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Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Far Can You See? Just the Cultural Practices, or the Real Islam? Part 1

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I can understand the prejudices towards Muslims from non-Muslims. I can understand the fear people feel when they find out a woman from a country like the USA or Canada etc... is going to move to the Middle East to live in, and to marry a Muslim from there. I can understand that people *think* it is Islam that oppresses women. I can understand all of this because I once felt the same way.

I studied Islam for over four and a half years and the last hurdle to becoming a Muslim was the behavior and words towards/about women from Middle Eastern Muslim guys studying in Denver that I knew from school or work. I often heard them saying negative things about women even if they did the same things the women they talked about did. When I would try to tell them they are just as bad if they do the same things they think is bad for a woman to do... but it was always shrugged off and said its ok because they are men.

It really is too bad there are guys like these spreading the stereotype around that this type of thinking is condoned in Islam. I am sure these attitudes have turned plenty of people away from even wanting to study Islam...

After some would find out how long I had been studying Islam they would encourage me to hurry up and become a Muslim. But I just couldn't because of what I saw and heard from these guys at school. I would never follow a religion that would oppress me.

I finally decided to really read the Qur'an more thoroughly because I knew that if Allah was really God, then there wouldn't be these double standards.

The result? Well, just as I thought, the Qur'an sets the same standards of behavior for both men and women.

Qur'an 33:35
For Muslim men and women― for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves) for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise― for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.

followed by:

Qur'an 33:36
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision: if anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.

So right there in clear language is the command that guarding the chastity is commanded upon both men and women. And any man and woman going against the commands are on the wrong path.

Then I also had to learn more about what rights Islam gives to women. I was given advice to search online for Muslim women on Islamic forums because they could most help me with my concerns about Muslim women. I was argumentative with them at the beginning...always having to put in my views of what I knew of Muslim guys that I encountered and their attitudes toward women. Mashallah for their patience in sticking it through with me and educating me about how women are given so many rights in Islam. For an excellent post about this, please read this excellent post from my dear best friend:

Texan in UAE- Its a MAN'S world.... or is it?

Mashallah through one of the forums, we formed one Qur'an study group and during the time we had the group, they explained so much for me and helped me in understanding some of the more difficult verses.

And finally on August 30, 2002, I said the Shahada, which is the Muslim profession of faith:

أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله

Transliteration: La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasool Allah

Translation: "I bear witness there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"

Alhamdulillah Allah has guided me to Islam!

And so came the beginning of my understanding that cultural attitudes and practices are not always Islamic.

Part 2 will be discussing more about some how some cultural practices have given fuel to non-Muslims to paint Islam in a bad light. It might take a few days but we will see inshallah.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Emiratis are Social Butterflies...trying to get used to one aspect of it...

**this is a photo of a delicious (Mashallah)meal my dear best friend Texan in UAE made for her guests (including me) at a sisters get together she had at her home a couple of years ago.

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I have been living in Dubai, UAE since September of 2005 Mashallah. Just a little over 4 years-- Subhanallah how time goes fast!! Its been a whirlwind of adventures learning this new culture so different from my own.

I live with my in-laws and so through their friends and other family coming over (especially to visit my mother-in-law), I have gotten the chance to meet many Emiratis Mashallah.

Not that Americans can't be good hosts, but the Emiratis are on a whole other level. Socializing is a huge important part of their culture. There are days this clashes with me and what I am doing every now and then.

I am so not the type of person who can go to a social event and strike up conversations with people I don't know. I get way too nervous when I am meeting someone I do not know... like for instance if I am going to a friend's home and they have guests over who I have never met. My nerves usual calm after I have met them, but there are times when I am left alone with the person/s and then I have no idea what to say and have to force myself to say something. It is a lot easier if the host is right there and gets everyone going first.

