Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

Things To Do In The 14 Days Leading to Ramadan

Or Things To Freak Out About To Do Calmly In The 14 Days Leading to Ramadan …

Day 14.  You realize there is only about 2 weeks left until Ramadan starts and you start freaking out. Take a deep breath, and make a list of everything (personal and professional) that you won’t have time for during Ramadan, so you can finish it now. After you’ve finished your list, resist the urge to freak out again – you can do it! Who knew you had so many things on your to-do list?

Day 13.  Take another deep breath and divide the list into 3 parts: Must Do, Maybe Someone else can do, and Wait to do. Start delegating tasks to someone else, if you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Day 12.  Go to the grocery store and buy way more food than you do during a normal month. How is it that during a month of fasting you spend more money on food than any other trip to the grocery store the rest of the year, even if you eat moderately during Ramadan? You go to more than one more grocery store: the “normal” one, and the one with traditional foods (where you can buy flour for pakoras, roti, halal meat, and other such things). Then, you go to another traditional store, because everyone is buying up for Ramadan at the first store, and you waited too long. Oh, dear.

Day 11.  You start to pre-cook as many foods as you can and freeze them for use in Ramadan. You start one day after work. It’s midnight when you realize you’ve only finished two dishes. Why do traditional foods take so long to cook? And you realize you’re hungry, so you eat a bowl (or two) of food.

Day 10.  You wake up still feeling full from your late night snacking. And you realize you won’t be able to really work out for the next month, so you go to the gym. Of course, you haven’t worked out for a few weeks, but starting now is better than not starting at all, right?

Afterwards, you feel energized. You feel upbeat. You go home and cook/freeze three more dishes. You clean the house, and cross numerous items off your To-Do List. You are amazing and on top of everything.

Day 9.  Your muscles ache from your workout yesterday. Clearly, the best thing to do is just not work out until after Ramadan. You curse out loud at one particularly achy leg. And realize you should stop cursing, too. You can’t curse during Ramadan. And then you wonder: What if I think the curse, but don’t say it? Will that work? And you realize, “Of course it won’t!” You must begin to prepare yourself mentally for the long road ahead. And not just for a month, but for a lifetime of good behavior and good deeds. That’s what it’s all about. Being good and kind, inside and out. Deep breath. You can do this. You WILL do this.

Day 8.  You decide to cut down on your tea intake to prepare yourself for the lack of caffeine ahead, so you cut down from 6 cups a day to two. Not that I drink 6 cups a day. It’s just an example. I mean SIX cups, well, that’s a lot. And it’s not like you’re drinking six cups of strong tea a day. It’s pretty weak tea (I’m guessing). Which is why you drink it slowly all day long. So, really, when you think about it, it’s only, like, two or three proper cups a day. So really you’re just going from three cups down to two. And, really, when you think about it, you’re only drinking it to stay warm in your freezing office building, which is obviously necessary to maintain your health. So maybe you’ll at least keep drinking, er, holding a cup of hot tea, er, hot water to keep yourself warm. Ahem.

Day 7.  The iftars (dinners) are piling in now. Weekends you break fast at the mosque, but now you are scheduled to break fast at other people’s houses at least ten other days of the month, and there will be likely more before everything’s said and done. Now you start to wonder: Should I host an iftar? Can I do it? Do I have time? You decide you can’t make it work with your family’s schedule, so you tell everyone to come on Eid day for brunch. Success! No one has invited anyone for Eid day brunch after holiday prayers.

Later that evening, you realize you have decided to invite many people to your house, after a month of pure exhaustion during which you have very little time (or energy) to clean. Oh, dear. Time for more freaking out. And lists. You need lists.

Day 6.  Set your DVR for all those television shows you are likely to miss, or will not have time to watch. Shows that will keep the little ones distracted when you’re praying or reading Qur’an. Shows that will distract the big ones from complaining during the month. And shows that you can watch to help you get through. Don’t forgot about YOUR needs while you are helping others; your needs are important, too.

Day 5.  You start to prepare people at work by describing the month of Ramadan, and how it follows it the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. You try to explain why you don’t know when the month actually starts, and receive only confused looks in return. Except for that one person at work who’s cool and wants to know how they can help you. This is also a great time to shift work or tasks to another person on your team/in your department, if possible, or ask for an adjusted work schedule. Remember – DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.

