Saturday, June 30, 2007

10 Blessing Tuesday

Rabbuka al-Akram. Your Lord is Most Generous.

I'm not sure if any of my readers have checked out, a site encouraging Muslims to compete in some "above and beyond" acts of faith, geared towards increasing Iman (faith.)

There are some acts to be performed everyday (like a number of sunnah salaat, witr, fajr in jam3a etc.) and some acts that specially depend on which day of the week it is. For example, fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, reading Surat al Kahf on Fridays. There are also "replacements" like 10 minutes of dhikr or reading hadith for sisters who cannot perform some of the acts (like fasting and salaat) due to menstruation. It's kind of interesting really.

Right now it's Wednesday (or in fact it is Thursday in some parts of the world) but I wanted to go ahead and publicly do the Tuesday special, which is to count 10 blessings. It's supposed to make you think. Not long ago, I could sit an begin to cry thinking of blessings... things for which I can only say alhamdulillah.

But here is a list for this week's Tuesday. I hope maybe my readers would like to add their own, in the comment section.

I am thankful for...
  1. Being shown a man of good character and manners who is strong in piety to Allah--seeing not only that he exists but having hope of marrying him. Alhamdulillah.
  2. My Arabic study-buddy; as much as I love learning the Arabic language I was not very committed when studying alone, but my study-buddy and I now meet a few times a week to review conjugations and she is really helping me learn. Alhamdulillah.
  3. My job(s); I guess most people complain about their jobs and I don't love the work, but the flexibility is a necessity for me, and it always manages to pay the bills. Alhamdulillah.
  4. The Muslim community where I live; it's so integrated, Arabs, Desis, converts, all mixed up and working together to teach Islam to non-Muslims and to develop the community to tackle the challenges of being Western Muslims. Alhamdulillah.
  5. The imam at my masjid; the community is one thing, but the imam deserves a special point today because he offers so many classes and works so hard to be available as a resource to the community, answering questions and teaching. Even before I knew he was the imam he really appealed to me with his calm and respectful manner of teaching, and I have the world of respect for him (even though he teases me for taking notes.) Alhamdulillah.
  6. My roommate. My rent is low and she cooks about as often as I do, meaning that not everything to eat in the house is cooked by me (which is nice, to not have to cook it all.) Also, being now in her circle of friends has introduced me to all sorts of Muslimahs, of all ages and backgrounds, and helped me integrate into this very special community. Alhamdulillah.
  7. My brother. I had to call him today because I pulled my shoulder; it's a problem I have had sometimes in the past, and usually while he was around and he was the only one to be able to fix it. I called him today and he recommended some things I could try myself to alleviate the pain, but it's nice to just be able to call him up for something like that and he's very understanding. Alhamdulillah.
  8. Anyone who has felt the tiniest bit of sympathy after my complaints about being spoofed. Even people I don't know very well have felt at least a little bad, and I am thankful that people know me well enough to trust me when I tell them what is going on. And that they trusted me enough in the first place to not believe the spoofer. Alhamdulillah.
  9. Ever-increasing sense of modesty. I now wear hijab of course, but I begin to feel less and less comfortable in tight clothes, which makes it much easier to dress loosely anyway. Alhamdulillah.
  10. The man to whom I said shahadah, who is acting as my wali, and is never far when I need his counsel, even when he's busy. Alhamdulillah.

Making some more changes

To remove some clutter from my side bar, I decided to make two of those elements (namely the warning and glossary) as full posts (as you can see below) which I have now provided links to.

Feel free to make suggestions for design... design has never been my forte!

Running Glossary of Islamic Terms

If you don't see the term you saw on my blog and are looking for, please make a comment on the post and I'll be happy to add it inshaaAllah!

  • Alhamdulillah - all praise is for Allah (God)
  • Asr - the afternoon salaat
  • Bismillah - in the name of Allah
  • Da'wah - Conveying the message of Islam and inviting the people to it
  • Dhikr - remembrance of Allah swt
  • Dhuhr - the noon-time salaat
  • Du'a - a prayer of supplication to Allah swt
  • Fajr - the pre-sunrise salaat
  • Hadith - narration of saying of the prophet Muhammad saws (pl. ahadith)
  • Hijab - how a Muslim woman covers herself, usually meaning scarf
  • Imam - leader of the prayer, sometimes leader of a masjid or community, sometimes scholar
  • InshaAllah - if Allah wills (i.e., God willing)
  • Isha - the night-time salaat
  • Jannah - garden, or Paradise
  • Jazak Allah Khair - may Allah reward you with goodness
  • Maghrib - the salaat after sunset
  • Mashallah - what Allah wills/willed, a good omen
  • Masjid - mosque, place where Muslims worship
  • Musallah - the open room in the masjid for prayer
  • Rahimahullah - may Allah have mercy on him
  • Ramadan - month in islamic calendar for fasting
  • Salaam - peace or greeting of peace
  • Salaat - the ritual prayer in islam
  • Salawaat - plural of salaat
  • Sahih Bukhari - an authentic collection of hadith
  • Sahih Muslim - an authentic collection of hadith
  • SAWS - abbreviation to ask for Allah's blessings on Muhammad
  • Shahadah - testimony of faith in islam
  • Sheikh - scholar of Islam
  • Subhanallah - glory to Allah
  • Sunnah - the tradition of the prophet Muhammad saws
  • SWT - abbreviation for a phrase meaning 'glorified and exalted'
  • Taraweeh - night (resting) prayer in Ramadan when Qur'an is recited in full over the month
  • Taqwa - Piety, or God-consciousness
  • Zakat - mandatory charity

Thursday, June 28, 2007


There have been comments made on my blog which attempt to impersonate me--so they look like I made them--about the Houston Taliban issue. The same comments may appear on other sites which I frequent.

I did not make these comments and I absolutely refuse to comment on this issue because I do not have the facts. If you see any comments about that issue, or promoting a blog to deal with it, rest assured that they are not from me.

Please beware, as the person posting these comments is now using my name. For this reason I have enabled comment moderation, but I'm cautioning all my readers, if you see any comments anywhere which appear to be from me about ICNA/WhyIslam, and Houston, consider them the work of an impersonator and not me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Women in the masjid: a bare necessity

Although my perspective is uniformly American, I think it's possible--even likely--that my opinion could apply to Muslims anywhere on the globe. You see, I think that women absolutely need the masjid, and that the masjid needs women. Why don't women to go masajid?

Why not, when the Prophet saws forbid men from prohibiting women from going? That means it's prohibited to prohibit women from visiting the masjid. So maybe "forbid" and "prohibit" are words too strong, yet there is a section in Sahih Muslim on the permissibility of women attending the mosque. Here is a hadith from that section:

Abdullah b. Umar reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) say: Don't prevent your women from going to the mosque when they seek your permission. Bilal b. 'Abdullah said: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. On this'Abdullah b. Umar turned towards him and reprimanded him to harshly as I had never heard him do before. He ('Abdullah b. Umar) said: I am narrating to you that which comes from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and you (have the audacity) to say: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them.

What I like about these hadith is that even then, just short generation after the Prophet saws, people already sought to interject their own opinion, especially as regards women. I love how the translator used the word "audacity" for emphasis, it's so appropriate I think. But even as much as I could cry the above hadith and other narrations even from Ibn 'Umar, there will be Muslims (both men and women) who object to women going to the mosque. Why?

Let's first address how. They say the prayer of a woman is better at home. How much better? Prayer is better on congregation. Prayer is better in the masjid. Prayer is even better in one of the three masajid, Al-Aqsa, An-Nabawi, and Al-Haram. So what I should do is move into the haram, so all my salaat can be 1) at home so they're better, 2) in the masjid so they're better, 3) in congregation so they're better, and 4) in the Haram so they're super. Rolling your eyes? Me too.

You may try, as you will, to prove that a woman's prayer in her home is somehow better, and yes, I know the hadith, but I will unabashadly stand up to anyone who tells me that a salaat in my home even comes close to a salat in the masjid. For me, it doesn't even come close.

So why is prayer for a women better at home? Is it better than the masjid? Or better than congregation? Or is it just blindly "better" than something? Of all my salaat, the ones at home are usually only a step above from a solitary prayer in a public place, like my cubicle, a classroom, stairwell, or a sporting arena. I have a problem with the hadith not because I don't believe it, but because I see how it is actually discouraging women from praying in congregation, and from praying in the masjid.

Now, for a woman who finds harship in leaving her home to pray, alhamdulillah, she has the reward in her home. It's a good thing. For a woman who feels safe in her home, alhamdulillah, she has reward for praying in her home. But for a woman who is just too lazy to go to the masjid? Ah, the reward at home? For a woman who tires of listening to a slow recitation in congregation or in the masjid, praying quickly at home... you think this is good?

You see, while men are encouraged to build the community, encouraged in fostering ties simply by going to the masjid, encouraged to participate in the community affairs and education and da'wah... what is the woman encouraged to do now? Stay home. Don't help the community. Don't seek out new sisters to share company with at the masjid. Don't go learn your deen, don't call others to your deen. Just stay home. This is troubling. Isn't it troubling?

A mother says to her daughter, "Why do you go pray at the masjid? I never prayed in the masjid. Stay home." A husband says to your wife, "Why do you go pray at the masjid? Your prayer is better at home. Stay home." I find it all absurd, why??