So then what happens when it is a bunch of people who are speaking Arabic most of the time? Well, that is my own fault as they try to speak with me but I can only have a small conversation with them if they don't speak English very well. Anyhow, this culture of theirs has existed since the olden days... perhaps it is a custom from the beginnings of Islam when Prophet Muhammad (salallahu aleyhi wa salaam) instructed the Muslims about treating guests:

Narrated Al-Miqdam AbuKarimah: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If any Muslim is a guest of people and is given nothing, it is the duty of every Muslim to help him to the extent of taking for him from their crop and property for the entertainment of one night.
Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 27 #3742

Narrated AbuKarimah: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: It is a duty of every Muslim (to provide hospitality) to a guest for a night. If anyone comes in the morning to his house, it is a debt due to him. If he wishes, he may fulfil it, and if he wishes he may leave it.
Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 27 #3741

Narrated Abu Shuraih Al-Ka'bi: Allah's Apostle said, Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously. The guest's reward is: To provide him with a superior type of food for a night and a day and a guest is to be entertained with food for three days, and whatever is offered beyond that, is regarded as something given in charity. And it is not lawful for a guest to stay with his host for such a long period so as to put him in a critical position."
Sahih Bukhari, Book 73 #156

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should talk what is good or keep quiet."
Sahih Bukhari, Book 73 #158

Narrated Abu Shuraih Al-Khuza'i: My ears heard and my heart grasped (the statement which) the Prophet said, "The period for keeping one's guest is three days (and don't forget) his reward." It was asked, "What is his reward?" He said, "In the first night and the day he should be given a high class quality of meals; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should entertain his guest generously; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good (sense) or keep quiet."
Sahih Bukhari, Book 76 #483

Narrated Abu Huraira: A man came to the Prophet. The Prophet sent a messenger to his wives (to bring something for that man to eat) but they said that they had nothing except water. Then Allah's Apostle said, "Who will take this (person) or entertain him as a guest?" An Ansar man said, "I." So he took him to his wife and said to her, "Entertain generously the guest of Allah's Apostle " She said, "We have got nothing except the meals of my children." He said, "Prepare your meal, light your lamp and let your children sleep if they ask for supper." So she prepared her meal, lighted her lamp and made her children sleep, and then stood up pretending to mend her lamp, but she put it off. Then both of them pretended to be eating, but they really went to bed hungry. In the morning the Ansari went to Allah's Apostle who said, "Tonight Allah laughed or wondered at your action." Then Allah revealed: "But give them (emigrants) preference over themselves even though they were in need of that And whosoever is saved from the covetousness Such are they who will be successful." (59.9)
Sahih Bukhari, Book 58 #142

Guests are to be entertained even if they come unannounced. Afterall, back in the days of the bedouins there were no phones, no hotels etc... and a traveller would go to a person's home asking for food and shelter.

So over the years this has become completely normal for them to have guests come unannounced and it happens to this day. Sometimes I think, wow, Mashallah that you can just go over to someone's home without telling them... but another part of me is... shouldn't they call ahead of time to make sure the host will be free?

It has happened more than a few times that someone would come over just as my husband and I were getting ready to leave. If it is women coming over and my MIL is home, they can sit with my MIL and we can leave, but if men come over, my husband has to entertain them.

And I don't even know how many times I was cooking and guests would come--right at dinner time--but not come for dinner. They would say they have dinner waiting for them at home, so there goes all my cooking efforts. You see, a lot of my cooking is American, Japanese, Asian, Mexican etc... and not Arabic food. Most dishes I cook are best to eat as soon as it is finished. A lot of Arabic food can sit in hot pots for some time just fine. I cook so that we can eat by a certain time. It really sucks to have to cover it with foil and eat it later...sometimes having to re-heat it in the microwave all because someone came over without letting us know. These times especially it would have been so nice to know so I adjust my cooking times.

Of course, these people aren't "travelers" passing through the city, they are fmaily, or friends of the family.

But Mashallah it is amazing to think that the locals don't even blink an eye in annoyance at unannounced guests. I am definitely more used to it than I was when I was first here, but I still get annoyed sometimes.

Inshallah it will become like 2nd nature to me like it is to them someday.... we will see.

A beautiful language I should be able to speak, read and write fluently by now

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I got married to my Emirati husband, moved to UAE, and a little over 4 years of living here, it is pathetic how much I can speak really. I can understand more than I speak but I sure should know a looooooooot more. If it was the old me, I would be pretty much fluent by now. What happened to me?? Just pure laziness, thats just it.