Day 4.  Set aside money to give as charity, or plan how to save for it. You are not in the best place financially, but you remember that there is always, ALWAYS, someone more needy than you who needs it. And you remember a day, not so long ago, that you were struggling as well.

Day 3.  You need to prepare yourself mentally, so you start waking up even earlier for Fajr (the first prayer of the day) and also start reading the Quran a little more each day.

Day 2.  Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and on the 13-15th days of the Islamic month are considered especially important, so you complete some voluntary fasts to prepare yourself. You are exhausted by the end of it, but you feel better about what’s to come and the physical and mental strain ahead.

Day 1.  The night before Ramadan. Or what you THOUGHT was the night before Ramadan. Apparently, your mosque states it is Ramadan tomorrow, but Saudi Arabia (and the mosque across town) states it’s the day after next. And your family in Pakistan started fasting already!!! WHAT DO YOU DO? (Besides pull your hair out at the inability of even one city to start Ramadan together). You follow your mosque (since you’ll be spending most/all Ramadan with them anyway) and start the month tomorrow. ‘Twas the Night Before Ramadan, after all.

Day 0.  The month has begun. May Allah bless us all this Ramadan. Ameen.

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Ye of Little Faith

So last night I had coffee with a prospective suitor. He was attractive, has a good job (as a doctor in the dental field), comes from a good family (supposedly). For some people (even in my own family) they would say that’s enough.

But he thinks praying is useless.

And that’s not enough for me.

When we first sat down to coffee, conversation flowed easily. We talked easily about a range of different topics. He cursed a lot, but I thought ‘There are worse traits to have.’ He mentioned how he teased someone because they were vegan and someone else for something else (I’ll not bore you with the specifics, but I think he was just plain cruel. From his telling of these stories, he was happy that he had hurt someone else’s feelings.) So, I thought, ‘Huh. Maybe I was wrong about him.’ He mentioned how he liked to go to bars and drink and pick-up girls in college, and I thought, ‘Maybe I was really wrong about him.’

But then we got on the topic of faith and spirituality. And that’s where it really fell apart.

He basically said that, as a scientist, there’s no proof of God and there’s no proof that prayer works. And, if we think it does work, it’s basically in our minds.

What. The. Frak.

This is not the first time I’ve run across someone who doesn’t believe in prayer (and, just to clarify, he never outright said that he didn’t believe in God, just that there’s no proof of Him). But he was very condescending and disparaging when he spoke to me. And he recognized it. He flat out said, “I know I’m being disparaging, but I’m a scientist, I can’t help it.”

And that’s a bullshit cop-out if I ever heard one.

I know PLENTY of scientists. Doctors, even, who still believe in the power of prayer, and have faith. And they don’t talk to me like I’m an asshole. Or treat me like one.

I asked him if he prayed. He said he did. I asked him if he felt anything when he prayed. He said that he didn’t; he only prayed because he was obligated to, not because he thought it would do anything.

I honestly welcome open discourse. I do. If you have another opinion, let’s discuss it like adults and agree to disagree, if it comes to that. But when you disparage someone, you are very clearly telling them that you don’t respect them, you don’t respect their beliefs, and you think the only right opinion is yours (which he also said, by the way. He said I was wrong and he was right, and that was the last word on the subject).

And, even with the anger at being dismissed over my faith, I felt pity for him. I felt really sad that he would never know the peace of prayer.

Now, I was not always so, consistent shall we say, with prayers and such. When I was younger, I sometimes felt that I didn’t know why I was praying and I felt it was an obligation that I needed to fulfil.

But then I went through some serious shit in my life. There was a lot going on that no one knew about, that they still don’t know about, and, in some cases, wouldn’t care to know about now either. And bad experiences change you. Adversity changes you. And going through those experiences made me a more faithful person when, sometimes, they do just the opposite. I learned how to pray. And I don’t just mean the physical movements. I mean the words. I learned how to pray for the things I wanted in my heart and soul, things I barely mentioned even to myself. Things I thought I may never have or even deserve to have. And I’m still learning.