It's not as if a woman loses reward by praying in the masjid, does she? Or by desiring to pray in congregation? Or she desires to listen to the word of Allah recited clearly instead of merely reciting the few aayaat she knows? She loses reward? You must be joking, where's your head if you say yes?

And as much as I may be challenged on this, I think it's absolutely essential for women to go to the masjid. Absolutely essential. To start with, in this society the masjid is the center of the community--a center for networking for Muslims. Where else can you go to meet Muslims? Especially Muslims who pray, who fast, who struggle to improve their deen? Not to the shishah bar. Go to the masjid. Women need to learn their deen as much as do men. They need to participate in those same classes, they need to meet other sisters, for their own good.

They also need to go to the masjid for the good of the entire community. That's because women have something to contribute, obviously. I keep hearing about the "youth" and acommodations that need to be made for the "youth." Who best to oversee that than mothers, honestly? To raise them properly. They also need to be available in this society in particular because of how women are viewed by the public. But more importantly, when a woman shows up at the masjid to learn about Islam, who is going to tell her?

If you say or give the impression women are not welcome, I can pretty much guarantee you she is going to leave. And if she knows no other way to learn about Islam, she might never come back. Have that on your conscience.

Keeping women out of the masjid (which is done either by society's customs or religious proof to justify a custom, or else fear, or arrogance on the part of the woman thinking she is too good for the masjid) prevents the youth from integrating into a community, it prevents women from learning about the deen, and provides an environment ripe for extremism by excluding a weighty opinion in the community.

If women do not go to the masjid, you see what you see in Muslim societies today where you find men who are willing and eager to practice Islam, study Islam, teach Islam. They are devoted in their salaat, respectful of elders... these are the ones who go to the masjid regularly probably. And the men who don't? They're out smoking, drinking, flirting, missing their prayers, engaging in haraam, right? Well, when a woman is left outside of the Muslim community (which happens in effect when women are excluded from the masjid) she falls into the same traps of Shaytaan. She is out smoking, drinking, flirting, and missing prayers (forget hijab!) just like the men who don't go to the masjid.

When your women are excluded, when they are prevented from fully realizing their potential in this deen and are relegated to their homes where they refuse to stay anyway, they aren't learning the deen and they can't teach it to their children. What then do you expect society to turn into?

Let the woman do it

In case anyone ever wonders what kind of "engineering" work I do, it's drawing wiring diagrams. Which we plot. Plot means print on a really huge sheet of paper (ok so that's not exactly what it means, but it might as well.) We have a "plotter" to do this. Sometimes a regular printer can act as a "miniature plotter" and plot a "half-size" which is really far less than half size, but on an 11x17 sheet of paper.

So "changer of plotter paper" isn't part of my job description, but I'm not going to be the moron who sits and waits on a plotter to plot when it's out of paper, or plot to another one to save me the trouble. If I'm going to be plotting 2-3 sheets a day, it makes sense to use this one and not keep walking around the building. Besides, someone has to change the paper when it runs out.

But apparently... not many people know how. Do I know how? Yes. Why? Because it takes about 2 minutes to do and somebody has to, and always felt like if I didn't, nobody else would. That appears to be the case. If I don't... well... I get tired of waiting. But I think most people just wait for someone else to do it. Maybe they're afraid they'll break it... or don't want to learn so they are never asked to do it.. anyway, I would have changed it yesterday but there was no paper. Period. So I go back and work on other things (because really, I have a ton of work to do) and decide to worry about plotter paper later.

Well, later comes and one advantage (or disadvantage if it's your fiance on the phone) of living incubicle world is that you can shout out your question and there are potentially 10-15 people nearby to answer. The question was:

"Doesn't anybody know how to load this thing?" (That was Rick.)
"I do, but I don't know where the paper is." (Me)
"I got the paper." (Rick)
"I'll load it." (Me)

So I walk around the cubicle island to where the plotter is, and there's Rick with the paper, saying, "So y'all gonna let the woman do it?" You see, "the woman" is me, the only girl in the section. Not the only girl in this part of the building, but the only one to use the plotter. And apparently, the only one who knows how to change it. One of my colleagues decided to "observe" the woman as she loaded the plotter, insisting that watching would make him an expert. I offered to show him how to do it but, oh no, no no, he didn't want to learn. (Lest he be asked to change it himself one day?)

So how is it that the girl at the bottom of the pay scale who only works part time, has been in the office for a few years only (2.5) is the one who knows how to load paper into the plotter?

Apparently, she's the only one who read the instructions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Looks like one of my posts made it big-time!

Bigger than any of the others anyway. I was notified today that my post Some Muslims are not bad was quoted on a site recognizing Muslim bloggers, So far nobody commented on that post there which quotes a part of my post. Here's the link to that:

Just to help them out (because I like the idea of creating a network of Muslim bloggers) I'll link the site on this blog. But I thought it was cool, wanted to share. :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

No justification, no justice

So this has been a weekend, good and bad. Maybe not "bad" but very saddening, at least, depressing even. The MAS Day at the Cinema started with the film Occupation 101. You can purchase the documentary here: It's heartbreaking, and for me it set the tone for the rest of the day, which I spent crying at seemingly random things that would have otherwise not have phased me in the slightest.

I wanted to get that out there. At the masjid Saturday night though, there was a brother promoting a book he is helping to put out. It's going to be called Palestinians' Holocaust: American Perspectives. Originally the book was going to be titled with "African American" instead of just "American" but they changed it to appeal to a broader audience. I think that was wise, and I was confused at first why they would call it African American perspectives anyway, until I read a "review" of sorts of it, an article mainly written to publicize it. The premise was that African Americans could more closely identify with the Palestinian struggle than white Americans I guess, but the book includes quotes from such notable figures as George Washington, Jimmy Carter, and Alison Wier ( I'm glad that race isn't an issue in it, because in truth any human who has knowledge about what is going on should stand up and shout it... and drown out the lies.

Some quotes that come to my mind now are George Washington's farewell address, when he warned against a passionate attachment to any foreign nation.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Malcolm X made a stunning point about racism and quoted Hamlet--is it really better to suffer or to take up arms?

To be, or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.
And others have quotes in the book, some that I haven't read or heard before... I hope someone is listening to the extreme silliness that is blinding this country of all morality and justice and perpetuating lifelong torture of the population of a nation.

To the one posing as me...

How can you expect anyone to take you seriously, when you are misrepresenting yourself? In many cases so far, pretending to be me? Why would anyone trust you when you are lying already to spread your message?

If you are Muslim... seriously, how dare you? Have you no shame? No fear of Allah swt?

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Right, so despite the fact that I'm overwhelmed with stress, I'm getting dragged back into MAS. It starts with emails like "WE MISS YOU! WHERE ARE YOU?" and then bumping into people at the masjid who ask, "Are you coming to on Saturday?" and despite a really good excuse like, "I have to work" they somehow don't believe me.... two jobs plus summer school isn't a good enough excuse to not do MAS apparently.

So I took off work and am planning to go tomorrow inshaaAllah to watch some films that will, I just know it, make me very angry about the current state of American-Middle Eastern politics. I'm going to be pissed or in tears, possibly both at the same time... I expect it to be a long day.

I carry a lot of stress, you know? Pent up inside. I release on my blog sometimes... sometimes I write posts that I never publish. Sometimes I have somebody to listen to my rants. My roommate and I have had a few good chats lately, sometimes I just need to "dump" all my baggage... she does the same. So we have chats and we both feel better afterwards. :-)

Anyway, this MAS Day at the Cinema thing is being marketed as a family event... not really sure about that, but I don't have kids so I'll be there anyway. There is supposed to be some entertainment... maybe it'll be fun? Hmmm. We'll see inshaAllah. If I start posting tomorrow night railing about politics... that'll probably be why.

Some Muslims are not bad

Politics is so tiring, and so stressful. As of today, there is about 3-5% more stress in my life than I can handle. This is between my finances, my two jobs, summer school, and life planning... it's rough. So I haven't been following the news... it's a failing on my part I suppose. On the other hand, tonight was a more politically charged event at the masjid, for the "Friday Night Program."

First was a talk by a brother about Somalia and issues dealing with the need for Muslims to assume their own leadership. It's generally assumed I think that if Muslims anywhere in the world had the option of free and fair elections then they would invariably elect Muslim leadership. Perhaps even the "Islamists" that Americans today fear so much. As a Muslim I can see why that would be the case... do Americans see? Why would these crazy Muslims choose Muslim leaders? Perhaps because we believe in our faith.

The West you see is trying to reform Islam, the way Christianity sort of reformed itself. America et. al. are trying to introduce a dichotomy to the faith that really doesn't exist--introducing "secularism" you could say. Why does a religion need secularism? That is the senselessness. They see politics and not faith in the Muslim world, politics only. I started to wonder, though, how can Muslims even begin to realize a goal of self-leadership if they are uneducated... as they are uneducated.

In the world of ignorance, tolerance and respectability lose way against the instinct to survive. That, I think, is what you see in such "war-torn" parts of the Muslim world. How can 'democracy' have a hope in an uneducated society? Even in this country, it was incumbent upon citizens to educate themselves, but education assumed... it was necessary for the concept to work.

The brother talked about the peace in Mogadishu when Muslims were in charge. Then he talked about how the US opted to bomb the city, of some 2 million people, because 3 suspected terrorists were in it. Three suspected terrorists that never could actually be found, and which some American newspaper apparently said were as elusive as the Iraq WMD's. Interesting.