At the beginning of life here it was very uncomfortable sitting with the Arab women and just having to smile all the time while they chatted away in Arabic. Now, in Islam, Muslims are taught that it is rude to leave one person out of a conversation if they do not speak the same language-- but in this case, not every Arab woman speaks English, and for those that do, I completely understand when its a group of Arab women who have known each other for a long time, it just comes naturally to speak Arabic like they always do.

I am really really trying to push myself to learn Arabic. And you know what? It is EASY EASY EASY for me to learn new languages, if I would just apply myself. I currently speak English and Japanese. Well, with Japanese I am fluent in conversational Japanese, but watching the news can be difficult at times and the language of politics, medicine, and reading the newspapers etc... I don't understand/read very well.

In school I have learned Spanish, French, and one semester of Russian, which I would have continued had it not been canceled due to lack of interest. All of those languages? Easy peasy! I was learning more and more Spanish from speaking with the Mexicans I worked with in Colorado, and French I practiced like crazy.

Later on I started working at a Persian/Lebanese restaurant and the owner's wife is Lebanese and I had some Moroccan (waitresses who worked with me) and Arabic friends (from school) as well. I was so hungry to learn Arabic from them and enthusiastically practiced the lessons they taught me. Even though they all were teaching me different dialects LOL. But they also taught me reading/writing Mashallah. Then for some reason I totally became laaaaaaaaazy. At the very least Alhamdulillah I learned and have retained how to pronounce the Arabic letters that are foreign to the English letters. When I read Arabic, it is very slowwwwwly... I should be able to read by now with no problems whatsoever--though the Qur'an is easier because it has all the accent marks that are not used in regular Arabic.

And what is sad is most of my Western friends who married locals and moved to UAE don't speak much Arabic either. We really should all be studying and speaking it as much as we can with each other -- like my best friend from high school and I used to speak as much French as we could, mixing it with English when we had to.

I took a 12-week Spoken Arabic course at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in in Bastakia here in Dubai about a year after I moved here I think...

It was a wonderful course Mashallah and we had a local teacher so we learned the local dialect from her. I would read over the material once and not even have to study for the quizzes she gave the next time. It came easy to me--but to retain everything I still need to practice, which as y'all know I didn't. Uggghhh. Shame!!! Shame on me!! One good thing is I still have the course books and all notes I took so I can study them again inshallah. I hope I don't run into my teacher anytime soon because I would feel so embarrassed.

So my goal for now is to study Arabic for at least 45 minutes to one hour a day inshallah. I have index cards that I have filled out with different verbs and their conjugations and there are a bunch more blank ones to fill out with more. Just correct verb conjugations and practicing writing--just those alone will make my Arabic so much better.

Now, with the Arabic that I do speak I love to annoy my husband by speaking it with a super duper STRONG American accent. He gets annoyed but he laughs a lot and so does my mother-in-law when I do it to her. He did tell me he will not be annoyed about it if only I would speak it more fluently. Oh... I know he will still be annoyed, but at the same time proud that I can speak it well.

Inshallah in just a few short weeks there will be a huge improvement.

Ohhhh another shameful thing!! I can barely speak French and Spanish now... years and years of no practice... as little as I understand, I can understand more than I speak either one :(

I should practice Spanish with my Mexican best friend over here---but ohhhh no that would not be good as we should both be learning and practicing Arabic. And you know who you are sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

**image by Arabic Calligraphy artist Badawi Al Dirani-used with permission (under this: Creative Commons License) from:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Salary discrimination in UAE, and lack of certain laws...

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

sister Tahani, I just wanted to elaborate on some of the comments you made in reply to my last blog post..

you said:

"Before the law was brought in that workmen had to be taken to and from their labour camps in proper buses etc, they used to be transported in metal cattle trucks without windows (just slits for air) and other disgusting forms of transport."

Oh wow.. that is just shocking!! Astagferallah that it was once even considered ok to do by some people.

you said:
"My late partner was an ex minister of Dubai Labour and I could never really get him to understand how sad the sistuation was for certain expats."