I still don’t have an ‘easy’ life as some might call it. I still struggle with things (besides the obvious search for a decent man to marry), but I still pray. I still believe in the power of prayer. I have seen it work in my own life.

What some people, like Dr. Disparaging here, don’t realize is, that when you pray, sometimes you don’t get what you prayed for; sometimes you get something better. You just need to wait for it.

I do feel sorry for him. If he’s not open to even the opinions of others, then he’s not open to the belief in prayer, or God, or maybe even love. He missing something amazing in his life, and he doesn’t even realize it. Maybe he’s afraid of it; why else would you verbally attack someone for what they believe if you weren’t afraid of it or ignorant of it yourself?

And, in the end, I deserve better than someone who would be cruel to me, or to my children. I deserve better. Some might say that I’m getting too old to be picky, but I just can’t be with someone who would belittle me every time I prayed. And I don’t want my kids growing up in that environment, either.

And now I know that I was wrong about him. So, (sigh) another one bites the dust.

But I’ll persevere. I BELIEVE that there is someone out there for me. Someone who will treat me with respect and kindness, even when we don’t get along. Who will be a good father for my children, and a good son-in-law to my parents.

I believe. And I have faith that my wedding day will come. Please pray for me.

Thank you!

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I Am Not a Spinster (Wikipedia Says So)

Hello, readers!

It has been a long time since I last posted. So much has been going on and life often gets in the way (births, deaths, sickness, and happiness, too). So, I thought I’d start with a bit of catching up.

I shockingly realize my last big post was around the New Year. Well, at that time, I did have a reason for holding back; I had met a new man and things had been progressing well.

I say ‘had’ because (SPOILER ALERT!) after I realized he was a lying, controlling asshole, my family and I decided it was best to part ways. Here’s how the latest story goes.

We met online through one of the Muslim matrimonial websites. His name was a typical Shia name (I’m Sunni), but he said he was Sunni (probably a little too quickly in retrospect). Our first meeting was at a coffee shop, and it went pretty well. He called me the next day to ask if we could meet again, for dinner this time. I took that as a good sign. (In case you’re wondering, my parents were aware of my meeting him from the first time we made contact through the website, and knew of the other times we met.)

Dinner also went well. We had some good conversations, but I could tell that he was obsessive in some respects. I’m a little OCD myself, and I thought ‘no one’s perfect’, not even me, so I let it slide. He didn’t ask me a whole lot about myself, but I’ve found that guys like to talk about themselves. But then that movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, kept floating through my mind. The movie (I haven’t read the book, so can’t comment on that) states that if a guy’s interested in you, he’ll let you know it.  Hmmm.

From there we progressed to a day outing together, wandering museums. If you’re a previous reader, you know that I have done this with previous gentlemen callers. You can find something for everyone to enjoy, and it gives you a sense of how patient they are, how they interact in public, how respectful they are. (P.S. – I was dressed in a super cute sweater, jeans, and boots, though nothing designer; this will be relevant later).

After the museum trip, my parents preferred we only talk on the phone (not meet again). I was fine with that. He wasn’t. Our mothers had spoken to each other at this point (!) so his mom called my mom to complain ask her to permit the boy and I meeting. My mom said okay, just a few more times. We also arranged for the families to meet in December.

So the boy and I went out another time or two. It was fine, but I did start getting the sense that something was slightly off about him. He liked everything just so, and didn’t like deviation. He really liked to be in control. He also had switched jobs a few times in the last few years and was planning to again because his newest job wasn’t “working for him”. Hmmm.

So our families met in December. We went out to dinner. Twice. They insisted on paying the first time, though my father took the check initially. Then the second time, when they knew my father would be paying, they invited more people and ordered more food than would be normal (this perturbed me quite a bit). In any case, it went okay. And I was dressed super cute both times (which is very relevant – stay tuned). Afterwards, I spoke to my father, who spent time with the boy during both dinners. He also had some reservations, and thought the boy was holding something back. My father did get him to admit that he LIED about his education. The resume and information he had sent us had some degrees and certifications listed that he never received (nor was he in the process of pursuing). Hmmm.