After the brother's talk and after Isha salaat another brother spoke for a few minutes, about an organization I think which is trying to publish a book, titled The Palestinian's Holocaust, American Perspectives. He explained that originally it was "African American perspectives" but they nixed the "African" part to appeal to a wider audience. The book is filled with quotes by different people, Malcolm X to Alison Weir to George Washington and Jimmy Carter. Because injustice is wrong, and what is happening to the Palestinians is wrong.

Anyway, I had never heard of Alison Weir before then, but she is the director of a website, If. Americans. Knew. If they knew what? If they knew the truth about Israel and Palestine.

Upon getting home I found I had an email about some PBS thing which was supposed to air tonight, I didn't pay much mind to it honestly since I had missed it by being at the masjid. But as I started to do my laundry (I like to do laundry late at night, not sure why... but I have to stay up with it because the drier does not stop automatically) I turned on the TV, and Friday night isn't big, the best I could find was Foxnews. Fauxnews. Well Hannity and Colmes was on so I watched that a bit... apparently some video about Islamists and Muslims was supposed to air but got pulled off. Apparently it was pointing out a few very anti-Islam (I shouldn't say that, but... ouch) Muslims who were opposed to "the terrorists."

But on the site I found this interesting article. I hope you read. She is talking about the message or purpose of funding such videos. On the same site I watched the video about young women and girls being strip searched in the airport, having their maxi pads taken and forced to wait and bleed in the airport, one of them even in a wheelchair. Sick... just sick. Who does that? What sort of human being does that?

The video may or may not be aired some time in the future. It may or may not be the one that was supposed to air tonight. Either way, here is a news story about it at the Washington Post if you're interested in that.

I find it immensely disturbing how "the media" is so easily manipulated and how Islam can be viewed as something so awful. I received an email from someone today, it was supposed to be da'wah oriented on my end, but the response I received was uniquely disturbing... he brought up terrorism. Someone interested in learning about Islam from a perspective of faith would not, I'd think, start accusing Islam of being the only "group of faith" in the world today that is murdering innocent people, over "god." It struck me as a stupid, ignorant, bigoted remark, one that I might hear from someone who does watch Foxnews, but not for amusement but for real news...

He must have forgotten Ireland (catholic/protestant) and India (Hindu/Muslim) just to get me started, but more importantly... Israel?? The stupid part of the remark isn't that Muslims are the only religious people killing others.... although that is clearly uninformed and something... but the worst part is I think that he doesn't even realize why there is killing. Shi'a/Sunni fighting he informed me is the result of a disagreement of the caliph. Then again... maybe I can't decide which is worse. Sigh.

The whole exchange is troubling, and I'm not sure how to respond. I don't have the time in general to begin a long-term debate... especially with someone who has the opinion of me that I left Christianity too soon. Just a few words on that. I became Muslim, and here is why:

I believe in God.

And that pure, short and simple fact is a bond among Muslims, true, the centrality of life for a Muslim even... but it is not the cause of vicious wars and power struggles in the poor, impoverished, uneducated parts of the world that happen to be inhabited by Muslims. The post prior to this one of mine describes a story showing the imperative to be humble and kind among Muslims...

When will that picture air on PBS?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Humbleness, Kindness, and Equality

Alhamdulillah, I made it again to the imam's class this evening, where we are reading Riyad us-Saliheen. The chapter we read today is called in the translated version, "Modesty and Courtesy Towards the Believers." My readers will have to forgive me, I don't have an Arabic version of the book but the imam went into an explanation about how "modesty" is not the correct word to use, but really "humbleness" and that is, in fact, the translation used when translating the word from the Qur'an. (Sorry, I don't remember the word!)

It was an interesting chapter, nice enough, about being humble instead of arrogant towards others (i.e., thinking we're better than them.) But one thing that sticks with me from the lesson is a story the imam told us about when 'Umar was khalifa.

There was a man who was the leader of an Arab tribe, and a man who was just a common laborer, both on hajj, both making tawaf around the Ka'ba. Without intending to, the laborer stepped on the foot of the ameir... I can see how that would happen, though I've not myself ever been on hajj. Anyway the ameir slaps the laborer in the face, as if to say "I'm the ameir of such-and-such tribe, how dare you step on my foot?" Like the man meant to do that or something. Slapped in him the face. So the laborer does not make such a big deal of it, but told some friends I suppose, and someone suggested that he go to 'Umar and tell him what happened. So he does, and 'Umar asks that this man be found and brought to him... so he is.

The ameir now comes before 'Umar, Ameir-al-Mu'mineen, and 'Umar asks if this happened, if the man really slapped the other man in the face. And he says yes, what of it, the man was just a laborer and he is ameir of such-and-such tribe. So 'Umar tells him that this is an injustice and says either the man has to forgive him, or the laborer can slap him, the ameir, in the face, to compensate for the injustice. Well, the ameir doesn't like this plan at all, so he says to 'Umar, give me three days to think about this...

And what does he do in three days?

He runs away.

His tribe was from Syria or somewhere in that area, near the border of the Byzantine Empire, and the man apostates from Islam and becomes a Christian.

For him it wasn't a spiritual issue so much as a political one, I suppose. Nonetheless, nobody can blame 'Umar for this man apostating, right? 'Umar stood up for this principle that one man is not better than another man because he in such a tribe, or even the leader of such a tribe, he's not even better than a slave.

And we all know I think the hadith that we are only better in piety and good deeds, we are not better by our skin color or our upbringing or our wealth, or other standards of dunya. So we should be humble to all our brothers and sisters, the ones who are even working for us, because we are instructed to not even burden our animals with too heavy a load, so how can we not treat anyone less fortunate as though we are better?

I think if we believe in Allah, we cannot do that.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Perks of the New Building

So my office has moved out into the sticks. There is a train that comes by and shakes the whole building... that was a very unsettling experience the first time... and the second... until I figured out what exactly it was. Despite being miles further away than the previous office building, this one takes only a few minutes longer to reach. But... more gas, still.

Free parking is nice, and not having to cross two streets by foot to get in is nice, too. Although, by the time I get there, most of the good parking spaces are full. All the ones by my entrance anyway--which is at the far end of the building. So it happens that I enter through another door and walk the length of the building. Or sometimes I walk and then enter.

But one interesting thing about the new building... find this odd if you will... is that I have twice now gotten salaams from coworkers. Up to this point, I had seen some brothers who I sort of though of as "probably Muslim" but was never sure, much less if they were practicing. But alhamdulillah, I got salaams from both of them in the last week. I have yet to get salaams from the two Arab brothers who I have even talked to about Islam, and who I should say I know considerably better than these other two. So I just find that interesting.

But one day this week I was coming in through a far door (it was raining a bit) and this brother was coming in at the same time, carrying some inboxes. He gave me salaams and introduced himself, asked how I liked the building and so on, but as I introduced myself he tells me, "I know your name."

*blink* **

Uhh.... okay... nice to meet you... (that's weird!)

But alhamdulillah. It's also nice to not have other people's supervisors breathing down my neck with their offices so close. But my boss's office isn't anywhere near mine. This is somewhat inconvenient... it's nowhere near the door either. So I guess I can come in and nobody will see me. Maybe that is convenient. ;-)

Lately I have a lot of work at work, though. After 2 and a half years of not having a lot of work... having a lot of work is a new experience for me. I can't spend as much time emailing and blogging at work, for one thing. And have to spend way less time on the forum.

I got a "real" project this week, a new signal plan. It was assigned to me because it's an upgrade from a plan I did about a year ago (last May actually) that was actually kind of complicated. I think it might be the only plan I've ever done that used all eight phases! That's only relevant because it means there are lots of details on the plan. Overlap programming with omits and calls, not to mention 4 load resistors and a ton of loops.

So, this is an upgrade. I'm looking at the plan thinking it's going to get simpler. It's still 8-phase but it's becoming less efficient (but more safe) by going to protected left turns on the side street instead of protected/permitted. That means that instead of getting a signal head with 3 balls (red yellow green) and a green ball indicating you may turn left if nobody is coming (but you must be able to tell) [this is fully permitted left turn] and instead of getting a signal head that has 5 sections with 3 balls and 2 arrows (a yellow and green arrow indicating you can turn and oncoming traffic is stopped) [which is protected/permitted] you get three arrows--red, yellow, and green arrows. That means you can only go when you get that arrow and the rest of the time you must wait.

So that requires more than just changing the signals heads. They had to install new loops and run them differently. The loops detect the traffic waiting in a lane. But this is neat... two loops were eliminated, and five new ones were installed. But I managed to get away with only needing one more card on the rack for the detectors, and not having to move any detectors except for the ones that got new loops. Cool, huh!?

I saved the state some money, by not having to buy new detectors. And saved the technician some work, now he won't have to go changing all these loops around to get them into the "standard" (ie less efficient/cost-effective) setup. I told this to my boss and he was impressed. This other guy who used to review my work would complain when I wouldn't put everything in its "typical" slot because he didn't think the technicians would understand. Meh. This time I got to do it my way and I was happy. Yay! :-)

At the same time though, I'm supposed to be indexing files... loads of files... by next Friday!! Yikes! I'm doing this with another guy and so far haven't started. He got people to move some files out so we have less work to do but still... I don't even understand what I'm supposed to be doing.