I totally forgot to mention this on my blog post..... remember that those "certain expats" aren't even given the title of expat. they are called domestic workers, unskilled laborers etc...

you said:
"The other thing I really hate about UAE because it still exists today is the difference in salary paid to nationalities because of their passport. A friend doing the exact same job in a company in the same office was paid 10,000 dhs a month more than her Indian co worker and this I find disgusting."

Yes!!! I was thinking about doing another blog post on this issue but hadn't gotten around to it...

There is no equal opportunity employment over here! Just like you said, salary discrimination exists based on national origin. Educated expats from places like India and Pakistan receive much lower salaries than educated expats from Western countries. At one company I know of, the previous personal assistant to a V.P. who was from Saudi Arabia had a starting salary of 13,000Dhs. When she left the job the next person hired was from India, and her starting salary? 6,000Dhs.

I have tried have discussions about this over here and barely anyone thought there was a real problem with that. some just shrugged their shoulder like "oh well, it is what it is" and others just think its ok because in countries like India, they would never be able to make the salaries they would get in UAE.

For those that believe the locals should be a stronger force in the private work sector, if you think about it, why would a company hire a UAE national with a degree in IT over an Indian national with the same degree? They can save a lot more money hiring the Indian national and so the UAE national with an IT degree finds it difficult to enter the private sector.

This UAE national may find a job in the government though with no problems as the government doesn't have to worry about cost-cutting like some private companies must. If it is going to be legal to pay someone less for the exact same job having the exact same qualifications.... its obvious a lot of companies will overlook those whom they would have to pay a larger salary. And it is not just IT... that was just one sector I was talking about.

Oh, and also, In a system like this, you would even think automatically that a UAE national would hold at least equal to, or even higher than the highest salaries paid to people from certain countries. But nope, there are jobs where a British national would have a higher salary than a UAE national holding the same position with the same responsibilities, same education.

And another issue that I can't get over is the lack of laws to protect employees from certain things... like for instance, where someone I know worked, a group of three who worked as a team in one department for a company went and complained to Human Resources about how their manager was treating them. Next thing you know, the manager assigned them all to different departments to split them up in retaliation for what they did. That is absolutely wrong that Human Resources let the manager know about who reported him and that is absolutely wrong that the manager could then retaliate. There should be safeguards in place where employees can report problems anonymously.

Another example... a friend's husband who was working here in Dubai. At his job everyone had to completely kiss the butt of the boss. And I mean completely. If in a meeting he suggested something and someone spoke up and made another suggestion or disagreed--even with good reason, the next you know that person was fired. And I mean the very next day, and that person was forced to immediately be out of the provided-for accomodation in 24 hours. He saw this happen a lot where he worked. And the boss? An American!! An American whose position went to his head in a country where he would get away with it going to his head too.

I had never thought about it before but if the US did not have these labor laws, this kinds of stuff would be rampant as well--I mean companies still try to get away with crap, but there are still lots of people who are able to take their companies to court and win their cases. This American boss who is still the boss of the place today (my friend's husband quit and decided to no longer stay in this country--a huge part was all because of the fact that the workplace atmosphere was so bad and no laws to protect everyone.)

That being said, Americans are not necessarily any more innocent when it comes to this. So many companies are having their products made in countries with abusive labor laws.  The companies know about it, and so do many Americans who are buying the products.  Just because its not happening on their turf do they get to say they are innocent of it all.

The government does have laws concerning firing and such, but even if someone can get fired and get their job back through UAE's labor department, its the retaliation they may receive that they are not protected from. And some places do make hell for an employee who dared go report them to the labor department (ok... its really late right now and it is probably called something else than just labor department but I cannot think of it LOL)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheap Labor and attitudes…