After the family dinners, I get a call from him asking if we can meet for coffee. (FYI – at this point his family had not mentioned an engagement or marriage at all.) He specifically asks me to wear one of the dresses I wore to the family dinner to coffee. Midday coffee. I ask him why, and he responds with “because I’m asking you to”. I tell him it’s very inappropriate to wear an evening-ish dress during the day, but he asks me to “just wear it”. I talk it over with my mum, who says to just indulge him this time and see what he wants. So I wear it. With a long black coat that covers it while I’m walking around (it was winter – totally acceptable winter wear. Ahem.)

I show up and he looks at me very seriously and tells me there is one thing that is very important to him that his future wife must do.

I ask him what that is.

He said, she has to dress well.

I sat there trying to hold back a laugh. Of all the things that are important in this world, that’s the most important to him? More important that caring for his parents, or being a good mother? I didn’t say that, though.

He started going on about how he is always impeccably dressed, and how he likes to set a standard for dressing well. And he expects his wife to do the same. He brings his “A-game” and he expects his wife to bring it, too. And, yes, he actually used the phrase “A-game”. He also went on to tell me that he even asks his mother to change when he feels she’s not bringing her “A-game”. I should mention that his mother was ill and recently hospitalized, and he still had her change before our family dinners. He said he spends at least an hour getting ready in the morning, and he would expect me, too, as well.

I tell him, I dress appropriately for occasions. If I’m going to spend the day with my niece, for example, I don’t dress the best because we’ll likely get dirty. And I tell him that he needs to have realistic expectations for the future. (Who wants to bring their “A-game” all the time? That’s not me.) He said that the occasion doesn’t matter. Just buy new clothes if they get ruined, he said to me.

I tell him that buying new clothes is unrealistic for some people, who need money for food and shelter, etc. (i.e., me). He said that doesn’t matter, either.

He then tells me that he “was offended” by some of the things I’ve worn in his presence. Like he’s a king or something and I’ve broken some royal law.

I KNOW! Offended by what? My great sense of personal style? I don’t say that, but I want to. He tells me he was offended by the clothes I wore to our museum day trip. I really want to dump the coffee on his head and tell him to fuck off (he mentioned he hates public scenes so I think up a really fabulous one in my head), but I hold myself in check. After all, I really do like the coffee shop we were sitting in and I know I’m going to come back. But I HATE it when people try to make me feel small or lesser than who I am, when I’m just being me.

So, I very politically reiterate my thoughts (i.e., have realistic expectations, etc.) and we leave. We are parked on the same level of the same parking garage so we walk there together. We reach his car first, which is parked in a handicapped spot. He is not handicapped. But he has the handicapped sticker because of his elderly parents. Which aren’t in the car with him. But he’s still using the spot that could, in fact, have gone to an actual handicapped individual. Total dick move.

As I drive away, I think back to our conversations. He mentioned that he had seen other girls (who likely brought their “A-game” more than me), but they weren’t that interested in caring for his parents. I don’t mind caring for my husband’s parents, as long as husband realizes that we’re taking care of my parents, too (this is why most men break things off; they don’t want to deal with my parents). Hmmm.

A few days later (after I had told my parents what happened, and my mum agreed with me on my take), my parents want to know his birth year (which he has been evasive about). He finally texts me his birthdate, and we discover he has lied about his birthdate and is, in fact, 3 years older than he stated he was in his online profiles and on the information he sent us separately.

We also find out later that he has also lied about being Sunni, and is actually Shia.

So, suffice it to say, I broke things off with him. But, being the obsessive sort, he had his mom contact my mom a few times to try to change our minds (my mum never picked up her calls). I was really nervous when he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and kept bothering us. All sorts of horrible scenarios ran through my head about what he might do (I’m sure you can imagine). I imagined several scenarios about what I would do to him if I ever saw him again.

Why did I have to go through that? Why does any woman? NO MEANS NO.

So anyway, now I’m back out there, trying to find a non-creepy, honest, kind individual who recognizes the importance for women to take care of their parents as much as men do (or should).

I’ve been called a spinster. I don’t agree with that term. Wikipedia essentially defines spinster (by the historical definition, I’m not talking about the more modern versions) as a woman who hasn’t married someone by the time they reach menopause. I’m nowhere near menopause, so that really doesn’t apply to me.