So why am I involved anyway?

Because apparently I'm good at organization. Is this true? Of course not. Is it a stereotype? Absolutely. Why? Starts with a V!! I don't know why men think that women are naturally better at things like organization really. I'm sure though, that that is the reason I was selected. Boss's boss said so. And I thought, "What? Organization? Me?" with a cocked eyebrow and smirk.

Mff. Yeah right. We shall see how that goes!

**I discovered something new to frustrate my blog readers! I did it by accident and it was only after an hour or so that I realized my mistake! Hahaha... if you type the word "blink" in brackets like this "<" and ">" then you get flashing text... you blog can be on the blink!

Imagine if the whole post was like this! Whoops!


When I was in HS, I had a math teacher who would assign homework (naturally, don't they all do that?) In class, she would check our notes to see if we'd done or attempted it. She was very disappointed in me, you see, because I would only do it about half the time.

But I had a knack for doing very well on the quizzes and tests. Usually not perfect 100 but 92, 94, pretty often. That was 11th grade, but it pretty much was my story in calculus too. I wasn't too big on homework but quizzes and tests were not a problem. I didn't even study that much. The material was just very intuitive. Geometry for me was not that way, but most other math classes I've taken have been that way. This is what I like about electrical engineering... the math.

But sometimes the math is not intuitive. I'm the weirdo (compared to all the other EE students I know) who preferred electromagnetic fields to linear systems. I failed linear systems, mind you, it was very difficult for me. Looking back, I think it's because of how I chose to look at it. When I start looking at things discretely, I begin to have trouble. Computer logic I was never too good at. As far as programming, sure, but muxes and switches and things, I never got the hang.

But now I look at this communications class and it's take the fourier transform of this, the probability of that, convolve this and that other thing, add these signals... maybe I get it? Or maybe it's just easy and I'm flattering myself. Anyway, the homework problem is still with me...

But I had a test in this class Tuesday and the average was, high, an 88. But the top score was a 99. Mine.

Alhamdulillah. I really like good grades.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I'm angry... I want to offer the following warning to people reading my blog.

On WhyIslam and now on my blog, someone is trying to impersonate me to disseminate a message about WhyIslam, and about ICNA. I do not know the facts of the situation and have not found them available to the public. I want to stay out of the mess, there is suspicion rising on both sides against our brothers in Islam! And I hate that, so please don't think I am spreading this message. There was a comment on my last blog post, I have deleted it. If you see any posts on my blog by "Aviatrix" I insist they are not me. All my blog comments can be identified by my name, Amy. Although I do go by the userid "Aviatrix" on WhyIslam and some other forums, I do not use it on my blog. If you see any such comments before I can delete them, be aware that they are not mine, and in no way shape or form do they represent my thoughts or opinions, or even facts regarding the situation.

I may be impersonated in other places as well, unfortunately, and I hope my friends know my stand on this issue. I beg my brothers and sisters in Islam to avoid backbiting and avoid slander. Spreading gossip and rumors is not good in Islam, and misrepresenting oneself (i.e., pretending to be me) is a lie.

We put our trust in Allah, who has power over all things and knows the truth of all matters.

Weak ones

I found this in Riyad us-Saliheen in the Chapter about Benevolent Treatment Towards Orphans, Girls, and the Weak and Humble.

Abu Shuraih Khuwailid bin 'Amr al-Khuza`i (rahimahullah) reported: The Prophet (saws) said, "Oh Allah, I declare inviolable the rights of two weak ones: the orphans and women."

And that is reported in An-Nasa'i. Something about it seems strange... why would Rasoolullah saws declare something to Allah swt? I don't think Riyad us-Saliheen does the best job about compiling hadith about women. The vast majority of it seems like it's written entirely for men with small passages about "you should be nice to women" while insisting again on "women must be nice to men." In the few chapters 33-35 that's the impression I get.

Anyway, at best can I assume the author wasn't intending really for an audience of women. It's odd how I see this but.... hm.

I read an article tonight about educating women, how Muslim women are vastly uneducated, often illiterate, and daughters are really being denied education as well. For example, a girl with two brothers being taught in Urdu only despite being fluent in it, while her brothers learned Spanish and French and English. Her mother was homeschooling her while the boys went to an American school, expecting they would attend European universities at some point. Her mother who was homeschooling her could neither speak english, nor had herself a proper formal education.

So I wonder, why are the women uneducated? What foolishness is that? Some fathers will say, why educate a daughter if she is just going to go and get married. There is a crucial flaw in logic there--because she is going to get married, because she is going to have children. Does he not want his grandchildren to be educated? One of the best uses of money in my mind is to further education, really. I wish it were free, and sometimes it is expensive but it is worth it. The article made the point that if a man is taught to read, then he can read. If a woman is taught to read, then her family is taught to read. If a family is taught to read then a village.

Women are the backbone of society, the backbone. So why would you not want to reinforce your backbone? Why would Muslims deprive women of education, and so doing weaken the entire body, the entire ummah. There is no wonder we as Muslims cannot stand up straight, with a spine that is not cared for, strengthened, and nourished.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Good, the Bad...

Him: "Amy, do you think our campus is ugly?"
Me: "Yeah, why?"
Him: "I have to take pictures of it for 331."
Me: "Of course it's ugly, I mean, just look outside, there are bricks everywhere."
Him: "Yeah, I know. I think it ranked 13th ugliest in the nation."
Me: "Thirteenth!? Haha."
Him: "Yeah, including community colleges."
Me: "Oooooooooooooo....."

Ok, it's no secret. People don't come to NCSU because the campus is charming. Before I came to school here, I was doing a fundraiser in the basketball coliseum, walking with someone's dad who had gone to school here, he was a nuclear engineer. We were talking about my college plans, as I was a junior or senior at the time, and when I said I'd probably be going "here" he said, "Get used to walking on bricks."

At new student orientation, back eons ago when I was a freshman, I remember we had to do this exercise in our group, a sort of get-to-know you game. The question was why you picked NCSU. One kid decided to be a smartaleck "Because I like bricks!"

Okay, so what's the deal with the bricks. I figure that if anybody comes here for the first time and I show 'em around, they're gonna say, "Yikes, I've never seen so many bricks in one place ever before in my life." I'm not joking, there are statues made of bricks. An alley between two buildings will have brick arches. All buildings on campus except for two, two, are made out of brick. All the walkways are brick (concrete sidewalks? For amateurs...) and instead of a "courtyard" like a normal school, we have a brickyard. You can see it from space, go look at NCSU on a map, like google maps, and zoom in over the university. Just south of Hillsborough street (another matter of ugliness entirely) you will see the vast expanse of red brick... some of the bricks are white, you'll see they made a pattern of it.

And then will you wonder, "Goodness, is it safe to walk on!?" A sea of bricks, I tell you quite urgently, is not safe to walk on. Nor bike, nor roller blade or skateboard on! You never know when a brick might be out of place causing you to stumble... but should it rain... and it does sometimes rain here... bricks don't provide the traction of pavement or concrete... oh no. Unless you are wearing exceptionally good shoes, you must be very very careful not to slip and fall! And if you fall it will be in a puddle, because the brickyard isn't flat, or inclined enough for the water to flow evenly off... oh no... it puddles... it flows... even a river when the drains clog up, flooding the brickyard. It's really awful.

However, Centennial Campus is a little different. I was in fact sitting outside tonight enjoying the lovely evening... pleasantly warm, I thought. It was actually about 90F. The moon was out and Venus was very bright... subhanallah, that's a site together that for me is very powerful. Nevertheless, I took a little walk around this portion of the campus (the bricks here are flat at least...) and looked out into the dark woods. I should come stargazing out here, I thought. It's quiet, especially at night. It's in the middle of the city but not surrounded by too many streetlights--the buildings block it there anyway--and the trees are far enough off. I dunno, it's a thought.

Some stuffo

You know something stupid I keep doing? Despite the trouble it causes? Putting my hair in a bun when it's wet. It hurts! A few hours later all the poor hair is being yanked so tight, I feel like it leaves bruises when I touch the top of my head. Solution? Don't wash hair? Or what? Gotta do something with it, and I don't like blow driers.

So I got another nosebleed at work again today. I set it as my away message on meebo even, and hours later, when I wasn't even on meebo, someone sent me a message about it. He was using a program that I abandoned long ago because it couldn't keep up with the features of msn and yahoo, so when my friends who were using msnmessenger or yahoomessenger or even aim tried to use different special features, I couldn't use them too. So I just started using the individual programs instead of the catch-all one which ended up causing me more trouble anyway. The away message from hours previous was displaying current on his messenger... too bad for him.

Anyway, we decided that I'm apparently stressed... stress can really do a number on you... in the form of various methods of discomfort. Since I haven't been eating much lately I haven't been able to get sick, but that doesn't really help keep me from feeling uncomfortable most of the time I'm awake.

What else... for some reason, I cannot post youtube videos to my blog. I don't know why... must investigate. I had been able to do this in the past but for a long time I haven't been able to. Foro a long time I tried posting a particular Malcolm X speech but it wasn't working. Today I tried posting a music video and that didn't work either. Too bad I guess.

I had cubicle training at work today. That was... lame... but I did learn how to adjust the keyboard tray so that the angle is now a "slight negative" to ease the pressure on my wrists and supposedly make my typing more ergonomic. It was convenient since I did a lot of typing today at work...