I am appalled at the lack of compassion that I see towards the workers who come here and get paid pennies on the dollar.
If you want to speak to some locals over here about the dark side of the cheap labor in UAE, many times they will not want to go into a long conversation about it. Usually the replies from them are full of justifications for it, and if you try to push your view further, they end the conversation by saying, “It was their choice to come here to work. If they don’t like it they should stay back home.”
It isn’t really as simple as that. Yes, maybe a 500 Dirham a month salary is more than they can make back home. But is a 500 Dirham a month really a fair wage for the work that they do and especially in a country that has money?
For the locals, I suppose growing up seeing them all their lives just makes it one more normal thing out of their everyday normal lives and easy to just ignore. But it really isn’t only the locals who don’t feel any compassion toward them. Perhaps at first a newly arrived expat will be horrified, but after a while it just becomes normal to them as well.
Even after living her for a little over four years, it still breaks my heart all the time when I see the construction workers working hard, knowing they are getting paid so little. It breaks more when seeing them working out in the open sun during the really hot months. It angers me when I can see construction workers on the buses being taken too or from work and the buses are not equipped with air conditioning. You can see windows open and every window has those small electric fans clipped to them instead. Believe me, that is not enough to cool you off in the soaring desert heat of the summer months!
It breaks my heart to think that they are exploited both back in their home countries as well as over here. Back in their home countries, some companies go to poor villages and promise the poor villagers good employment with good salaries, and for others they go to recruiting agencies who promise good jobs. For either one, they have to pay a big sum of money to get hired. They usually have to sell things they own and take loans with high interest in order to pay these companies.
Then they get to the Middle East and their salaries are a lot lower than what were promised. Then they spend years paying back these high interest loans instead of the money going for the betterment of their families’ lives.
I was speaking to one sister one day about the low salaries for an Indian construction worker….and she actually said
“Don’t you know 100 Dirhams is over 1,200 Rupees in India? Its a loooot of money for them!”
I had to actually explain to her that it only sounds like a lot of money because she is thinking as if 100 Dirhams was the same as over 1,000 Dirhams in India and that is wrong… and that something that costs 1 Dirham here isn’t 1 Rupee over there… it would be more like 12 Rupees.

I would also like to add that it is not all locals who feel nothing towards these people...I know locals who will randomly give some money to these poor workers like the ones who clean the streets, the janitors of buildings, etc...

A local sister I know told me that at her work there are Office Boys from India. The company she worked for hired a company to provide these workers. These office workers do all the running around and menial stuff for everyone— meaning the ones with the more decent to excellent salaries (salaries based on what country you are from). Each floor at her work had an “Office Boy” and the one on her floor she said that he probably worked the hardest out of everyone on the floor.
She got to talking to him one day and slowly she asked more and more about his situation. He worked 6 days a week, from 7am until 7pm and only had one day off a week. His salary was 500 Dirhams (US $136) a month. And out of that 500, he had to give 150 of it to the company he was with every single month--so he was left over with 350 Dirhams (US $95) a month for himself. He was provided accommodation but there were 5 or 6 guys to a room. On top of that, no one was allowed to use the kitchen!!! They had to get all of their own food from outside. He was sending whatever money leftover that he could save back home to his family.
This sister started telling others on her floor about him and so they started bringing him food and then once every month, this sister went around and collected donations from everyone to give to him, and everyone except one person pitched in Mashallah.
The one who didn’t pitch in? Her manager who was Indian—the same country the Office Boy was from—who was making a very very good salary. She told me that the Indian manager was really really rude to the Office Boy and always looked down on him. When she asked him to pitch in some money he just turned his nose up and said “no.”
How sad that he would look down on someone who was from his own country just because he was poor! Astagferallah.
Then there is the stories from our maids at our home here. One worked for another local family for 1 week and was so horrified she told them she wanted to be taken back to the Agency she was brought over with (maids are allowed to go back or us who are able to hire maids are allowed to take a new maid back to the agency and then we get the agency fee fully refunded—for up to 3 months)
Let us call her Maria (not her real name of course!) She told me how when the house driver picked her up from the Agency and was taking her to the home, he actually told her she should run away and become an illegal but independent maid. She had no idea why he was telling her this, but she soon found out why.
When Maria first met the Employer who hired her—a very verrry wealthy family I might add-- she was told to come and see how she should respond to her when called. Another housemaid came to demonstrate (they had several housemaids for their huge home.) The woman called for the maid and that maid came running as if there was no tomorrow and enthusiastically said, “Yes Madam, yes.” Maria just thought, “… ok.” The next thing she knows later on, the woman called for her. She says she approached the woman normally and said, “Yes Madam.” - Her employer got angry and told her she needed to do it just like the other maid had demonstrated!
On top of that… when it came to food allowances. They only got to eat bread with cheese and white rice with simple Saloonas (Arabic style stews). They were allowed to have 1 tea bag a day but no milk whatsoever. And she said the kitchen pantry was stocked with a ton of it (the locals use canned evaporated milk with their tea.)
And worst of all Maria witnessed her employer hitting the maids, and cussing at them in English with things like “Fuck you!!” Maria wasn’t there long enough to start getting hit by her. And in the end she ended up at our house (where she is still working for us.)
We just got another maid a couple of weeks ago. When she first arrived at the house and went to meet my mother in law (MIL), my MIL greeted her and told her a few things and also that she is welcome to cook whatever she wants to eat if she doesn’t like the house food. The maid got teary-eyed and thanked her and said that her last employer only let her eat once a day!! And that once a day meal was whatever was leftover from what the family ate! Astagferallah!
There are all kinds of stories out there… although it is also important to note that not all families mistreat their maids. I know families that treat them very well as well, Alhamdulillah for them. And also, where there is mistreatment of maids, it is not exclusiveto the locals.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ewwww she did the "butt scoot"!!!!