Oxford Dictionaries defines spinster as a derogatory term referring to “an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage”. I would argue that I am not “beyond the usual age for marriage”.

It’s true that women in my culture do get married young at times. But was it wrong to avoid the lying, controlling assholes? Someone in my family actually told me that I should marry someone, even if they’re mean or might be mean to me. I even had someone who, after the suitor’s family said that marriage meant I would never see my family again (no parents, siblings, extended family, etc.), still thought I should get married. Um, I’m sorry, but I refuse to settle for someone who will be cruel to me. I’ve been treated to enough cruelty in this world, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life living with another one. And I refuse to accept that this stance is somehow wrong.

Women in our culture put up with A LOT. We do. We are exceptionally kind, giving people (not all women, but a lot of them are). We easily give up what we want and need for the wants and needs of others. I do that, too (hey – I’m not totally selfish).

I had an epiphany a few years ago. I was engaged. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned it before, but I was. I remember one day thinking, “Well, I won’t have the best marriage but maybe my daughter will do better than me.” And I stopped dead in my tracks. Why don’t I think I deserve to have a good marriage, with someone who truly cares and respects me? Why should I put up with someone unkind just to say that I’m “married”? Suffice it to say, that this epiphany, coupled with revelations about the family, meant we called off the wedding.

I don’t think finding a kind, decent person is unrealistic. I believe it can be reality. “Marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it” (Sleepless in Seattle). God knows what is best for all of us, and I pray that God will provide me with direction to the right path and person.

So, now that I’ve defended my non-spinsterish stance, I leave you with this old poem. Thanks for reading!

 

Old Maid Poem

 

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The Shanghai Marriage Market

A look at a Shanghai Marriage Market – sounds very similar to things I have seen in Muslim culture. What do you think?

woshoudebuhao

These days, there are so many ways to find a potential mate. There’s the good ol’ fashioned random encounter — a chance, flirty conversation in a bar; an accidental bump of your cart into another’s at the grocery store (hello Social Safeway); or, hallelujah, sharing a pew with an attractive fellow worshiper at church. Many more options exist online from Match.com to OkCupid to the latest, Tinder. But, have you ever heard of Shanghai’s Marriage Market? It takes matchmaking to a whole new level, one that would surely infuriate singles of any nationality, given that it’s the parents and grandparents doing the setting-up.

Marriage market entranceEvery Saturday and Sunday, from noon to five, matchmakers set up shop in People’s Square, a park that’s a short stroll away from major tourist attractions. The matchmakers sit on their fold-able chairs behind their fold-able tables. Parents or grandparents stop by to flip through…

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What does 2014 hold for you?

This is something fun I first saw posted on George Takei’s Facebook page.

First 3 Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My three words were “love”, “money”, and “freedom” – what were yours?

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Refuse to be Homogenized—Beauty, Bullying and Media “Mean Girls”

One of my favorite bloggers is Kristen Lamb. She’s a great resource for writers (and I HIGHLY recommend her classes as well). But she seems to have lived a life parallel to mine at times. Her recent posts (and the other 2 recent ones referenced in her blog) deal with bullying. She talks about bullying that writers endure on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, but she also talks about her own experiences.

I didn’t have the easiest time growing up (as you may have gleaned from my blog from time to time). I have blocked out most of my high school (which I like to call my “Dark Ages”) and I have thus far avoided my reunions and most of my high school classmates (except when I head home to visit my parents and inevitably run into one or more of them). Being the only, shall we say, tan-colored, person in school (except for my brother) for the majority of my experience, it’s not hard to imagine what happened.

I got off pretty lucky, though, overall. The hatred, the comments, the just plain meanness of folks was still tamer than others received. I was really depressed through high school, but I kept my head down, studied and worked hard, and I made the best of each situation that I could. I had to go to high school, so I just muddled through.

I completely agree with Kristen that bullies grow up and become adult bullies. Several adult bullies were my bosses through the years, coworkers, and even, while I worked retail or at a coffee shop, my customers.

And, just like the blog below, my looks were also apparently up for criticizing. I even had a recent suitor tell me that I didn’t look good enough for him. Why should we put up with it?