There will be a henna party at my apartment next week inshaaAllah. Yay? I've never even been to a henna party and now I'm apparently co-hosting one. WHOOPS! Yeah it was a surprise when I found out, but what else can I say than, "Oh, ok, I'll clean out the fridge." We need to get a table, too, but hey, the sister in charge of the food is a lady who used to live next door to my sister. When she found out I was Muslim, and then I was my sister's sister, it was very fun on Eid. She halfway recognized me and couldn't explain it. Anyway, that's happy, that she'll be there inshaaAllah.

This is my last week of school before a week-long break! Hey, you know what that means?? *wink wink* More work! Don't ask what that noise was, ok? But either way it means this summer school business is halfway over! Alhamdulillah I'll be so happy when it's over, really. I don't think I'll get much of a "break" per se, only two more weeks at the end of summer school until the fall semester starts. But... but, but, but. That's all. I'm hopeful.

A sister at the masjid asked me to help in creating a video (yeah I dunno why she asked me either) for the new muslimah party this year. The New Muslimah party is a sort of annual event put on by the women's committee, a dinner for Muslimahs only, to help welcome the newer sisters into the community. It looks like it's going to be the weekend of ISNA actually, inshaaAllah, so I might not even be there. I am trying to make it to ISNA since I don't think ICNA will be a realistic possibility. But come to think of it, I'm just sure there's a wedding that weekend... always is, I'm just not sure right now whose. I guess Labor Day Weekend makes a good time if you need days of partying and having family in town. I dunno. I'm not in to all that.

Oh... I thought about taking a picture of it, it was so strange... the other night I was up in the middle of the night, like 3 am or something, and I go into the kitchen... and there is a plant in the dish drainer. It was in it's pot... sitting in the dish drainer. I was very confused... the plant moved to the window, though, now it's sitting beside the glass door. I don't know where it came from, what it was doing in the dish drainer... creepy plants...

Oh one more thing... the video... if you (reader) are a convert to Islam and have a funny experience to share about entering to Muslim community (trust me, I've got tons) that is not offensive, I'd love to hear it! Jazakumallahu khairan.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Women in the Masjid

Never enough. For whatever reason, I had been very slack about attending Friday evening programs at the masjid in the Spring. (I can tell you the reason actually... it was working from 3:30-7:30am on Thursdays, staying up all night Thursday, and then being dead dog tired by the time I got off work on Friday afternoon, so sleeping instead.) Nevertheless, now that is over, Friday afternoon rolls around and I think, "Yes, I should go to the masjid!" Last week I made a particular point of praying maghrib there when I could. That was three times last week... Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. (I work 8p-12 on Monday and Thursday.) Alhamdulillah, that was so refreshing. I missed doing that more often.

Friday was an odd experience, though. I went to the class for sisters with the imam--they are reading Riyad-us-Saliheen (I mentioned this before) one chapter a week. I've been there for most of the last few classes... and the imam still teases me about taking notes. Maybe other people can commit things to memory on one shot, it takes me a few tries. But then I review the notes and things stick better. So anyway, the topic I mentioned before, seclusion.

The topic took so long to discuss, though, that there wasn't time for general q/a afterwards , and I had a question I wanted to ask for some friends. But class was over so I just went to pray. I didn't go to jumu'ah that day, but found out only after the maghrib salaat that the night program between maghrib and isha was q/a with the imam!!

Before I go there, I want to say that praying in the masjid when it's crowded can sometimes be an adventure. This is because no more than 25-35 sisters can fit in the musallah to pray (this amounts to two small rows... the brothers have far, far more room, and the sisters then are forced to pray outside of the musallah (ok this makes me angry) inside the gym... where the small children are playing!! It is very noisy and difficult to concentrate out there... balls flying, never know when one might come and hit you (this has happened to me, hit by a basketball in salaat!). But sometimes in the musallah it's not much better. For example. there were maybe 45 bodies, maybe 50, in the women's "section" (ugh how I hate to call it that.) Little bodies. Little, fidgety, whining, screaming, roaming, climbing, pushing bodies. And strollers!! Women are praying in the gym and they bring their strollers into the musallah!?!?

Okay, well anyway it's packed as usual, there's not enough room for the women quite obviously, but usually what happens is after the salat, the women who prayed go back out with the women who didn't pray (I'm very skeptical they are all on their periods.... mm-hmm...) and they spend the rest of the evening chatting and so forth outside while their children run amok (they are everywhere around the masjid, running through people, jumping over walls, playing ball in the parking lot in the dark.)

Then a few women remain inside the musallah to listen to the q/a, most of them hiding behind the partition, some behind the opening against the wall, and me and another sister practically in the opening leaning against a pillar. And the imam starts from the right... which is of course the left, but anyway, it's his right to start from his right and call it the right if he wants. So the opening of the women's section is more or less in the middle, in the back, and I'm on the far right pillar (which is of course the left pillar) to ensure I get to ask this question that I told my friends I would ask.

And he goes around... someone asks about 401k plans, someone asks about children playing around them during prayer. At that question, he talked also about having a sutrah, and if there is a wall, moving close to the wall to keep people from walking in front of you during the prayer. (Adults, that is, because children don't matter, and this is talking about an individual salaat, not one in jam3at.) He said even step forward if a space opens in front of you. That got me thinking...

So once the mic came to me (and I was sitting in such a position that I'd get it as soon as I could and not let it pass me) I asked first my question about praying one rakaah on time and catching the prayer, and then I kept the mic (uhoh!) and asked this other question. You see, he said to try to pray close to the wall of the qiblah if you didn't have a sutra (he meant the front wall of the masjid or room or whatever) and so I asked... if women are told to pray in the back... is it better for women when they are praying alone to pray in the back, or near the wall.

The answer is unclear. But either way, people should place a sutrah in front of them so people aren't constantly walking in front of them distracting them. The problem of course is this very small space for the sisters, and when there are a lot of sisters... they pray behind the imam without a sutrah, you see. Then, they stand up and start praying sunnah. Even the sisters in the back row do this, and the women in the front turn around, walk in front of them to get out the door. And even as it thins out, you find women opting to perform their sunnah salat in the back row. Ok, I never ever do that, unless there is no way I can avoid it. I didn't know you could move up though so I'll do that from now on inshaaAllah.

I think it doesn't matter where you are, as long as you've got something in front of you. For my own part, I'd rather be against the wall (or in my case, partition) than even have a sutrah (which is going to be my keys and sunglasses most likely, unless I happen to bring my purse in as well) because I can still see people walking in front of me. So I just move to the front when I can. And for my own added simplicity, I usually pray in the front row too... yeah, I can hear you saying "but sister, the best rows for women are the back..." and all I can say is if praying in the back row is more difficult, and more distracting, it's not better. Besides, the door is in the back so lining up back row first doesn't make sense, does it? You'd have to walk through a row to get to the front and that's just silly. But it's worth mentioning that if I want to pray a few rakaat sunnah after the fard jam3at salaat then I can do that without having to worry about finding a space, or waiting until it clears out, etc. I'm so obnoxious about this I know... but anyway.

So I asked my question, then offered the mic to other sisters. A young girl had come up beside me now, maybe 8-10, with a folded up piece of paper. She was reading a question for her aunt. It was kinda cute really, but I had to help her with it because I think the hand-writing wasn't clear. Then pass the mic again... another sister has a question. Then another one. Then another one. MAA SHAA ALLAH! Then another! Then another!! And we aren't supposed to ask more than one question but several of the sisters were. When I did, heh, the imam was like "for the sister, ok." But this was silly. Some of their questions were silly (I think this after I have heard them time and time again) but all the same, they were asking. Typically, when I have been there on nights like this, the women are very shy about asking questions... very shy.

There is one sister who would come up with questions and want me to ask them for her, in the past. But I didn't like the questions, and she was even asking me how to ask them, to ask them for her... and I found them very offensive to ask so I wouldn't do it. But mashallah, several sisters tonight, many who I hadn't even seen spend much time there before, were asking questions. There is a new sister who has been coming to the class for sisters who is from Malaysia and she asked a few good questions, and there was another who I haven't seen before, and then another young sister like myself who comes to the class... young sisters. I think this kind of participation is excellent really, and is a step towards getting women to be more active in participating in the community, aside from babysitting and children's events.

The only problem was that with the sisters asking all these questions, they sort of monopolized the time. About half of the session was spent answering questions from sisters. Although, I must say, the questions were not all about women's issues (like menstruation etc.) One sister asked the difference between ghusl and wudu and if one could make ghusl in the shower. (Actually, she called it goosa. The imam didn't understand at first... goosa.) One asked about if women could touch the Qur'an or enter the masjid during their periods, one asked if impurities on the clothes necessitated wudu.

If anyone is reading this and finds that I shouldn't apologize for women participating "equally" (I said they got about half the time and called it a monopoly) I should mention that there were many more brothers than sisters present, and many were left with questions unanswered because all the sisters were asking more than one question. (OK, I do feel bad about that precedent... and yeah I thought some of the questions were kind of embarassing.) But the reality is that there is an open q/a session for just sisters every month, just for sisters. The brothers aren't so lucky, so I figure hey they deserve a turn too.

