Losing My Religion

April 6, 2009

 

losingmyreligionbook

That’s me in the corner

That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.

Trying to keep up with you…

and i don’t know if I can do it.

o h no i’ve said too much…

i haven’t said enough.

–R.E.M.

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Solitary

August 26, 2008

Abu Sinan recently made the following controversial statement: I am not a fan of the Muslim community, anyone who reads my blog or posts for long will realise that. I have made it clear that I remain a Muslim despite the seeming attempts of the Muslim communities I have been a part of to rob me of my love of Islam.  http://abusinan-sayf.blogspot.com/2008/08/i-am-not-fan-of-muslim-community-anyone.html

I don’t know that I have ever actually felt that way, but I have had related emotions.  Feelings of not being altogether welcome as a black person in a predominately southeast asian/arab immigrant masjid.  Feelings of not being fully accepted because I wasn’t a salafi.  (Found out there was a rumor going around that my husband and I were sufi, which was apparently akin to devil-worship amongst those doing the yapping.)  Ticked off as a woman used to equal accomodations, that I had to use the rear entrance of the masjid. (This was especially unsettling after 9/11.  The rear of the masjid faced a wooded area.)  Annoyance at being expected to shut off my brain and accept another human, and not even the prophet, as an infallible source of islam, not to be questioned lest I be called a kafir, hypocrite, or maybe just someone skating toward hell.

With experiences like that, and the ones Abu Sinan has apparently had, one can just decide to throw in the towel.  Show up for Friday prayer and ‘Eid, and that’s it.  Keep from expressing doubts or a difference of opinion for the sake of keeping the peace or just plain ol’ not being bothered.

The problem with that, though, is that it keeps like-minded people from finding community in each other.  Sometimes after a much-needed break, it’s necessary to reach out.  Take the risk of being tsked and shushed for having an opinion, for being a little different.  You just might find a few people in that crowd nodding.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing, comforting, wonderful to have a place to belong?  Afterall…

Making the way in the world today

Takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries

Sure would help alot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

To someplace without alcohol, of course.  Pretzels are fine though.  Maybe some green-tea smoothies and butter cookies, too.

What do you think?

 

* You may be interested in Jeffrey Lang’s Losing My Religion for a bit more on this topic, or https://foreverloyal.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/check-your-brain-at-the-door/ for my related ramblings.

I’m one of those people that likes to decorate for ‘Eid.

I started off with just lights, but this year I wanted to up the festive factor around here.  So I decorated the mantle.  I draped black satin on it and placed amber/gold mosaic candles, a clear footed bowl with pinecones and amber floral pebbles.  I put a glass vase with silk eucalyptus, gold glitter berry stems and a white accent in the center.  To top it all off, I placed gold glitter letters spelling “EID” on one side.

We’ve had some visitors.  Some people like the arrangement, but one person saw it and said, “Oh, we are celebrating Christmas now.”  He wasn’t trying to be rude, his sense of humor is just a little dry sometimes. 

But his statement brings up an important issue:  How do American muslims celebrate Eid?  And how should we?  (The man who made the comment is not american.) Muslims from muslim-majority countries have the luxury of not having many of their practices questioned.  There is not alot of drama surrounding how they celebrate their holidays, weddings, etc.  And there isn’t for American muslims either, so long as we adopt the practices of Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, for example.  Should we decide to hold to some of our own traditions, we have to expect comments or downright opposition.

I’m American.  On major holidays, my black american ancestors roasted turkeys, made cornbread stuffing, green beans, hams, roast beef, and mashed potatoes.  Since I am muslim naturally I don’t eat ham.  However I may roast up a turkey or serve roast beef with au jus.  I do not have to eat kebabs and samosas on eid.  By the same token, I will hang up party lights, and decorate mantles, tables,  shelves, and other flat surfaces with candles and greenery if I wanna.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  There were no spruce wreaths, evergreen garlands, or poinsettias.  I do not have lighted reindeer on my lawn, there is no “Eid Tree”, and I did not hang up any stockings by the fireplace with care.  I have not warned my children to be good lest Sayed Claus substitute coal for presents.

With the american muslim community still somewhat young, this is one of the many issues we have to navigate.  I remember a sister starting to “explain” the fact that her daughter had a red dress one ‘Eid.  I imagine she either expected comments or had gotten them already.  I cut her off and told her it was a pretty dress, and that just because red is associated with Christmas it does not mean that we are barred from wearing it on ‘Eid.  But then, it was a—*gasp*—western-style dress.  I’m sure if it was a red shalwar khameez or a traditional arabian dress with lovely beadwork, it would not have occurred to her to defend it or anyone else to question it.  I know I’ve seen my share of red shalwar kameez on ‘Eid over the years.

American muslims, in my humble opinion, need not adopt the cultural practices of others to be “real” muslims.  We must leave behind anything that conflicts with Islam, but we are free to keep the rest.  As I was tellling my husband the other day, Did the Arabs of the prophet’s –sallalahualaihiwasalaam- time, upon their conversion, completely change their cultural practices?  Did they say, “Oh no! We used to eat such and such when we were unbelievers, we must invent all new dishes to celebrate ‘Eid!  We must change our style of shoes!  All jewelry must be melted down and redesigned!”  If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say no.  They left their old religion behind, but they did not throw out their entire culture.

American muslims get to keep some of their culture too.

Don’t Even Front

December 14, 2007

xmastree.jpgSome of you miss Christmas.  Admit it.  The livingroom tree decked out in lights and tinsel, baking and decorating cookies, coming down in the morning for your presents.  Main street joined in the festivities.  Sparkling lights and evergreen garlands, red ribbon and pinecones everywhere.  It’s ok.  Breathe. It doesn’t mean anything.

 I always enjoyed Christmas growing up, and I grew up muslim.  We didn’t do trees or garlands or lights.  For me it just meant a nice break from school.   I’d spend my days curled up with books and playing with my siblings.  We might enjoy watching a “Charlie Brown Christmas” or some other cartoon, but we didn’t really give alot of thought to Christmas otherwise.

A few years back I went shopping with a friend of mine and her toddler.  As we came into the department store, we saw a nice display of greenery, gold ribbons and glistening ornaments.  I remarked, in passing, that it was pretty.  She disagreed, and then when on to add a few more comments.  I was like, “Uh, yeah. Riiiight.”  I imagine she was trying to prevent her child from seeing anything at all beautiful or positive about Christmas.  I suppose the goal is to make her less likely to want to change religions when she gets older.

No muslim wants their child to grow up and leave the religion.   But I don’t think that false bravado and lying is going to help with that.  We can acknowledge that the decorations are beautiful, it doesn’t mean that we want to celebrate the holiday.   You can admit that you miss caroling with your family.  It doesn’t mean that you want to leave islam. I think she was extra defensive because she grew up Christian, and so the Christmas season and all that comes with it tugged at her heart.  The sight of all that evergreen, and the sound of “jingle bells” coming through the speakers, I suspect, triggered fond memories of Christmas morning, presents, letters to Santa or whatever else she used to do.  The fond memories then set off alarms, and her outburst was the result.

When my kids and I go to the mall around Christmas, they like to look at the pretty wreaths and trees.  They pass by Santa at the “North Pole” display, knowing he’s some guy in a suit, and that there is another guy in a similar suit the next town over, and all over the country.  My daughter wonders aloud why the parents are lying to their children about who he is.  I shrug.   I don’t see how a lack of Santa myth would hurt anything, but then again, I’m just passively enjoying the sparkle.