I recently posted a video from Upworthy (I strongly recommend watching it – see my post “How much space should I occupy?”). Letting others decide how much space we should occupy and how we should look is ridiculous. To quote a recent video with actress Jennifer Lawrence, “What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy?”

I AM ME. And I’m pretty darn amazing, thank you very much.

What experiences have you had with bullies?

-MK

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Last week I wrote two posts Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do? and Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?. The first post was my own story of enduring hoards of Mean Girls and bullies in school (I switched schools 18 times).

Many people in the comments seemed perplexed as to WHY bullies acted the way they did and how to handle them. Thus, the second post offered even more tips and my Armchair Neuroscientist explanation as to what FEEDS bullies what they CRAVE (and tips to shut bullies down).

A Culture of Control

Since these two posts, I’ve received hundreds of comments and loads of messages and links shared on Facebook. This prompted me to speak a bit more on this topic. My opinion? I feel we live in a culture of bullies. We see it…

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Resolutions

It’s the end of another year, and another time for reflection. We always have such lofty goals when each new year rolls around. Last year, my goal was to publish my first story (I published 3!), graduate (done!), get a new full-time job (success!), grow my business (one business ended and another begun), and to get engaged/married (…). Well, 3 out of 5 isn’t bad – I’m over halfway to my goal! And I’ve got less than 12 hours for the other two. Though, perhaps it’s best to push these to next year.

These past few weeks, I’ve been especially contemplative. I received a review for my first story (only 1 star, but it seemed they really didn’t read the description before buying) which was discouraging. A lot of people tried to discourage me this year, and I know they’ll likely try to do the same next year. People have tried to change me, to harm me, to harass me. But their discouraging words and actions have only made me a stronger, more confident person.

And though I am still unmarried, I have gone out and tried to meet new people. I’ve met some creeps, some weirdos, some control freaks, some major jerks, and some nice guys that just weren’t the one.  I’m hoping 2014 will be my year, both personally and professionally.

We often procrastinate. We put things off for another day and another moment, but then, before we know it, it’s New Year’s Eve again. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t keep their resolutions. In the past, for me, the main reason was abstractness; I would make the lofty statements (e.g., publishing my first short story) but without a realistic plan to get there. Well, this year, I did set realistic expectations and goals, and I stuck by them.

We (at least I) deal with deadlines in my full-time job all the time. So, we don’t always want to deal with deadlines when we get home, and our plans get pushed back. The weight loss we’d planned, the story we’d wanted to publish are pushed back month by month and, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. But this year, I made realistic plans and I held myself to them and to my deadlines, and so did others.

Some of my best resolution-keeping helpers have been you, readers of my MGA blog, and those who have read my work and tell me to keep going. It’s because of you that I keep writing blog posts and sharing bits about my life. If there’s anything you’d like to see me write about in 2014, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

So to you, my lovely readers, I say THANK YOU and I wish you all a successful, healthy, happy, and prosperous 2014.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(And thanks for reading)

-M

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all those celebrating today.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday!

-M

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Christmas

It’s almost Christmas. Growing up in America, as a Muslim this time of year, is very interesting. I don’t celebrate the holiday, yet I get paid leave from work for it (yay!), because so many others do celebrate it. As I was often the only non-Christian in the class growing up, I would often get asked why I didn’t celebrate Christmas. An elementary school play is a treasured holiday tradition, and I also had to take part, despite my non-Christian-ness. During my first-grade play, for example, my teacher created a break in the middle of the play where I had to explain, in a monologue, why I was unlike the rest of the class and why I didn’t celebrate Christmas.

If you’re wondering if that was horrifying for a six-year old, it absolutely was.

I knew I was different than the other kids in kindergarten, but that play really made it clear to me (and everyone else), too. I never really looked at myself (nor did others look at me) in the same way again.

There’s also the inevitable musical shift that begins occurring in November (and earlier each year, it seems). Timeless Christmas songs mix with modern renditions, and follow you everywhere you go: malls, stores, gyms, etc. I actually like the music, in moderation, that is. I spent around 10 years in the customer service/retail/food service industries, and the same music for 10 hours in a row would drive anyone crazy. But the songs are catchy and beautiful, and the voices are timeless (e.g., Nat King Cole). And, yes, I do know all the words to many of them.