But I'm happy that the women were so willing to participate. One asks and then the others aren't so afraid to do that... alhamdulillah. Upcoming post inshaaAllah: why there need to be women in the masjid.

I drop things

Just a few days ago, maybe a week or something ago, it occurred to me that sometimes my brain vacates my body. Just yesterday I had to describe myself as somewhat "absent-minded." The truth is I can only handle a certain number of "objects" in my mind at any given time. Sometimes... an "object" that should be safely still, several feet away from me... well, maybe it leaves my mind, and I forget that pulling some cord which is attached to that "object" might possibly affect it somehow... like yanking it out of that safely still position and onto the floor. It happens... sometimes.

And smaller things? I drop them more. Or forget them... push them off the table, dump them out of my purse. You know, cell phones these days are pretty sturdy, designed to be dropped. My old cell phone was pretty great about it, I dropped it on concrete once and split it open. All I had to do was mash it back together and voila! it worked again. My current cell phone works fine but it got a little scratched. My brother in law is an airplane mechanic and his cell phone... talk about a little scratched... it's like a gray egg, you can't really tell what it is till he opens it up.

I remember at one point thinking that such absent-mindedness was cute, but hear me now, it's extremely frustrating!! "You dropped your laptop?" What, come on, I didn't do it on purpose! It's just one of those things that happens sometimes. It's not a convenient trait in the kitchen, I should say. It's led to burnt toast on more than one occasion. And when driving... I try very hard to make the road my priority, so I say "huh?" and "one more time please" in conversations... on the phone or to the passenger. And the radio? Heh, forget that!

I'm really bad about radios and TVs and things. If I want to watch or listen, and I don't immediately find something... I'm not going to sit there looking for something or listening, I just turn it off. Maybe that's not so bad. The TV drains so much time anyway. And once it's on, it hates to be turned off.

Anyway... just more randomness from me.

Puddin' Pop

Somewhere deep down... or maybe not so deep... I'm a country girl. A country girl, not a redneck woman. You see, I have no delusions that my upbringing is best bar none, that my manners are superior or somehow by being in the south I'm a better woman and treated better by men. It's nonsense. Country can be classy, and it can be trashy. I prefer to think I'm the former but... best be careful.

A few years ago I went on a retreat with my sorority up into the mountains of North Carolina. It was past Boone from here, a drive forever (felt like forever) long in the cold. We did skits at one point, and I was only a candidate that semester. We asked our big sis's to give us (little sis's) a sort of "nick name" after the skit. Well my big sis, Katie, is much more country than I am and she picked the name... yeah that one. Gaawwn.

Most of the time I'm struck by how country I'm not, rather than how country I am... because most of the time I'm here. I've never milked a cow and I never did figure out how to keep my cowboy hat from sliding off my hair. If I wear boots it's for practical purposes (like walking in mud) and not a fashion statement. I don't wear sundresses and I don't know how to pick out watermelon. I've never fried a chicken, and I prefer veggies (greens like collards) to french fries.

But... I do use odd phrases upon occasion like "fixin" and "reckon" and "yall." I'm not afraid of snakes on the front porch, though I do get queasy about butterflies. I fry apples and am proud of it, and get recipes out of my mom's little recipe box--and know the ones with the most grease spots are probably the better recipes. I did pull out a quilt for the summer. Only thing is... the A/C is running so strong I need more than that to stay warm at night! More blankets, I mean. Nobody get any ideas.

Home Security

1. Go to a second-hand store and buy a pair of men's used size 14-16 work boots.

2. Place them on your front porch, along with a copy of Guns & Ammo magazine and your NRA magazines.

3. Put a few giant dog dishes next to the boots and magazines.

4. Leave a note on your door that reads:

Hey Bubba, Big Jim, Duke and Slim,
I went for more ammunition. Back in an hour. Don't mess with the pit bulls.
They attacked the mailman this morning and messed him up real bad.
I don't think Killer took part in it but it was hard to tell from all the blood.
Anyway, I locked all four of 'em in the house.
Better wait outside. .....Cooter

Never Let Go

I can't understand it.
The search for an answer is met with a darker day.
And we've been handed these moments forever.
But I'm reassured there's another way.
You don't have to close your eyes.
There is room for love again.
Ease the pain to realize
All that love can be.
Forced apart by time and sand.
Take a step and take my hand.
And don't let it go.
Never let go.

Broken, once connected,
We were so strong and so blessed in a simple way.
So don't let me go it alone.
Turn your head up to the sky.
Nothing down below but me.
Face the truth to realize
All that we could be.
Torn apart by rage and fear.
Hold onto what brought you here.
Don't let it go.
Never let go.

Turn your head up to the sky.
Nothing down below.
Don't let go.

Again on beards

In my poetry hunt I found this, enjoy:

My beard grows down to my toes,
I never wears no clothes,
I wraps my hair
Around my bare,
And down the road I goes.

(My Beard, by Shel Silverstein.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Seclusion vs. Corruption... and leaving the world behind

This Friday at the imam's class we were covering a chapter in Riyad-us-Saliheen called: Desirability of Seclusion at times of corruption committed by the people of the world. The imam was concerned that this chapter taken alone would convince people to seclude themselves from society, which he cautioned was actually inadvisable. It would lead to weakness and corruption eventually, down the line, I suppose. What he thought better was to interact with society, and use it to prevent oneself from finding extremes, to keep the balance sort of. Plus, if you don't interact with society, there is no way to improve it.

For this reason, he advised against Muslims traveling overseas (particularly this class, mostly reverts) to live in an Islamic country. When I asked him specifically about whether it was bad to travel overseas, he gave me an answer that basically amounts to "it depends on your intention."

For example, if my reason was to move to study, then naturally he advised traveling overseas, that's the best place to study Arabic language and shari'ah and other things of that nature if it were my wish. But if my reason was to raise my kids (for example) in an Islamic environment, he thought it would be a bad idea. Mostly because he insists that there is so much corruption in "Islamic countries" that nobody is really any better off. And at least, in the USA, you can distinguish or isolate yourself to a minor degree simply by being Muslim. I am Muslim, they are not, I am different. But in a country filled with Muslims, everyone's Muslim, how do you explain their bad behavior to your children?

One sister advised me against it, describing the masjid (and mosques in general in the West I suppose) as being a sort of filter. I disagree with her assessment, but what she was saying was that a person who is going to come pray at the masjid is going to have at least some level of iman. But overseas, it's commonplace for people to pray in the masjid and then fall into haraam even on their way out, I guess? I don't know.

But again, another thing the imam said to me was that where ever you are, Allah will test you, and Allah will make a way for you. If it's here in Raleigh or even in Riyad. You can't escape being tested, don't try. There will be trials anywhere I am, that is something to accept. So if I want to go... the only real question is why.

A little help over here?

I spent tonight looking for a poem... heh, see if I ever do that again. I have to say, in HS, literature was my least favorite genre, and of all literature, I hated poetry the most. Odd it is, then, when I see a question on jeopardy like "This creeps in on little cat feet" and immediately know not only the answer, which is of course a question, but the title, the poet, and where the poet lived. Carl Sandburg stuck in my mind for some reason, even though I never at all appreciated his poems. Not until I found one tonight... I'll come to that.

I am facing a decision (aren't we always?) that I don't want to make. And so I think of Robert Frost's poem about two roads in a wood diverging. The only problem is that this poem doesn't mean what people think it means. The last lines, at any rate, read

Two roads diverged in a wood and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

It sounds like one road was not commonly taken but the poem gives the impression that both roads were equally worn. I see myself at a fork in the road, you could say. Pocahontas would say, "Why do all my dreams extend, just around the riverbend?" But this is no river... I'm peering, no I've even begun down a path that is dark, gloomy, treacherous. I imagine the ground beneath me to be a darkness that climbs up my legs. The trees and branches cross my path and I cannot see them, they brush me leaving streaks of red behind. I keep going... and the canopy overhead blocks the moon and the stars. How utterly alone I feel. I can hear two voices ahead of me... one says, I don't want you to come this way. The other says, I want you to come, but if the path is too difficult, I understand.

What sort of an idiot walks down that path? Who wants me to come, and why? If you want me to come then what I need, need, is some support on that path, not an excuse for turning around. As things are now, I see no light at the end... hope is all but extinguished. Each step forward leaves me wondering if the droplets on my face are blood, or are they tears? Or are they all mixed beyond distinction into yet another... despair. I can't do it alone... I won't.

Then I cry, and the pain turns into anger, the anger into fear, and the fear into pain again. And I cry again. And then I reach out for poetry. And all the stupid poems I can find are love poems. What is up with that?

Is it worth it? I want to know, if it is, someone please tell me it is. So far, nobody has. Emily Dickinson called hope a subtle glutton. Hm. She also wrote

You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
And put it in a drawer,--
Because the wind would find it out
And tell your cedar floor.

I challenge this poem, that I could fold my flood if I wanted to, and put out my fire. Do I want to, I ask? If it gets me off this bloody road, perhaps. It's such a lonely road. Everything will be alright if I don't make it down this road... so tell me why I'm on it again? Doesn't anyone know?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Roller Skating

When I was a kid... like 8... we used to go to this place sometimes in a real run-down part of town for parties and stuff. It was called the "Skate Ranch." Really run down. But it was fun to go... I was "decent" at roller skating I guess, until roller blades became popular and... well... I fell down a lot. But I was just invited to a "Night of Mayhem" hosted by some Muslimahs I know, at the Skate Ranch. One of the hosts I've never seen wear anything but a jilbab so.............. I have this hilarious thought of a bunch of sisters roller-skating, but their jilbabs and abayas getting stuck under the wheels and toppling over...

ok so I think that's funny?