ewwwwwwwwww I am in the middle of writing a new blog post and my cat just walked out of her litterbox and for some reason I watched her--she walked to the carpeted area, sit down and do the "butt scoot"!!!

uggghhh yuck... its the first time I've seen her do it but is it her first time she has ever done it????? ewwwwww!!

ok, gotta go clean the area up with Dettol real quick!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

who is your true friend?

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Love is like the wild-rose briar;
Friendship is like the holly-tree.
The holly is dark when the rose briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?
~Emily Brontë

I just read a blog post and am pretty upset by it. I am upset by the fact that a blogger is revealing some intimate details about someone who she called her own friend all along.--revealing things that will damage her reputation.

rather than the contents of the post, which may or may not be true,it is the fact that it is someone calling themself a friend who has done this that bothers me most. I feel sorry for the affected sister because she thought her best friend had her back.

even if the things said are true, she has revealed the sins of her own sister to the world. This is against Islam. It isn't the worlds' business to know about.

This sister who knows the so-called friend's secrets would never stoop to the level that her so-called friend has. She has at least that much integrity in her.

True friends are like diamonds, precious and rare. False friends are like leaves, found everywhere. --Unkown

a true friend would never do that. never. but obviously she wasn't a true friend.

My true friends are right there with me through thick and thin. They are there to laugh with, to cry with, and for those times I am down, they are shoulders I can lean on, and they try to uplift my spirits with their words.

"A friend can tell you things you don't want to tell yourself"--Frances Ward Weller

My true friends are there to set me straight when I am wrong. My true friends and I maybe disagree on certain issues from time to time--but we can calmly disagree and agree to disagree and stay friends even though we may disagree.

My true friends forgive me when I make mistakes, help dust myself off so I can try again, and keep loving me when I make mistakes... big or small.

You can always tell a real friend; when you've made a fool of yourself, he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.”-- Laurence Sterne

My true friends will never ever publicize the inner worst they know about me for the whole world to see. We all fall off the bandwagon from time to time and some falls are worse than others, but we can discuss the issues with each other and keep the issues to ourselves, whether it be an issue between just one friend and I or, within the small group of treasured friends.

Distance may come between you and a friend from time to time--life happens. But in the end you will still hold a special place in your heart for that friend, because true friends are a treasure to keep for life.

To have a good friend is one of the highest delights in life; to be a good friend is one of the noblest and most difficult undertakings.--Unknown

--edited to remove names...

I had forgotten what it feels like to be looked down on for my religion...

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I said my Shahada almost 1 year after the 9-11 attacks. But for a couple of months at least, no one knew unless I mentioned it to them because I had not yet started wearing hijab.

On day I went to a cafe with a couple friends, one who is a Muslim and who wore hijab at that time. I remember all of the staring she got. and at that point I actually felt a bad at the fact that even though I was a Muslim along with her, I didn't have to face the negativity.

