Welcome to my blog!

This blog is an honest look at what life is like for this particular American convert to Islam. We're taught in Islam to cover our sins, to not air them, for fear of lessening the severity of sinning. In this blog, I may relate past indiscretions from time to time. This isn't to make light of them, but in the interest of educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to the realities of life as an American convert, I present my mistakes honestly. I make no excuses for them, nor do I claim that they were okay to make. I am not perfect, and I make no pretenses as to that. If others can learn from my past, know that Islam, and religion in general, is open for people no matter what mistakes they've made, then I will gladly air my sins when needed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to be Inquisitive Without Being Rude.

Before I begin, please note that I don't speak Arabic (soon, though, God willing), and so my pronunciation guides might be off. If they are, my Arabic-speakers brothers and sisters, please read through the comments to see if I've been corrected, first, and if I haven't, please politely let me know.

This post is directed to you, dear readers, who don't know a lot about Islam, and who are excited to ask your new Muslim acquaintance all sorts of things about Islam and being Muslim.

I know that you're thrilled. You've finally met a real, live Muslim! One who works near you, lives near you! Now you can finally tell your friends that you're *~multi-cultural~* and gain the respect of your peers!

... Maybe not. But hey, you've met a Muslim and you're a little curious, so you decide to ask a few questions. What's the harm?

Well, here are a few things to please keep in mind whilst bombarding your (God willing) patient Muslim buddy with questions:

  • (Yes, I found the list buttons) You are likely a complete stranger to your Muslim buddy (MB). Your MB has no idea who you are, where you came from, what you want (unless they're an employee at whatever business you're visiting, in which case they have a slight inkling as to what you want), or anything. They know nothing about you. While they'll hopefully be willing to answer your questions, please do remember that if you wouldn't want a complete stranger asking your question, don't ask your MB.
  • Be respectful! I can't emphasise this enough. If you don't know what the scarf on my head is called, or what the hat my guy friend's wearing is called, admit it. "What's your headgear/hat/scarf called?" is a perfectly acceptable question. I'll probably bitch about Google being invented for a reason and there being no excuse for ignorance in this blog, but in reality, not everyone is interested enough to research what the articles of clothing in any religion are called. On that note, the hat that Muslim men wear is called a kufi (koo-fee), and my scarf is called a hijab (hee-job), khimar (kim-are), or just plain "scarf/headscarf." Calling it "that thing on (my) head" is, whilst an honest question, more than a bit rude. You want me to respect you and your questions, so please respect me.
  • If you've asked it, so have 70,000 others. Please be sensitive to this. You're curious. So is everyone else. Please remember that if your MB seems frustrated by your questions, it's probably because they hear them so often and just want to implant Google in your retinas so they can get on with their lives without feeling like they're a broken record.
  • On that note, your MB is a busy little bee, with more to do in life than sit down and chat with a complete stranger. There are tables to be picked up, orders to be put in, food to be taken out, tables to clean, jobs to be worked at, groceries to be bought, meals to be made, children to be picked up, sleep to be had, prayers to be prayed ... Please be conscious that your MB might be willing, even eager, to answer aaaaaaaaall of your questions, but might simply not have the time. Lots of customers want to chat with me about being Muslim, wearing the hijab, what it's like to be a convert ... but I have to tell them, "I'm sorry, I'd love to chat, but I have three other tables who need my love." It's not that I don't want to be buddies with them, it's that I simply don't have the time.
  • Terrorist jokes aren't funny. No, really. (Also, I haven't had the time to think up witty replies to them, yet.) Your MB does not want to be equated with religion-hijacking, murdering terrorists. That's like asking a Christian if they're a member of the KKK, or where their white bedsheet is.
  • Respect the Prophet (pbuh). "PBUH", by the way, is an abbreviation of "Peace be upon him", which is said after the mention of a prophet's name (such as Jesus, pbuh), or another holy or learned person. It's a way of conveying respect, and Muslims add in these or similar words when speaking of lots of people, including women such as Mary, mother of Jesus (may God be pleased with her), Asia, Pharoah's wife (her, too), and so on. Anyway, respect the Prophet (pbuh). A lot of Muslims get fighting mad when the Prophet's (pbuh) disrespected, and some take it to frightening extremes. Come on, dear readers. Would you want someone talking crap about Jesus (pbuh)? Or whoever the holiest person in your belief system is? Please leave our prophet alone, then. There are many controversies in modern times about his life, the age of A'isha (his youngest wife, may God be pleased with her) when he married her and consumated the marriage, and so forth. Please let me tell you that, no matter the age of A'isha at the time of her marriage and consumation of it (that's the initial act of sex, for those of you who don't know), no matter if she was 9, as some hadith (sayings and observations of the Prophet (pbuh) and his life) claim, or 17, as others say, if he had been doing something entirely out of the ordinary, something repulsive during the time he lived in, then his enemies would have commented on it, and none have. The legal age of consent is between 16 and 18 in the US. It's 16 in Canada and in England, 17 in Ireland. In Japan, it's 13. It varies even in modern times, and more so in ancient times. Applying a modern moral framework to a society that existed 1,400 years ago is ludicrous. Anyway, please respect our prophet.
  • I volunteered to wear hijab at work, not to answer your questions. This is important. Don't ask me personal questions, like what sort of sex can I have, are blowjobs allowed, can you have my number, can you date me ... One, picking up on people when they're working is lame and frustrating, so don't do it --- it makes you look stupid. Two, I volunteered to take your order, not divulge my personal life to you, who are a complete stranger to me. Your MB understands your curiosity, and if they were on a talk show and had explicitly agreed to answer all personal questions, that would be one thing. But your MB isn't on a talk show and has made no such agreement, and is, remember, a total stranger to you. Again, if you wouldn't want a stranger asking that question, then don't ask your MB. It's ruuuuuude. Don't be rude.
  • Be friendly! No, trust me. I'll put up with a lot of crap if people are friendly about it. There's a limit, but your MB will be waaaaay more interested in answering your polite, well-thought-out, respectful questions if you're friendly. Smile! Make eye contact! Your MB isn't going to bite your head off, I promise!
  • Be courteous of Muslim culture. If your MB is female and you're a male, and she refuses to shake your hand, don't get butt-hurt about it. Technically, Muslimahs (female Muslims) aren't supposed to touch men they're not related or married to. Nor are Muslim men supposed to touch women that they're not related or married to. So first, don't try to touch a Muslim of the opposite gender unless they initiate the contact (I'll shake hands in a business setting, or when first meeting someone, for example, but some Muslims won't; it depends on their comfort level, the culture they were raised in, and if the other person is creepy or not --- before I converted, I had a friend whom I refused to hug because I knew he'd take it the wrong way and try to get me into bed, and I didn't want to get involved in that, so I didn't touch him). Second, if a Muslim refuses to touch you, realise that it's not you, it's a command from God, and get on with your business. It's not an insult, and your non-touchy MB ought to politely explain their no-touch policy.

And that should be it for now. If I think of anything else, or, God willing, anyone suggests something, I'll add it here or make another post. ^_^

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