9/10/2001- Every time I saw my beautiful, veiled Muslim neighbors- Or, drove past the mosque on the corner by my house- I thought: “Exotic. Reverent. Modest. Intrigued. Different and Beautiful.”
9/12/2001- Every time I saw one of my beautiful veiled Muslim neighbors or drove by the mosque on the corner by my house- I thought: “Terrorist? Jihadist? Neighbor? Friend? Foe?”
I hate admitting that I allowed the actions of an unknown- cray-cray few, color my view of my known, (at least) not any cray-crayer than me- neighbors.
But, I did.
I thought I was over the post 9/11 bigotry. I smile and wave at my neighbors. I rarely ever think that the mosque on the corner is a bees nest of jihadists. I almost never think the teenagers in the car in front of their house are up to no good. I did what I could to love the family, when one of my neighbor’s recently died.
So-I thought was over it. Until I placed a few orders for hijab’s and other outfitting for my work on the next chapter in my book. The chapter about what it’s like to be a veiled (Muslim) woman, in America.
First- I downloaded a great book. That was fine. Really interesting, actually. I ordered it for Kindle. Then, audible. No problem.
Then, I started looking for an actual hijab. And honestly? When I placed the order I kind of freaked. It started with a little panic when I ordered a copy of the Q’uaran. “What will people think if they see this at my house?” And: “I hope Amazon doesn’t report unexpected purchases to the government like Visa fraud does with my bank…..”
It got considerably worse as I placed orders for actual head coverings, pins, scarves and Hijab-friendly dresses.
“If I click this button to buy, will I end up on a government watch list?” “Should I even be doing this?” “Isn’t this less than honest? I mean- I’m NOT Muslim.” “Isn’t it offensive to dress as if I am? Isn’t that lying?”
It was a Starbucks like blend of emotion and fear. One pump of paranoia, one pump of what my Muslim neighbors might feel on occasion, and one pump (maybe three) of trying to talk my way out writing and even more so- of living this chapter.
Why? Well, let’s face it. This chapter is complicated. It is probably controversial. (Maybe not as controversial as the breastfeeding/ bottle feeding section but more so than the homeschool, public, school private school chapter.) I’m sure it will offend people. Islamic, Christian and “others.” (Yes, that’s a big category- but I can’t think of a better word right now- sorry:P) I’ve prayed about this and wrestled through my motives. I’ve asked wise counsel and listened to them. (Mostly.)
My motive is the same for this chapter, as for every other chapter. To voice the bigotries I hold and have held, in hopes to hold up a mirror to yours. And to give voice to the experience of the women behind the bigotries and stereotypes. By stepping into their shoes for a short time, and more importantly- by learning the truth- from them. I am desperate to love others the way Jesus does and that’s kind of hard if you’re judging them in your brain 24/7.
I’ve learned it’s hard to hate and judge the people you know and understand and love.
So- I clicked the “buy” button. I waited for the packages to arrive. They did, while my husband and I were on a romantic extended insurance paid for vacation- in the hospital. (He’s battling ninja like- prostate cancer -the hospitalization was related. That’s a different chapter.)
My oldest son opened the packages. “Mom, I totally thought you ordered something from Hamas. Then, I realized the package said “Hana’s.”
Yeah, not the same. But you’d think it was by my reaction to those packages arriving. The truth is- wave after wave of freak out keeps hitting me..”What is the money I spent on this, really going to support? What if Secret Service shows up at my house? Is that black SUV really another parent in the after school pick up, or a surveillance vehicle?”
Some might be valid… (Except for the SUV. Duh.) But, as I opened the packages I realized the freak outs for what they really are- hidden and suppressed and contagious bigotries.
Hidden- because I really didn’t think they were present.
Suppressed- because that’s a nice way to say I’ve been denying them and acting like I’m above all that crazy.
Contagious- because I wasn’t always like this. (Or, saying I caught it from the media and our paranoid American culture is a nice excuse and feels better than owning my own crap.)
All of which, might be true to varying degrees.
And all of which make very clear that I need to write this chapter. If to for you- for me. Because honoring God by loving my neighbor, begins with being empathetic and caring. Not paranoid and judgmental.
I’m not quite ready to don the Hijab, just yet. I need to talk to some of my neighbors, first. That might be interesting…. here’s hoping they understand my cray-cray heart. (they’re used to me. See the above article.)
“Dear Lord- Really? A Hijab? Can’t we do this some other intellectual way? Like research and books? You want me to visit a mosque? I’m a Christian- For your sake… Have you totally lost it? I won’t be welcome there. Or, will I? Lord- you know I am conflicted about this chapter. I pray for you wisdom and direction and most importantly- that I can walk in integrity and honestly share what I learn- change my heart, lord. It needs it. I’m a jerk. Amen.”
I’ll let you know when the research ends and the experience begins. I’ll share tid-bits as I go-but the details will be saved for the chapter, of course.
If you’re Muslim, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project. I’d also love your best resources and even more- I’d love to hear what your reality is like…. what’s it like to walk in your shoes? I can’t wear a Hijab for a week or whatever-and learn what it’s like to live as a Muslim American. I need to hear from YOU. (And I’ll be talking to my neighbors.)
Actually- I’ve read lots of rules about veiling but haven’t found many for shoes…. I MUST have proper footwear- of course. So tell me about your shoes, or, better yet- show me your #Shoefie!
If you’re a Christian, or “Other” I’d love your perspective too…. tell me what you think- do you have any questions you’ve always wanted to know about the veiled mysterious Muslim among us? Or, thoughts about me engaging in this chapter? How I should or shouldn’t?
Interested in learning a little?
Ask and comment away! (With loving respect, of course.) And get ready for this chapter- it’s gonna be a doozy…I can’t wait. Or, can I?