It wasn't that reason alone, but shortly after I slowly started getting into wearing hijab. I took my time..wearing only during certain times, only in certain places, all the way until I was absolutely ready to wear it full-time.

It was in hijab that I experienced all the negative attitudes towards Muslims. I was living in Colorado at the time, and I do have to say for the most part, Coloradans aren't very nasty towards Muslims. Not to say I didn't experience any...because I definitely did... but I know of sisters online who live in very small cities and wearing hijab is very scary for them.

I have travelled a bit since I became Muslim and for the most part things have been just fine. In Japan, I did get looked at a lot but I never felt anything negative towards me. One of the times I was in Japan was August, the hottest/humid time of the year. Most of the looks were as if they wanted to ask "aren't you hot?" LOL

I have lived for a year in Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. That city is a big tourist city and its beaches are full of skimpy clad sun-seekers and surfers. I didn't feel much negativity there. My husband and I spent a few nights in a small town named Noosa in Queensland and I did receive a lot of stares there. Some of it was definitely negative.

I have been to Germany and Austria. I was warned that in Germany I would receive a lot of negativity. We only visited Munich and didn't feel much negativity at all. In fact, many many Khaleeji women there were wearing their abayas and shaylas there. attitudes were pretty much the same in Austria as well, Alhamdulillah. Perhaps it is not in Munich where the negativity Germany has other big cities.

I have been to Kerala, India where there is a large Muslim population but a definite size-able Christian and Hindu population as well. No negativity there either...although I did get a lot of stares from both the men and women--most likely just wondering where I am from.

And of course I have been living in Dubai, UAE for a little over 4 years now. If I get stared at here, its a whole different thing than from non-Muslim countries. Many Muslim men stare at women. UAE is a complete man's world and many families raise their daughters much more strict than they do their sons. So although Muslim, too many people practice culture over Islam so the men are spoiled and get to do whatever they want... and they do stare and stare and stare at women.

Even if you completely keep your eyes to yourself or to the floor, there will be times local men will attempt to come on to you. the simplest advice to avoid attention from guys is to always ignore them. there are enough women who will flirt back with guys and for the most part if you keep your eye contact away from them and ignore them when they talk, they usually will give up. but eye contact, a 2nd, 3rd glance... ohhhh they will be coming up to you.

ohhh I went off topic there... ok, back to my topic. anyhow, since living in UAE, of course it is very comfortable being a Muslim here.

well lastly, my husband and I just vacationed in Italy. We stayed for 11 days. one friend asked me if I was going to wear an abaya and I did consider it because of all the abayas and shaylas I saw in Germany and Austria. But it is cold over there so I opted to wear more Western clothing along with a big long sweater poncho for coverage.

I can tell you that in Italy I felt plenty of negative attention coming my way. It wasn't everyday all day long but it happened quite a lot. The worst of course was New Year's Eve when my husband and I were walking around and people were starting to gather in certain locations. People definitely were looking at me as if they were wondering if I was there to do something horrible. People were starting to get drunk and it was only around 8pm. They were only going to get more drunk as time went on. My husband and I did not stay out all night and went back to our hotel long before the fireworks started.

We visited Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is ok but Florence and Venice are beautiful places Mashallah. as for all of the negative staring I got from people, I did see people who would look at me and then make a comment (not to me, but definitely about me)but it was always in Italian so I never understood.

now, Italy is a highly Catholic country. with the Vatican and the Pope living within their country (although the Vatican is still an independent nation). I am sure this is what has to do with the amount of negativity I got.

don't get me wrong, I would go back to Italy again in the future. It wasn't so bad I couldn't enjoy my time. but one thing I definitely noticed was the lack of Muslimahs wearing hijab. if there were Muslims around, you couldn't tell. and so, that would mean most Muslim women there do not cover-- I saw a Muslimah in hijab very very few times. I can only imagine that I would have received even more negativity had I been wearing the abaya with the shaylas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

hi all.. hoping to start up my blog again...

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

ohhh mannnn, it has been so very long since I have posted on my blog... I am hoping to start it back up inshallah.