Entertainment also takes a decidedly holiday turn. Television shows begin featuring holiday themed episodes (first with Thanksgiving in November, then with Christmas-themed shows). Holiday movies and specials abound. Old classics (It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer), mix with newer classics (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, The Santa Clause, and new movies all month long from ABC Family, Lifetime, Hallmark, and others). (As a side note, The Sound of Music now seems to be a Christmas movie. I absolutely love the movie, though I still don’t understand how escaping Nazis during WWII relates to yuletide cheer. Thoughts?)

In DC, where I currently reside and where 1 in 5 residents are foreign/an immigrant, there is the added complication to integrate and carry-on unique traditions from a resident’s home country with established American traditions. As a child of immigrants, I can relate here. But at least Christians from any country will find celebrations of Christmas, but we rarely found celebrations for Eid growing up. There are also decorations (such as straw ‘yule goats’ found in Sweden), and I admit I love twinkle lights that people use to decorate houses and Christmas trees. Pinterest is also awash with DIY ideas. As a DIY-er myself, I love Pinterest (probably a little too much) and find that I can adapt a lot of Christmas-themed ideas for my own uses.

Then there’s the food. This time of year is awash with specialty foods that, I proudly admit, I also indulge. Hershey’s comes out with candy cane flavored Kisses, peppermint bark lines the candy shelves along with other sweet treats (including Panettone, an Italian fruitcake that is lovely with tea or for use in trifles). Other countries have their own confectionary concoctions that brighten the dull winter scenes with color and flavor.

And, let’s not forget the sales. As someone who rarely pays retail (and why should anyone?) I do love the sales. A lot of them are overhyped (you can find some items cheaper at other sales during the year), but some stuff can be found for a pretty good deal. With so many apps, coupon sites, and deals out there, it is easy to save in one way or another. But as some sale prices change throughout each day, keeping on top of sale prices can be a challenge.

There is a decidedly commercial aspect to Christmas (and Easter as well) that you don’t see as much with Muslim holidays, as least what I’ve seen in America. We have our own Eid-centric greeting cards and even our own Eid-centric stamps courtesy of the USPS. We do buy bright new clothes for the occasion, and, on Eid-ul-Fitr (the holiday following Ramadan), we do give gifts to children. We have special foods we dine on during Ramadan and on both Eids. We have our own versions of decorating for these holidays, though if we wanted to put lights up, our non-Muslim neighbors give us weird looks; really, it’s the same look they give to people who keep their Christmas decorations up too long.

Eid-ul-Adha (the holiday where Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca) is the most costly, in my opinion. For those making the pilgrimage, it can cost several thousand dollars per person to make the voyage (obviously, the number varies depending upon your departure location and other factors). These days, you pretty much need to go through a tour operator to go, but even then you’re not safe from dishonest individuals wanting to make a quick buck. Still though, I hope to go on Hajj one day, inshAllah (i.e., if God wills it).

But, like with Eid, I love this time of year because of the sense of the togetherness and merriment that permeates the air. The same feeling of expectation and family and community I find during Ramadan, I also find at this time of year.

And that doesn’t make me a bad Muslim. It makes me a compassionate and friendly one.

Just as we Muslims wish others would take the time to learn more about our religion and culture, Muslims should also take the time to learn about the religion and cultures of their friends and neighbors. Education is never a bad thing, but it is powerful. And, “with great power comes great responsibility” (which, incidentally, is a quote originally said by Voltaire, and repeated in Spider-man). Use your knowledge and education wisely to build bridges between people. Some of my greatest and kindest friends are non-Muslim. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

So, to you my dear readers, I wish you Happy Holidays. Please share your own holiday traditions and thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

-M

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How much space should I occupy?

I recently saw this video on Upworthy. The woman in the video, Lily, does a fantastic job of explaining, through slam poetry, how women view themselves and how they were raised fits into this view. My favorite part, though, is where she talks about the difference between men and women and how they are raised; how boys are raised to express themselves while girls are raised to repress themselves. It really makes me think (as a woman) that I have been conditioned to think about how much space I should occupy.

Great video. Please watch and leave your comments below.

http://www.upworthy.com/watch-a-student-totally-nail-something-about-women-that-ive-been-trying-to-articulate-for-37-years-6

 

 

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