Maybe I have "issues" I need to reconcile.

Cubicle Training

So the office moved... and now instead of an "office" with at least three walls I have a cubicle. 3 and a half partition-walls that are at least as tall as I am (that's nice) and a big gaping hole behind me for people to stare in at me while I work... ok so I'm not thrilled. But on another note, I have just as much space as anynoe else which is quite a bit more than I had before. I have shelves... loads of shelves. Tons of desk space. (Before I had only my desk and my computer was on it, so I had about half of it as working space. I now have space to organize all my projects (I had 17 I found out when I transferred them...) and space still to lay out the signal plans to look at so I don't have to keep rolling and unrolling them. So this is good. I have a few drawers that are... locked... but all in all it's not so bad, I guess.

We have "cubicle training" next week. No joke. And "chair training." Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? Silly. I have a chair today (didn't have one yesterday.) I don't like it but it is a step up from the one I had before, that I'll admit.

But in addition to all these plans I still have to work on, next week I'm supposed to sort files. Um... not thrilled. But at least it's not me by myself this time.

Random bits... I had a test this week... it was awful. I need to do better about getting up early in the mornings, it's causing me real trouble right now. I accidentally froze a pepper in the fridge. I thawed it... half of it is all soggy now and won't dry out. Basically, our fridge gets real cold, and things in the back freeze. Happens a lot unfortunately. I found a box of raisins I bought a while ago in the cabinet this week too, that was nice. I've been eating raisins since.

I think someone nearby smokes... I can smell it, but I'm sure the building does not allow smoking... ick. Whoever he is, and he must smoke a lot for me to smell it like that. I know several people who work here do... when will this addictive indulgence have passed our society, can we abandon it and all the trouble it causes?

Oh, the printer is no longer in my "office" because of course I don't have an office anymore. It's just on the other side of one of my cubicle walls... but... that means I have to walk down this little pathway, turn a corner and walk around the block almost to get there and come back.

More to come, perhaps...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Haha, looky here

Funny sights on campus

I like working night shifts. Not the graveyard, wee early hours, particularly between the hours of 12am and 4am. But early in the morning and late at night, yes I do, because they are quiet. (The intervening hours I'd just rather be sleeping or doing anything but working. Messes up natural "rhythms" and all to be up those hours.)

But especially when I work closing shift on Centennial Campus, I love the night. The night is one thing, a quiet shelter, very comforting. When the day is hot, the night is cool, usually breezy. When the day is cold... the night is... frigid, or it can be, easily, and has been. But that's enchanting in its own way, necessitating wrapping up in a coat and blankets... and gives precious new meaning to warmth.

Centennial Campus is unlike Daniels in that when I do "rounds" to check on the labs I have to walk between two different buildings (EB1 and EB2, for the clever ones who can figure out what that means.) When I work the last shift in EB2, the one which lasts until around midnight, I end up having to close the labs. So I walk back to lock up, turn the lights off, etc. The environment there is very calm. Daniels isn't far from the college street (Hillsborough St. in Raleigh) which like any college street has the late night bars and pizza joints, etc. But on Centennial, the campus is nestled on the edge of the woods and since the campus hasn't even been fully developed yet, walking between these buildings leaves, on the side where there are no buildings, a small portion of cleared land, behind which are trees. It's dark, and it's quiet... it's very nice, romantic even.

Monday night I was working and in a rather amused sort of mood, so I took a few pictures of some mildly amusing sights I saw. Thought I'd share.
This one is a smiley face on a bulletin board, made with push pins. I'm not sure what sort of foam they used to make this bulletin board. It's neat, you don't see where the hole was unless you poke and poke at the same spot (yes I tried) to tear up the foam. What's beneath it I'm not sure. Regular cork? Perhaps. Whatever it is doesn't give as much as the foam cover, the hole is still there the the black foam covers it.

The next one is for Roy. This was in a grad student's office, against the window which faced outside. It was in the Chemical Engineering building. Godzilla.

This next one is the little cafe kind of store in the ChemE building also. Sorry about the bars, of course it was closed when I took this picture. You'll notice by looking at the picture on the wall that it resembles a periodic table. And then perhaps you notice that it reads "Periodic Table." It's the name of the shop... lol... I think it's absurdly dorky, I laugh everytime I see that sign.

The last picture... remember it was night when I took it. But it turned out well enough--this heap as you can see is on a sidewalk--the only sidewalk between the parking lot and that building there. (Which seems to have all its lights on, despite it being the middle of the night and still under construction.) What sort of genius, though, would dump anything on the only sidewalk to the building? I just found it rather strange. What is it? It's mulch, for landscaping in front of the building. Mulch, in case you don't know, has a peculiar and horrific odor. What a poor place for it.

Anyway. Cute, and/or strange things at NCSU. College is good for something.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dragon Breath

I remember the first time I ate "Pakistani" food. It was at the ICNA Convention last summer. I remember it because it didn't go so well. Prior to then, I can't recall any gatherings with Muslims anyway, especially with food involved. So like I said... it didn't go so well. hehe. But I ate nothing but that for the entire weekend, and by the end all was well and I've not had any real problems since. Now, I'd say I can't get enough of it. I now love spicy food, though my family can tell you that I gladly shied away from any kind of extra seasoning, save a little salt and pepper. (Or maybe a lot of pepper, in the case of green bean casserole...) But moving out "into the world" as it were, I've explored all new varieties of seasoning food and I like it.

I've discovered that Abou Ganouge downtown Raleigh has the best curry chicken... ever. It used to be called BabaGannouj which makes more sense, but now it's under new ownership. However, this later name is actually a chain of stores, there's one in Cary and also in Apex. I've discovered that the one in Apex, even though it sells curry chicken and it looks the same... it's not. It's very bland. Although, I have it on good authority that the Apex store is spicy as well. I should say though, that I don't just like to eat there because the food is spicy but Muslims own and run the stores. It's nice to have a greeting (salaam) before and after lunch or dinner... plus really tasty food.

There's one store not far from here that actually serves halal meat, called King Kabob. Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian food, they advertise. Some of my friends used to eat there on Fridays because they have a buffet.... mmmm. Dangerous, that is. But I stopped by there last week to get some byriani... it was delicious. And just this weekend at the seminar, they had ordered lunch for us on sunday and... yes, it was byriani again!! And there was some leftovers so being the starving college student working two jobs (ok, I'm not starving, but there's a reason I work two jobs...) I took some home with me. No, I wasn't the only one to do that but alhamdulillah it is helping to feed me this week. Alhamdulillah for many things. Byriani among them.

So I wonder when I eat all this spicy food, really, how awful my breath must smell!! I find that terribly amusing and I can't help but laugh. Rawr.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Seminar II: Session 1

About the Arabic seminar. This one was much much better than the last. It was about the same temperature inside the masjid, 85-90F, as the last one. But it was much more enjoyable. (Perhaps now I'm more adjusted to it?) It took me a little bit of time but I think I finally started catching up. And I'm doing ok, you know? Catching on, albeit slowly. I have a lot of reviewing today.

Although, for anyone who is thinking about studying Arabic language, my advice is merely this: start yesterday.

What I learned even in the first day was invaluable, and what I know now is just amazing. Subhanallah, I learned 5 ayaat in the Qur'an a few weeks back, knowing the meaning of every single word. Now I can understand even better than I did then and to be able to listen in salaah and comprehend even a handful of words is something really special. To understand a phrase is wonderful, entire sentences, amazing. This is an experience that non-Arabs long for in their prayer really... and it adds another dimension. So to anyone--study Arabic.

And the teacher seemed much better today than before. Perhaps his nerves were frazzled the last time anyway. (He had good reason; he'd missed his flight the first day and most of the class wasn't too happy with him.)

Mostly we covered verbs, and I just realize I have a ton of things to review, loads to memorize. Charts to make. He said something interesting. To learn these rules, to make it habit of knowing the harakat basically for the grammar, had to learn by pen, by our ears, and by our tongue. So by writing it over and over, listening over and over, and speaking over and over. And generally that's the natural way I suppose, repetition. So he suggested we make recordings of ourselves saying these things, then play them all the time. At home, in the car, at work, in the bathroom. He said we should be speaking, living, breathing Arabic. All the time.

I must say, that doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Mundane things

He's been sleeping in my bed... and he peed on the carpet, so now the gate is up and I won't let him back down the hallway to sleep with me anymore.

It was really cute, though, after he peed on the carpet. Like he knew it was bad. I was playing the piano in a back bedroom and he came and sat by my feet. (It's annoying because it gets in the way of the pedal, but it was cute.) He'd walk around the piano, my chair, maybe whimper a bit. I didn't even know, at that point... then later I looked out the hall. Haha. Like he wanted to be cute for me so he wouldn't get in trouble. Then I saw it... and he cowered. He looked so pitiful, so I didn't yell or do anything. (Not like it'd do any good.) I talked to him while he stood there, halfway laying down almost, tail between his legs, not making eye-contact... cute. Then cleaned up the mess and replaced the gate. So now he doesn't come wake me up at 3am trying to sneak under the covers.

