it. So I guess that is the deal, don't talk about it, nobody wants to know. And maybe they can even ignore the scarf too, in time.

Inshallah, this situation will ease up soon, so I can learn all about transistors and how they crunch.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Goodbye Carolina

Boston College beats UNC, 85-82! Yes!

Mostly, I'm writing this post to simply kill time. My grandfather isn't doing so well, he's in the hospital right now and my mother is on the phone with my aunt. But she can't hear very well if the TV is on or if I'm playing piano so I'm on my computer. Go figure. ;-)

A few notes... WhyIslam sent me, in my revert care package, this pretty, but unfortunately carolina blue, hijab to wear. The only problem with it (aside from being carolina blue) is that I can't find many clothes that seem to match it right. But I wear it sometimes anyway. And, oddly enough, despite the pale blue color, I get more compliments on it than any of my other. Hm.

Last night I attended a presentation at the mosque that was basically a video of a speech by Sherman Jackson. It was supposed to be about Muslims in America, and the media, but it was more about how the history of Islam, and the classical Islamic period, are vitally important for understanding how Muslims should behave in this country--where society functions differently than in Middle Eastern countries and other places where Islam has dominated for centuries. While interesting, it seemed more like common sense to me... but left me with less faith in "local" imams who are from other countries, if their understanding of Islam is more restrictive to the country in which they were raised, and studied. As if I needed another excuse not to trust people... shame.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where has the time gone?

I really don't like it when I forget my watch. It seems to happen a lot because I take it off all the time to wash my hands/arms, and then forget to put it on. Today I remembered when I turned off of my street coming to work. But I was running late already and decided not to go back. So my cell phone will be my clock today. You'd think being in front of a computer all day I wouldn't need a watch but... some of us like on our hands I guess.

I have gotten some very kind words of encouragement from some brothers I work with. I never had told anyone that I'm Muslim, but wearing the scarf makes it rather obvious. But these two have said some very nice things about the scarf, and my converting to Islam. One wants me to meet his wife and daughters because he thinks I would be a good example (they don't wear the scarf) and one has offered to help me learn Arabic. Yay. :-)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sharing the secret

This past weekend was no good. For some reason I thought there was a discussion about a book I had read Friday night, but it turns out it was really scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Salatul-Isha was at 8pm, though, and I wanted to be there for that because afterwards there was a lecture about 'how to pray.'

But I had gone home to have dinner with my parents. The night before I had watched a special on the Quran with them, and I think I was trying to discuss it, and a little about Islam. Anyway, somehow I got into talking about my beliefs (which of course are wrong, according to them) and an argument ensued. Now, by my thinking I got out before it got bad. But that wasn't how my dad saw it. He raised his voice to me once, and continually interrupted me (wouldn't let me finish a sentence about anything) while I was trying to explain myself. So ultimately I didn't really get much across to them, but apparently they felt "offended" and thought I was "gullible" to actually believe a scholarly perspective that... well... the Bible had been changed! And, of course, I was denying God, which is apparently a trait of my generation, kind of like the hippies.

See me rolling my eyes?

There is no getting through, whatever I say is misinterpreted, misunderstood. But I left before too long without any nice words (I was being fussed at, and just opted to leave instead of fussing back.) Found out upon arrival that the event I was going to was really on Tuesday, so I proceeded to the mosque for the night prayer. On my way, I get a call from my sister. My parents had called her, they were having a very difficult time with something. (Can you imagine if I told them I was Muslim? Whoa.) My dad revealed that he had even considered throwing me out of the house.

Of course, you're getting this from my perspective--but I promise that I did not yell or say anything that was deliberately insulting or offensive. I just suggested evidence which claims Jesus is not the literal son of God or in any way divine. So to be honest, I don't think I did anything rash to provoke my dad's wrath.

But apparently he had thought that through, and both parents were wondering what was up with me--as though I reveal every detail of my life to my sister. I guess she calmed them down some, and I explained how nuts they are. Then I ended the convo so I could go pray, and I went to visit my sister afterwards.

The prayer was not so great, really, because I was not quite in time (after making wudhu) to get into the musallah so I was in the gym and there were kids playing basketball and stuff behind me, and lots of ladies sitting around chatting. Very noisy, and hard to hear the imam over the speaker. But alas; I think that's how friday night prayers normally are. And to be honest, to see the women so crowded, if there were the same number of men (and not one more) they would be crowded too.

But the lecture/q&a was very nice. The first time I actually saw the imam of this mosque!! Would you believe that? And they opened the women's section up so I had no problems seeing at all, and didn't even have to wait to ask a question. As soon as I asked almost, I got the mic, while all the guys had to wait because there were so many of them. I was 1 of 2-7 sisters there (some kept coming and going), and honestly, I got a lot of attention. I guess they didn't want to be accused of not letting sisters ask questions, and it played in my favor. :-)

But afterwards I called my sister and went over to her house--in my scarf. She had figured I might have converted a while ago, but with the scarf it seemed more official I guess. And we talked about Islam for a while, some reasons I chose it. She had had some Muslims neighbors for a little while, and knew some of Islam already.

While she was okay with my decision, the scarf didn't go over so well. She had a less optimistic view than I of how the family would accept it, and strongly suggested I don't wear it at all. Essentially, it makes or would make some of my family feel uncomfortable. Imagine that. So I'm supposed to dress in a way that makes them comfortable, eh?

Anyway, the next day I apologized to my parents (I didn't get home until 2am) and from their responses, definitely didn't get the vibe that it was okay to bring this up again. They just don't get it, and now I'm afraid to tell them again. If my dad kicks me out... oooooh!

And I spent the weekend without the scarf, more or less. I tried a combination of hats with small scarves around my neck, but it doesn't feel right at all. But I feel like a total failure that I couldn't, or wouldn't, wear the scarf while out with them. I really don't know how to tell them. :-(