For now I'm staying at my parents' house. It should be good... they don't have cable so I'm less inclined to watch tv, but I just spend time on the net instead. I have been slightly more studious. Although, tomorrow I apparently have a quiz at the arabic seminar that I'm not prepared for at all. I'm still irritated at them for changing the time of the seminar.

If you tell people 4pm-9pm, saturday and sunday.... shouldn't they expect and plan on 4-9, saturday and sunday? Apparently not. Apparently they reserve the right to change the time, at the last minute, to 10a-3pm on one of the days. Not that they'll tell you which day until a week in advance. I don't get a day off you know. I work every single day of the week, 4 hours each day of the weekend. So I have to take off when they change the schedule like this and it would really help to know in advance!! But either way.. quiz tomorrow on some words.

And you know... the really sad thing is, I'm irritated with the change in timing, I'm irritated the instructor missed a day of the last seminar and now we're behind, I'm irritated that the instructor didn't cover much material that day in the first place, and I'm irritated at his teaching style which I find to be uniquely rude to the "hijabi" side. It all makes me consider him, fairly or not, incompetent to teach. Not to mention even his english leaves something to be desired. Sigh. Frankly, I'm irritated, and I don't want to go. Can you believe it? I actually don't want to go learn Arabic. Am I irritated because I don't want to go? Or do I not want to go because I'm irritated? I want to learn Arabic, I love learning it, and I love studying it. But I do not like that new instructor and I don't like his seminars.

I have verbs to learn.

Responding to Lies and Other Buh......

Remember how I mentioned recently I found a book my mom had been reading? Voices Behind the Veil? Well, I found another book. The The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). By Robert Spencer. (Evil Islamophobe!) And I feel no shame calling him that, after going through this book. Convinced at the outset, months ago, just by reading the cover, that it was a book filled with nonsense and hate propaganda against Muslims, I decided to open it up. With a pen and some sticky notes. Let me share the Table of Contents reading, so you can imagine for yourself what kind of book this is (oh, btw, politically incorrect guide forms the acronym PIG. may I call the author that please?)
Part I: Islam
  1. Muhammad: Prophet of War

  2. The Qur'an: Book of War

  3. Islam: Religion of War (hey wait... I'm sensing a theme?)

  4. Islam: Religion of Intolerance

  5. Islam Oppresses Women

  6. Islamic Law: Lie, steal, and Kill

  7. How Allah Killed Science (a3udhubillah)

  8. The Lure of Islamic Paradise

  9. Islam--Spread by the Sword? You Bet.

Part II: The Crusades

  1. Why the Crusades Were Called

  2. The Crusades: Myth and Reality (err... reality, then myth?)

  3. What the Crusades Accomplished--and What They didn't

  4. What If the Crusades had Never Happened?

  5. Islam and Christianity: Equivalent Traditions?

Part III: Today's Jihad

  1. The Jihad Continues

  2. "Islamophobia" and Today's Ideological Jihad

  3. Criticizing Islam May be Hazardous to Your Health

  4. The Crusade We Must Fight Today (excuse me, but WTF?)

So the book goes like this: first, set up Islam as an evil, hateful, intolerant, oppressive, pseudo-religion. Convince the reader that Muslims were initially out to "get" everyone, like a plague or a virus that just sort of attacks anything. Or maybe like the Borg. Yeah, just like the Borg. Then, after sufficient fear and loathing has been inspired for Muslims, explain that really, Christianity's crusades--those were the good guys and they were just fighting back against those wretched Muslims who were like the Borg trying to take over Jerusalem. (Remember how the Enterprise had to go back in time to stop the Borg from taking Earth in First Contact?? Yeah, something like that.) So not only were Muslims just evil to start with, they were manifesting that evil by attacking Christians, and the noble Christians were fighting back. (I'm getting a bad taste in my mouth...)

Then, once you've set up the good vs evil precept, with the Christians (and in a small way the Jews because we have to be at least a little bit Zionist and heartily American) as the good guys, and the Muslims as the bad guys, then you propose action. You say, look, they are fighting us! They've always been fighting us! They're still fighting us! And they're being sneaky and they're trying to get our more intelligent leaders (like Condi Rice or Kofi Annan) to believe that Islam really isn't evil, it's nice and peaceful. Insidious Muslims! People are starting to think Muslims might be good and people might actually want to start tolerating them (yah, really God forbid?) so we must fight back! We must, is his cry.

What a moron. Yeah, I have no need to be polite at this point. This guy thoroughly ticks me off.

So, armed with a pen and some sticky notes, I attacked the book. Primarily the section labelled "Islam Oppresses Women" because it's certainly the topic of them all I know the most about. I replied to the following subtopics:

  • the great islamic cover-up: spencer informs the reader that muslim women have to cover... is that bad or something?

  • child marriage: spencer claims men can marry pre-pubescent women and have intercourse with them, based on a ayah about what to do if a woman is divorced before her period starts

  • wife beating: says that women who complained about bad husbands were "not the best" that's right, he said the women were not the best. erk. gives an example of hadith that mysteriously has no source

  • an offer they can't refuse: calls women property

  • don't go out alone: cites shafi'i opinion (so he says) that men may forbid their wives to leave home

  • temporary husbands: mocks the ruling on three divorces being permanent

  • prophetic license: claims Muhammad saws had concubines in addition to wives, which he somehow thinks is unfair (as if the women had no choice?)

  • temporary wives: mut3a

  • rape: four witnesses needed: i've had it to here (my arm up high) with this topic, which has been hammered to death again and again on whyislam. it's completely and utter nonsense, a total fabrication

  • female circumcision: says muslims think it's part of religion even though he acknowledges most don't practice it. points out it's an african thing, but neglects to mention that non-muslim africans do it too and it's almost entirely cultural. says men clip women to reduce their sexual pleasure. that's sick, what man would do that, really? how dumb.

  • long term prospects: dim

I have at least one post-it on almost every page of this chapter, sometimes refuting, sometimes commenting on the sheer stupidity of the comment, sometimes explaining the context. If/when whoever bought this book decides to read it, they'll get a mouthful from me. I made a few additional comments throughout the rest of the book. Overall, I'm disgusted, and disappointed.

I don't know what to do.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Where are you from?"

Where do I look like I'm from? (Minus the fabric on my head.)
Where do I sound like I'm from? (Minus the occasional Arabic greeting.)
Where do I act like I'm from? (Minus the fact I don't shake hands.)

Or is it so rare inside my town to find people who were actually born here? Beats me. I started summer school a little late, not making it into my communications class until the 4th university day, which was actually the 3rd day of class. For some reason, "because I wasn't there the first day," I was asked to tell the class where I was from.

Me: Raleigh.
Prof: Really? Raleigh?
Me: Yeah, born and raised. (Looking like "What, do you think I didn't mean it?")
Prof: So you went to Wake Co. School System schools?
Me: Yeah... (um, Raleigh is in Wake Co. so how could I avoid it?)
Prof: Wow, a native.

I've lived in or near Raleigh my entire life, mind you, and never seemed to get such befuddled looks when I say where I'm from. Since I still live in Raleigh, and we are all in Raleigh who were present... why is it so bizarre? I felt kind of like a freak.

Today, though, everybody joined in. Apparently the class was falling asleep... I wasn't, oh no, I was dutifully making a list of things I want to do in August, or sometime in the not-so-very-distant future. But we had to pick a partner and say our names and where we were from, and the partner would report. Let's call my partner Billy. Billy is from Middlesex, which is apparently near the border of Nash County. Nash County and which border, I'm not exactly sure. I know I pass it on I-40 or I-95 but never kept track of which road it was on or how to get there... I don't think I'd like to say I stopped for gas in Middlesex... not to mention it's probably at least 2 miles off the highway. (The interstates in Eastern NC go through "nowhere.") And then he reports, Amy is from Raleigh.

Prof: Oh that's right! I remember, you're a native!

So now I'm thinking, you single me out in the class to ask where I'm from, the only girl in a room of 12 boys, apparently a freak in more ways than one, and I'm supposed to be impressed you remembered where I'm from? I don't know if I mentioned it before, but this is the same professor who pretended to be electrocuted by a wall outlet during class... And this isn't communications like speaking and writing--it's electrical communications theory for cell phones and radio, etc., and well, we do probability and fourier series; what could be cooler? I heart convolution.

Anyway, the question reminds me of all the times lately I've been asked regarding my origins. Yes, the white hijabi is quite a rarity. All hijabis, but since I don't look "A-rab" one must ask I suppose. When I was visiting New York, I stopped in the hotel's little convenience shop to buy sunglasses, and the Bangledeshi clerk was very polite in giving me salaams and asking... "Where are you from, sister?" I mean, very polite but... and we had a nice littler conversation and he seemed so proud I wore hijab. (Immigrant men tend to be this way when they see converts covering, while their wives do not.)

Last summer at a diversity training workshop, I remember one guy in the class asking me as we were out to lunch (it was a group from a coastal county I was eating with). When I said I was from Raleigh he asked dismissively, "No, I mean where are you from?" I explain. Then, "What religion are you?" Isn't that cute?

Perhaps it's a Southern or maybe exclusively Carolinian dialect that allows a person to be a religion.

Where are you from?
What religion are you?

People are funny, I'll just leave it at that. I'm likely to get these questions for the rest of my life so I reckon I oughta get used to it.